Montreal’s Black History Month is fully virtual for the first time
February marks the 30th Black History Month in Montreal. This year’s theme is 30 years of success and highlighting individuals who have over 30 years of achievements in areas such as art, media, business, and community.
Black History Month is an annual event, yet with the pandemic, the entirety of Black History Month is virtual, with events being held on Zoom. The launch event was streamed on Facebook on Feb. 1, with over 250 people attending.
“Usually there is a huge event of celebration,” said Kemba Mitchell, a social community activist, Chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association, and Concordia alumni. “We are getting our awards in the mail, there is a disconnect.”
Mitchell believes that while there are cons, Black History Month being online created an opportunity that would allow more people to view the events as well as reach people that had no idea about Black History Month in Montreal.
Mitchell is one of 12 laureates who are representatives and spokespersons of Black History Month, nominated by the Round Table in coordination with each year’s theme for their involvement in the community.
“I was taken away,” said Mitchell, explaining how she felt about being nominated. “Sometimes you are in the grind, you are going and going, and don’t have time to reflect on your work. I was humbled by what the acknowledgment meant.”
I celebrate being Black all year round, it doesn’t start in February,” she said. “But I think it is important we have a moment to shine a light on Black history.”
Mitchell explained that conversations about Black history should not be limited to slavery and that Black History Month is to honour the contributions of Black people that are omitted from the education curriculum.
“In history books, the beginning of Black people always starts with slavery, that is not where we come from, that is not our origin,” she said. “Black History Month is a way to shine a spotlight on our accomplishments through history.”
Mitchell stated that there was no reason for people not to go to an event this month, learn about the accomplishments of the community, and join in on the celebration.
There are a large range of events happening throughout Black History Month, varying from workshops for children, poetry jams, discussions on Bob Marley, a virtual book launch, and many more.
The president of the Round Table, Michael Farkas, said the major message of Black History Month is to learn about things such as Black inventors — contributions that the Black community made to society that have been swept under the rug.
Quebec can not hide that they were racist, that they come from a society that saw Natives and Blacks as commodities. As slaves, as savages,” said Farkas. “And that’s the foundation until Quebec chooses to change it.”
“The history of Black People is not about slavery, there was a time before, there’s a time during, and there’s a time after,” he said.
Farkas said a good way for people to involve themselves in the community is to simply go there and learn the history, to see the landmarks of Black history throughout Montreal.
Farkas recommended taking a tour with Rito Joseph, who does Montreal Black History walks. It states on Airbnb that he provides a way to deepen people’s knowledge of the Afro-descendant community in Montreal and learn more about its members’ ancestors.
Photographs of Kemba Mitchell and Michael Farkas are courtesy of Kétiana Bello. Montreal Black History Montreal logo courtesy of the Round Table on Black History Month.