Is there more to be done to promote Black History Month on campus?

Last year, Morissa Ellis, the vice-president equity of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa said at the winter General Assembly that she didn’t see much participation in Black History Month events on campus, including by some members of the SFUO executive and its Board of Administration (BOA).

This year, both the SFUO and the university have organized various of events throughout the month, so there’s every opportunity for people to get involved this year.

These events range from a screening of the wildly popular movie Get Out on Feb. 6, to a potluck and games night on Feb. 8, to a comedy night on Feb. 14.

As for the concerns raised last year, it’s too early to know how current members of the executive and BOA are contributing this year, but it absolutely should be a priority for members of student politics to help work on and promote events, even amidst distractions like SFUO election season.

In fact, several candidates have said they want to improve campus engagement and put on events that appeal to students of diverse backgrounds. An easy first step in achieving that goal is working on events like those that are a part of Black History Month, and fostering an environment that encourages others to do the same.

And what about beyond campus?

Well it turns out that there have been problems promoting Black History Month in Canada generally as well. A CBC article by Nantali Indongo noted that it’s very difficult to find the Canadian Ministry of Heritage page for the occasion without the aid of specific Google searches.

It can also be hard to find mention of Black History Month on municipal websites. Indongo gives the example of Montreal, though the same can be said of Ottawa’s site, which in contrast features Winterlude heavily.

It turns out that there is still more that Canadians, especially politicians in general, at different levels of government, can do to promote this important time of year.

Inclusive support of Black History Month also means recognizing and amplifying the stories of those Black Canadians who may not fit our traditional and preconceived notions of Black history, which includes Black persons with disabilities, queer and trans Black people, Black people with mental health issues, and more. If we want to support Black history now, and throughout the year, we need to take an approach to the month that takes a multi-faceted and intersectional approach.

If students and student politicians all get more involved in the success of events like those as a part of Black History Month at the university level, it could have benefits like eliminating issues like that brought up in Montreal going forward.