We spoke with representatives from the U of O’s BSLA to find out what we can expect this Black History Month
As you may know, February is Black History Month, which, yes, celebrates diversity, but more precisely celebrates Black accomplishments. It’s a month that gives us the opportunity to recognize people of colour are an integral part of our society.
In celebration of Black History Month, the Black Student Leaders Association (BSLA), at the University of Ottawa has organized several events.
Established in 2011, the organization brings together a large number of Black, African, and Caribbean students and aims to promote Black students’ engagement and inclusive dialogue in a safe space. In these spaces, students can bring forward important issues and discuss important topics — usually through the union’s events or bi-weekly discussions.
“[This year’s] theme is Black. Our goal is restoring our Blackness and focusing on our wellness,” said BSLA co-president, Jinnia Baiye.
“Black history month is such an important month. It is a month in which we celebrate being Black … we’re Black every other month, but this month is particularly important.”
For organizers, Black History Month has its own meaning. To Yanaminah Thullah, another BSLA co-president, it’s “empowerment” and a …”collective effervescence of the community celebrating one another.”
“That’s what BHM means to me now, but growing up it meant a lot of Black trauma and Black American history,” said Thullah. “But since 2016, I have really been educating myself more on Black Canadian history, because that is seldom taught and talked about … this month is about Black history and seeing how that ties to my identity as a Black person.”
For Marina Touré, the BSLA’s director of community engagement, Black History Month is “the month where we promote Black accomplishments … the only month in which we actually see multiple people that look like us under the spotlight and for the right reasons.”
On the agenda this year are several virtual events from Feb. 12-28 including a Black-owned business panel, a yoga session, social expression talent showcase and more.
Given the global events of 2020, Baiye said a focus on health and wellness is also important.
“We have gone through such trauma during 2020, and that is why we are focusing on wellness so that students have time to relax.”
Looking ahead, Baiye hopes attendees will be able to take away something from the events and come together as a community.
“We all have implicit biases, and the best way to overcome them is by showing interest in others and honing our mutual respect and tolerance.”
“It’s also essential to keep in mind that even though we cannot change our past, we can make our future more inclusive and hopefully learn lessons for the future.”
You can find the BSLA on their Instagram page (@BSLAOttawa), Twitter (@BSLAOttawa), or their website.