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HomeNewsCampusDurham Region celebrates Black culture, history and joy

Durham Region celebrates Black culture, history and joy

The Region of Durham is honouring Black History Month with a celebration dedicated to local Black Canadians.

“Together We Rise Durham: Black History, Intersectionality, and Joy” will feature performances as well as a panel that hears about people’s professional and personal life experiences.

PG Case, the executive director of event partner, DurhamONE, says the tradition of marking Black History Month started before the region became involved.

He says Geoff Haskins, an officer with the Durham Regional Police Service, started it. His police cruiser displayed the faces of prolific and influential Black people from all over North America, according to Case.

“Together We Rise Durham” was introduced later and other municipalities and groups were included as partners.

Case says the early versions of the event were small and had been unintentionally aimed at the region internally instead of the entire community.

He says lack of access led to the community to feel left out of the event, so the region looked for solutions. The event was held in the evening, and they later moved to a larger space to host more community members.

Last year, the event was held at the Robert McLaughlin Museum.

“It was phenomenal. So, it was great to see us move from one space to another space and to see how the community showed up in numbers,” said Case.

He says the event is about being together and being together because of Black History Month.

The event will feature panelists Debbie Miles-Senior of the Durham Family and Cultural Centre, Dr. Andrew Bernard Thomas with the Black Physicians Association of Canada, Liza Arnason with Ase Community Foundation for Black Canadians with Disabilities, and Shellene Drakes-Tull, a freelance columnist who writes about race.

There will also be performances from Ngoma Ensemble, Lift Your Voice Choir, Riddim Cultural Arts Program, and Rashaana Cumberbatch.

The “Together We Rise Durham” event takes place at the Chestnut Hill Developments Recreation Complex on February 1.

Meanwhile, Deidra Clarke, a student at Durham College and Trent University, has been participating in Black History Month since Grade 2.

Clarke, who is also an entrepreneur with Durham College’s FastStart, will be a panelist at the “Black History Month: Purposes and Possibilities” event.

Clarke said there was a change after 2020 and the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota. She says the conversations became more prominent and started happening before and after February.

“The region has gotten more involved. They want to hear our voice and not just what they think people will want to hear,” Clarke said. “So, they’re asking us, like, what is it that you would like to see during Black History Month? Not like what is it that’s going to make us feel comfortable?”

The “Black History Month: Purposes and Possibilities” on Feb. 2 at the Ajax Convention Centre.