The importance of Black History Month

Some of the reasons why BHM is celebrated on an infographic. Photo credit: Leslie Ishimwe

Black History Month (BHM) is an annual celebration of black history and different achievements of black icons who contributed to society. BHM started as Negro Week in 1926, created by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland. This week later turned into a month. BHM helps those who lack knowledge to learn more on culture and black history.

It is extremely important to celebrate those who fought for freedom and those who continue to fight for it. The importance of BHM is that it creates the opportunity to raise those uncomfortable discussions about racism and that is why it shouldn’t only be important to blacks but other races as well.

The history of black Canadians started in the 1600s, which is also when European settlers came to Canada. The first slave who was transported directly from Africa, Olivier Le Jeune, was sold in Quebec in 1629, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Le Jeune’s name doesn’t usually come up in conversations around Canadian history but it’s mentioned when celebrating BHM. The month of February is crucial to the evolution of history because people like Le Jeune need the recognition they deserve.

When talking about sports, there’s little representation of black players in hockey. Willie O’Ree was the first black player in the NHL. He played for the Boston Bruins as a winger. He only played for one season but scored a total of four goals, according to the NHL website.

The NHL celebrated its first BHM this year to highlight its campaign on emphasizing racial diversity in the sport. Another reason why BHM is important is that it encourages sports organizations to make such an initiative for the month.

Discussions like racism in society can be uncomfortable at times. However, if issues like these are not addressed, they can never be fixed. And what is the best time to talk about such topics other than during BHM? Racism is talked about almost every day but it’s within BHM that a lot of discussions happen to channel different ways to deal with racism whether it’s in the workplace or at school.

There was a discussion panel organized by Durham’s Children’s Aid Society on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd and the theme of the discussion was the evolution of racism in the media. Guest speakers raised many points in regards to the theme. One of the guest speakers, Dr. Wesley Crichlow, associate dean of Equity and Chair of the President’s Equity Task Force at UOIT, talked about one of the ways to avoid becoming a click activist.

For instance, posts trending on social media might be shared on other media sites but that is not enough. What differentiates one action from another is the follow through: what action is taken after sharing that post? It is the action that is needed not the retweet. Dr. Crichlow said, “Activism is the rent you pay for living on the planet.”

Some individuals might argue that other races don’t have their month but still celebrate their history, which is completely true. Blacks didn’t earn their freedom only to put it in the books and forget about it, implementing BHM is a reminder of their identity and a celebration of where they came from.

The celebration of Black History Month should never be questioned. It should be seen as an opportunity to learn about black history and culture. This is the time when people can ask questions and celebrate the contributions the black community has made to Canada.