Black History Month in Durham

Photograph by Tracy Wright

Allison Hector-Alexander, Director of the Office of Student Diversity, Inclusion and Transitions.

By Tracy Wright and Kirsten Jerry

“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” – Angela Davis

One way to liberate society is to protect its history so it can move forward. Black History Month is a prime example of this because it allows us to see our past and look to our future as we work towards a more diverse world.

Black History was celebrated in the black community in Toronto by railroad porters. Through travels throughout the United States they learned of Black History Month.

A petition was started in 1979 by the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) to have it in Toronto. Because of their travels through the United States they became aware of this.

As of Dec.1995 Parliament Canada officially recognized Black History Month. This came into play by a motion that was introduced by Jean Augustine who was an MP at that time.

Another way to liberate society is to dispel misconceptions such as the idea that Blacks only arrived in Oshawa recently.

As far back as 1851 there was a small black community in Oshawa, according to Jennifer Weymark, archivist at the Oshawa Community Museum.

The census showed 17 people of colour in the East Whitby Township, now Oshawa.

A transformation is happening in Durham Region. There has been a shift in the demographics. With this, the changes are being embraced by Diversity and Inclusion for the city of Oshawa and here at Durham College by The Office of Student Diversity, Inclusions and Transitions.

The latest census from 2016, shows there are 25,245 people in Oshawa who are a visible minority, according to Statistics Canada.

Sometime in the future, our generation will be studied as history. Black History month will show the transformations in communities like Oshawa over time. Hopefully we will continue to see positive results as time goes by.

Over the last five years there have been some changes in Oshawa’s diversity.

“With the 2016 census verses the 2011 the community is changing and the census proved it,” says Julie MacIsaac, director in office of the city manager of the city of Oshawa. The city implemented the Diversity and Inclusion program as of Nov. 2017.

On campus, the Office of Student Diversity, Inclusions and Transitions works to improve diversity at DC. “Everybody should feel welcome here,” said Allison Hector-Alexander, director of Office of Student Diversity, Inclusions and Transitions.

“Our population is a diverse group (on campus),” she said.

“I don’t have a definitive number of how many black students we have,” SAys Allison Hector-Alexander. “We know we have a large number of people of colour.”

“Black History month is important,” says Hector-Alexander. “It’s time set aside to have a conversation about the contributions that black Canadians have made to the Canadian society.”

But Hector-Alexander is a little conflicted, she explains, “Black History Month should not be a month. It should be an ongoing conversation regularly talked about in the community.”

Oshawa has transformed into a more diverse city. It can be seen walking down the halls at DC or down the street in town. People of all ethnic backgrounds can be seen.

The city is working to keep its diversity, as seen through the Diversity and Inclusion program.

The city of Oshawa will officially announce Black History Month but will work closely with other venues for Black History Month such as libraries, museums and Club Carib.

The Office of student Diversity, Inclusion and Transitions is hosting an event to celebrate Black History Month on Feb. 21 on Oshawa campus in room SSB 116 from 10 am to 1 pm.

For more events, see