Black History Month

Since 1996, February has been officially celebrated as Black History Month in Canada after the first African Canadian woman, the Honourable Jean Augestine, was elected to Parliament and put forward a motion. The role of Black Canadians and other minority groups in shaping Canadian culture, society, and history, has been largely ignored, which is why a month dedicated to celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians to our communities is so important.

Diversity is one of NPower Canada’s core values. We envision a diverse technology workforce where people from any cultural ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic background can succeed in our digital economy. We prioritize and encourage participation in our programs by individuals from underserved groups, including BIPOC peoples. Black History Month is therefore a time for us to continue to strive towards a more equitable future, as well as recognize the past and present contributions Black communities have made to Canadian society.

This year, throughout February we highlighted our partners doing great work to support Black individuals and communities. To round out the month, we asked NPower Canada staff members to share their sentiments on what Black History Month means to them. It took courage to openly share our thoughts on a topic that can evoke strong emotions, but we hope you appreciate what they shared.

“This is very important to me. Any and all progress in this area has a halo effect on how we recognize and respect all individuals of colour. As a first-born Canadian from parents who immigrated from Guyana, I’ve had my share of challenging experiences growing up so anything that supports the notion of equality is one that I stand behind. To be honest, it has taken almost 10 minutes to even write these few lines. Let’s all get to a place where we can speak freely, support everyone and listen with love. I’m proud to be here where we can push each other to be confident in who we are while helping others be the best versions of themselves.” – Andrew, Outreach and Admissions Manager

“Black History month is a great reminder and opportunity to acknowledge and continue the quest for social justice that changemakers and revolutionaries took to the forefront and their descendants continuing it to this day. It is continuous work that should not be limited to a month. As a self-identifying South Asian woman, it means allyship to me and that comes in many forms including but not limited to educating myself through independent research/reading, engaging in conversations where I may have the opportunity to listen and learn from their experiences and connecting with my peers and our participants by encouraging the continued utilisation of our virtual learning spaces to have meaningful conversations and demonstrate solidarity. ” – Jenet, Career Coordinator

“What black history month means to me… this answer has morphed and changed for me over the years but recently it means being visible. Being born in Canada, specifically Toronto, I dealt with a lot of racism, micro-aggressions etc. which in some cases made it difficult to address my concerns when needed. I am happy that I have been able to overcome those fears and have been more vocal about black peoples visibility and rights. This month is an accessible chance for individuals who may not know much about black history, present, future, and the diversity of it to explore what it is. While highlighting the trauma it is also a time to recognize the achievements and accolades that black individuals have contributed to our societies from past to present. The contributions have been profound and large from every continent. It is a celebration to uplift a group that I am part of and it provides me a time to reflect on my roots and history as I do throughout the year.” – Catherine, Senior Program Manager, GTA Youth Programs

“Black History month means that in this small period of time we acknowledge the great and innovative things those of African descent have done for the world. The innovation, the trendsetting, the building, is all an inspiration for me in doing my work for the community and being the best advocate and Social Work practitioner I can be. It also is a period where my family heritage shines. I come from a line that has travelled through the underground railroad to settle in Canada and my Grand Uncle, through his perseverance, became the first Black principal in Ontario. This month allows me to take notice of the many great things we as a Black race have done and the many things we have accomplished.” – Jamal, Team Lead, Outreach & Engagement

“Over the past several years I’ve started a journey in learning and getting uncomfortable. I’m learning about white fragility, priviledge, systematic racism and oppression. I’ve learned about the cycle of historic events that have created change and in a lot of cases, nothing has changed. I’ve had to get uncomfortable and being uncomfortable is now a familiar state. I’ve expanded my social media followers, who I listen to, and what I read to include different voices and backgrounds. I’m also keen to try to support black-owned and led businesses and organizations whenever possible. I don’t know everything, and I make mistakes, but this month is a reminder to elevate others, to use my platform and power for good. To ensure I’m listening to the needs of black folks in Nova Scotia and all around me and do my part to advocate for change and equitable opportunities. It’s a reminder to celebrate different experiences and learn more. And above all, a time to recommit to being an ally/accomplice.” – Heather, Regional Director – Nova Scotia

“Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect, celebrate, listen and learn, uplift, and empower. Although I believe this needs to be done continuously and not one month in a year, I am happy that it is an opportunity to hone in on these things. As a white person, in a society that does not value people of colour in the same way, I love breaking down the white narrative and purposely learning and exploring the experiences, histories and achievements of people of colour, as there is so much to celebrate about these amazing communities.” – Emma-Jane, Program Coordinator

“For me, it’s a time to remind myself and celebrate the world-changing contributions of Black folks throughout human history: the number zero, the rule of law, blues/jazz/hip-hop music, literary/theatrical tradition, BBQ… Thank you so much for sharing your experience, vulnerability, pride, and strength!” – Edward, Alumni Placement Specialist

“We all come from various backgrounds and learning from one another’s perspectives is so important. I am always hesitant to put my voice forward in these instances, as I acknowledge my privilege as a white individual and want to amplify the voices of BIPOC peoples, but it’s also vitally important to speak out as an ally. For me, Black History Month is an opportunity to really listen to those voices and uplift marginalized individuals. It is also an opportunity to realize that Canada’s history IS Black history. Black folks have been essential to the ongoing fabric of Canadian society and we are given the chance to celebrate the achievements of those that have shaped our shared culture. That is especially true this year, with the 2022 theme being “February and Forever,” which recognizes not only the historical achievements of Black communities and individuals, but on the daily contributions that are ongoing. It is a month to learn, reflect, and celebrate, so that we can continue to work towards a more equitable and inclusive society.” – Emilie, Bilingual Communications & PR Specialist

It reminds me that the community that we have now, the democracy that we have now, and the way we respect each other’s culture nowadays comes under the cost of huge sacrifices from men and women who fought for very basic rights. Riding a bus, eating in a restaurant, having access to education were available for some, not all, and people risked their lives to overcome that dark time. At least we can recognize their sacrifices this month.” – Ali, Technical Instructor

Black History Month has given NPower Canada staff the opportunity to have these conversations with one another and learn from each other. We acknowledge that it must be done continuously, and not just in February, but appreciate it as a catalyst that has led to fruitful and interesting conversations that will continue throughout the year.