Do we properly engage with Black History Month?

Black Concordia students on BHM, allyship, performatism, and how Concordia’s administration and non-Black student body can do better

Special thanks to Sundus Noor, freelance journalist, and Amaria Phillips, co-founder and president of the Black Student Union for their contributions

On Black History Month 

Amaria Phillips  – “We should be able to do that all year. And that they believe that if we accept the month, we are basically accepting the bare minimum, and we’re accepting the fact that that’s okay.”

AP –  “I feel like this is a great way to focus in [on Black History]. I agree it should be for the whole year, it shouldn’t just be limited to one month.”

AP – “[February can be] a moment where we learn so much. And we get to celebrate and just really have this moment for us. Obviously when February ends, yes, of course — continue the celebration. Let’s continue recognizing the people who made contributions in this society, in this world and in history.”

Sundus Noor – “Over the past couple of years, I haven’t really felt very connected to the holiday, or felt like it resonated with me, simply because of how it is perceived in Canada. [It feels as if] the attempts of education sometimes come across as very disingenuous. People just kind of don’t really see it as an important month most of the time and they just sort of scramble for content.”

On performatism in allies 

AP – “Tap in as much as you can now, during Black History Month, so that you’re informed as much as you can be for the rest of the year.”

AP – “I don’t mind the [post] resharing. But I just really hope that like, it’s being actually read and meditated on and understood. But also I hope that they’re not just relying on that one post for education or whatever. Because there’s only so much you could put in a post, right?”

AP – “Reposting — that’s like the bare minimum. It’s great, but it’s the bare minimum as well. […] Are you having those difficult conversations? Are you speaking up for Black people when you hear something racist, or whatnot, like, what are you doing actively, right?”

“But where do I start?” 

AP – “You gotta know who to ask. For me, I don’t mind personally. Yeah, I’m just that type of person.”

AP – “For [a lot of Black activists], the work is draining enough. And to have someone on top of that [asking a bunch of questions], you know, kind of like asking a teacher for extra help after hours. It’s like, it’s after hours, you’re technically done, you know? […] If people are out there willing [to help], you can see that the person is willing to educate, then gravitate towards that person. But if you come across someone who, you know, they’re not really super willing to do that, respect that.”

SN – “It’s okay to be ignorant on certain situations or things. I think educating yourself, taking the time to learn, ask questions, [or] look[ing] at a lot of the resources that are available at Concordia is the step to educating yourself.”

AP – “Things are posted, things are out there. But people just decide not to listen or read or take in the information.”

AP – “I would like to see people participate in more active conversations. Not invading Black spaces, but when we do have […] these conversations where we’re actually saying, ‘yeah, come in, because we need to talk,’ be there.”

When trying to amplify Black voices 

AP – “So either you give the [opportunity to write/educate/create] to a BIPOC person, a person of colour, or if no one’s able to do it, then [do it yourself], but in a way where you’re saying, ‘this is not even about me, this is like me, amplifying the voice of someone who if I don’t do it, nobody’s gonna do it.’”

AP – “We can’t be saying we want changes, but no one is willing to actually be present to, you know, to help those changes move forward, right. So feel free to engage and be present when those [opportunities] are being offered.”

SN – “When it comes to any month, or any celebration that is centered around a specific group of people, [people who are not a part of that group may] feel very uncomfortable, when it comes to, you know, not wanting to step on people’s toes. […] With that in mind, they often leave [the event planning] towards the Black student population to, you know, organize and do the events and do everything. A lot of [the responsibility] is sort of on us.”

SN – “If people can work together, I think there would be like a way to collectively contribute and create events that are very much inviting to everyone, and also cater to Black students without feeling very awkward.”

On Black experiences in the academic realm 

SN – “I feel like the [Concordia] student body and the institution are two separate entities. In terms of [representation], the student body has the Black Perspectives Office, different clubs and even the student papers are always very diverse, and represent the student body, but I feel like the institution doesn’t really feel like it’s their job to do anything.”

SN – “A lot of the programming for Black History Month is curated by people of different clubs. And with all that going on, […] I feel like the most the university does is sort of share what’s going on as opposed to, you know, amplifying people’s voices.”

SN – “Concordia, the institution – I don’t really think that they’re doing the most that they can do for [Black] people. And I don’t know if there’s, like, an interest for that. Anytime I get an email from Concordia, I just see it as incredibly disingenuous.”

To communicate to the non-Black Concordia student body

AP – “I’m not saying that you have to be a full-on advocate and speak as a spokesperson or a panelist about Black affairs. That’s not what we’re saying. […] Because please do not speak for us. But there’s so many things that I feel like, you know, allies could do, that they’re not doing and yeah, and it goes back to like, are you speaking up? When you see that there’s only one Black person in the room, are you questioning that? […] Did we take the chance to invite [Black people]? Did we give them equal opportunities?”

AP – “That is what I’m talking about when I’m talking about allyship. Actively speaking up and doing things with your privilege that helps out the BIPOC community.”

AP – “There’s a lot of things that I would like to speak to, you know, non-Black people about that I don’t really fully understand. And it’s going to be a vice-versa thing. So having those conversations are necessary.”

AP – “Speak up when you see things that are not right, speak up when you’re, like, in a space and it’s just predominantly white.”

SN – “I think making the effort to educate yourself is like the first step of being an ally.” – Sundus Noor

Time to reflect

If you take anything away from his article, it’s that you need to take the time and read, truly listen, and watch every marginalized voice you come across.

You need to sit in the uncomfortable feelings of being a white person, complicit to the centuries of ongoing oppression still overwhelmingly present today.

You need to do whatever is in your power to create an equitable world, where people can re-learn and accept history, and grow in spaces that encourage cultural heritage.

You must create a space where marginalized voices can thrive in the absence of fear, persecution, assimilation and violence.

Take a minute and think of what you can do to make things better — and how to be better.

Graphic by Lily Cowper



Books & articles:

Montreal celebrates Black History Month 2022

“I am Black 365 days a year” by Myrialine Catule

“The Skin We’re In” by Desmond Cole

“Policing Black Lives – Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present” by Robyn Maynard

“Anti-Racist Ally – An Introduction to Action & Activism” by Sophie Williams

“A depoliticized and realistic portrait of hijabs” by Sundus Noor


A Conversation About Growing Up Black | Op-Docs | The New York Times

Do All White People Think The Same About Race?

“Blue Eyes/ Brown Eyes” Anti-Racism Exercise

When “Allies” Pass Their Place..

Ted Talks – link here for all their round-up of Black voices to uplift this month


Black Perspectives Office Peer Support Team

Black Mental Health Connections Crisis Hotlines

Black Healing Centre coming in Spring 2022

Resources to support against Anti-Black racism in Montreal list

Events list

Testimony: Visual and Embodied Gateways to Black Histories – Feb. 23

The Power of Our Stories: Black Families, Intergenerational Connection, and Belonging – Feb. 18

Distinguished lecture with Dr. David Herman Jr. of Temple University – Feb. 23

Black Dance in Black Dance in Focus – Feb. 24

Visions Hip-Hop QC – Phi Centre – Until March 26

Massimadi – Afro and LGBTQ+ film and arts festival – Until March 11

Concordia Student Union News

Black History Month – but make it year-long

Concordia Student Union (CSU) puts a spotlight on Black excellence


For Black History Month, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) has been using their Instagram platform to feature Black activists, writers, artists and scholars on spotlight posts — a solid effort at highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of Black people throughout history.

As part of their latest Black Lives Matter campaign, this initiative aims to uplift and amplify Black voices during Black History Month. The campaign’s broader goal focuses on echoing the demands made by the Coalition to Defund the Police and the calls from the Concordia Black Studies collective.

“We decided to designate this project to Black History Month by showcasing a different person each day to learn about their role and how they’ve impacted society as a whole,” said Victoria Pesce, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator.

These posts include figures such as Oscar Peterson, Mary Ann Shadd, Rev. Addie Aylestock, and more.

A blurry line between allyship and performativity

“My relationship with Black History Month has always been shaky,” said Sundus Noor, a second year Concordia student. “I notice that every February there are new initiatives and events that pop up in an effort to uplift Black communities, but I sometimes feel like those things can be done all year around.”

“In some cases, it ends up coming out as trying to profit off of the month or taking advantage by tokenizing people.”

Noor explained how it can be hard to know if the intentions behind someone’s actions are truthful. But, she believes the CSU’s initiative to uplift a community is well-intended.

“It makes you wonder whether someone genuinely wants to celebrate Black people, or if they want to do it because not doing so might make them look bad.”

“I believe the CSU’s initiative comes from a genuine place of wanting to do their duty and shine the spotlight on Black people who have contributed to our societies, but there is always room for improvement,” she said.

Noor expressed her concerns about the dangers of exclusively reserving these discussions and initiatives for February and forgetting them the rest of the year.

“We shouldn’t be dumping everything in one month and forgetting everything about it after.”

“What happens after Black History Month? People’s voices seem to be erased because the month is over, and I think that’s when it becomes a form of tokenization.”

Karim Fall, a Journalism student, echoed this point.

“I’m always on the fence when the month of February comes around because some people might partake simply because they see others do it and they want to avoid being the outlier.”

“In any case, it remains important that conversations are taking place during that month, and that is progressive in a sense because it gives people the chance to learn,” added Fall.

“I’m never going to be mad at a discussion happening because we should always encourage dialogue, but it also bothers me when bigger institutions ignore it as soon as we hit March 1.”

Broader goals: uplifting beyond social media

For many students, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging to connect with the Concordia community and take part in these initiatives during Black History Month.

“I feel so far away from everything that is going on at the university at this moment,” said Florence Ojo, a student at Concordia.

Given that huge parts of our lives have been shifted to the online scene, the importance of social media engagement in uplifting Black voices has become crucial — even more so in the first ever virtual Black History Month.

Beyond virtual events, Pesce explained that the CSU has offered different workshops on topics like activism, allyship and police defunding to keep up the focus on what the Black communities need.

“We have to acknowledge how whitewashed our education is,” she said, “We don’t learn about the Black communities, or the Indigenous communities while growing up and that’s why it’s important to take every moment of the month to realize it.”

On the academic level, Pesce discussed the CSU’s efforts to hold the administration accountable and create different initiatives for the Black communities within Concordia, notably the Black Perspective Office (BPO).

“Similar to the sexual violence workshop, we’re working towards creating a mandatory workshop during which we would learn about the difference between, for instance, racism, oppression, discrimination, and more,” explained Pesce.

“It’s a part of our education that is lacking in our system.”

Fall echoes Pesce’s point, “The more I learn about Black history, the more I realize that it’s really world history.”

Similarly, Ojo believes that Black History Month is a great way to learn and amplify the voices of Black individuals, but we should not limit ourselves to a simple month of the year.

“We’re all here to learn and we should do that every day, not just during February.”


Screenshot of the CSU instagram page


Yes, we need to celebrate Black History Month

It’s not just about slavery and hardships

n February 1926, a week commemorating “Negro History” was launched by American historian Carter G. Woodson, who in his mission to incorporate Black history in school curricula, was also looking to honour the legacies of president Abraham Lincoln and human rights leader Frederick Douglass, both of whom were born in February. Its successor, Black History Month, would be institutionalized across the United States half a century later.

First celebrated in Canada in 1988, Black History Month was then officially recognized nationwide in 1995. In 2007, the Quebec government also adopted this event in the province.

Black History Month isn’t just an important event; it’s a necessary commemoration.

Every year, I log onto Twitter — where else? — and find, within a sea of tweets highlighting the work of Black pioneers, some users’ hot takes about why it’s an unnecessary event. Their argument goes that singling out the Black community in recalling and calling attention to their history contributes to keeping them in the past and holding their identities tied to a past of enslavement.

Many also have had qualms with Black History Month because it’s a celebration of a certain group of people. You’ve probably heard someone at some point say, “But what about white history month? Or Asian history month?”

Yes, what about them?

Celebrating a specific group of people, and especially providing them with tools to overcome and make up for the institutional problems that have caused many to fall behind compared to their white counterparts, is one of the main purposes of Black History Month.

These arguments have some merit, and I’m saying this so as not to completely discredit the opinion of those who see things such as affirmative action and “preferential treatment” as another dividing factor between the multiple ethnicities in our societies.

But shining a spotlight on an issue doesn’t mean we’re putting all other ones in the dark.

It’s true that in an idyllic world, diversity hires and ethnicity quotas in schools and workplaces wouldn’t be necessary, and that making use of these methods of race-based professional considerations would contravene the meritocratic process.

Still, racism is a very real social issue in our societies, and it’s no secret that Black and Indigenous people are bearing the brunt of it.

Of course the goal of Black History Month isn’t to further the association of Black people with slavery. But by associating Black History Month as being solely about slavery and a past paved with subjugation is also reducing the richness of Black culture to their role in Western history.

For the record, Africa was a continent long before the slave trade began, and we’re getting closer to the two century mark since its abolition. Ignoring the achievements made by Black people and the Black community in North America throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is more distracting to the movement for racial equality than preaching silence.

Highlighting certain parts of history and pointing out their flaws also doesn’t mean we’re trying to remain in that place, on the contrary. How are we supposed to learn from our mistakes if we keep trying to distance ourselves from them?

And as we’ve seen throughout Canadian history and into the past year as the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited, our country is far from the point where we can say affirmative action is causing an unfair advantage for people of colour.

If you don’t want to learn about Black history or about anti-Black racism, consider examining why. But know what mindset you’re feeding into and how it’s helping the causes you support — and beyond everything, if you don’t have anything nice to say … don’t say anything.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Black Canadians who made history in sports

Celebrating the contribution made by Black athletes in Canada’s history

Black History Month is about honouring Black Canadians, both past and present, who have made enormous contributions in all sectors of society. Though it has been celebrated since 1978, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada in December 1995.

To this day, Black athletes continue to captivate the nation across every sport while breaking down cultural barriers in society. As those of the past had to overcome adversity and racial discrimination transparently, today’s Black competitors remind us of the ongoing battle against racism that continues to plague the world.

Here are the stories of eight Black Canadian athletes who made history by reaching the pinnacle in sports with the odds entirely stacked against them.

George Dixon 

George Dixon was the first Canadian-born boxing champion, winning the bantamweight title in 1890. Born in Africville, Nova Scotia, Dixon would also claim the world featherweight title in 1891, after defeating Cal McCarthy in 22 rounds.

Dixon is widely credited for developing shadowboxing, a training exercise commonly used by combat sports athletes in which one throws punches at an imaginative opponent. Today, it is a staple in martial arts, acting as an effective routine to loosen and warm up the body.

John Howard 

John Armstrong “Army” Howard was a Canadian track and field athlete. At the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Howard became the first Black Olympian to represent Canada. He was born in the United States and moved to Winnipeg in 1907 with his father.

According to major Canadian media prior to the event, Howard was Canada’s best hope for gold. However, the top-ranked sprinter’s performance was hindered by a stomach ailment that saw him fail to advance to the finals in the 100m and 200m events. Howard’s impact on Canadian sports is felt through two of his grandchildren, who became Olympians themselves, Harry and Valerie Jerome.

Phil Edwards

Phil Edwards was another Canadian track and field athlete who competed in middle-distance events. He earned the nickname “Man of Bronze” for winning five Olympic bronze medals but none of other denominations. He would be Canada’s most decorated Olympic athlete until 2002.

Edwards became the first-ever winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy in 1936, an award that is bestowed annually to Canada’s top athlete. The same year, he became the first Black person to graduate from McGill University’s medical school. He would compete in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games shortly after his graduation.

Barbara Howard 

At 17 years old, Barbara Howard was one of the fastest female sprinters in the British Empire. She qualified for the 1938 British Empire Games (now named the Commonwealth Games, since 1974) after running 100 yards in 11.2 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than the British Empire Games record.

Howard is believed to be the first Black woman to represent Canada in international sports competition; however, she never got the chance to participate in the Olympic Games because of its cancellation due to World War II.

Her athletic accomplishments were recently recognized with her induction to the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Willie O’Ree 

On Jan. 18, 1958, Willie O’Ree made history at the Montreal Forum when suiting up for the Boston Bruins, becoming the first Black player in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Today, the Bruins’ trailblazer is the director of the NHL’s diversity program, a movement that aims to ensure hockey is taught and promoted to children from all cultural backgrounds in North America. O’Ree’s number will be retired by the Bruins next season.

Angela James 

Angela James is a former Canadian ice hockey player who played senior hockey between 1980 and 2000. James played in the first women’s world championship in 1987. She would lead Team Canada to four gold medals at the IIHF World Women’s Hockey Championships in 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1997.

During her senior career, James was a six-time most valuable player and eight-time scoring champion. She is hailed as a major pioneer who enabled the women’s game to enter mainstream Canadian culture and is seen as the first superstar in modern women’s hockey.

Donovan Bailey 

Donovan Bailey became a Canadian sports icon when he set the 100m world record at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, running a time of 9.84 seconds. Bailey also anchored the 4x100m Canadian relay team to another gold metal that year. In becoming the world’s fastest man, Bailey was named “Athlete of the Decade” by Track & Field News.

The Jamaican-born athlete was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 as an individual athlete and in 2008 as a member of the 1996 Canadian champion relay team.

Jarome Iginla 

In 2002, Jarome Iginla became the first Black male athlete to win a Winter Olympic gold medal. Iginla was an alternate captain for Team Canada, where he helped lead the nation to its first Olympic hockey championship in 50 years. He notched two goals in the team’s 5-2 victory over Team USA in the finals.

Iginla played over 1,500 games in the NHL in a career that spanned from 1996-2017. In 2020, he became the fourth Black player to be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame after Grant Fuhr, James, and O’Ree.


Collage by Kit Mergaert


The 30th Black History Month in Montreal

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.

One of the twelve laureates selected by Montreal’s Round Table on Black History Month, Kemba Mitchell. They are chosen from numerous candidates, which are nominated by the broader Montreal community for their outstanding achievements.

“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.

Round Table’s President Michael Farkas was also chosen as this year’s official English spokesperson for Montreal Black History Month, for his decades-long dedication into organizing this event and community work in the city.

“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.


Haitian Students’ Association of Concordia hosts thrift shop on campus

The Haitian Students’ Association of Concordia (HSAC) held a thrift shop event in the atrium of Concordia University’s Webster Library on Feb. 19.

HSAC members sold donated clothes to Concordia students and raised almost $600 for the Institution Mixte les Frères Nau de Bayonnais, a school in Gonaïve, Haiti, where Concordia students teach STEM classes every summer with student organization Katalis.

“We collected clothes and we’re reselling them at really affordable prices so that people can find something nice and wear it,” said Harvin Hilaire, president of HSAC, “but at the same time we’re using the money to help a good cause in Haiti.”

As students around him browsed through the racks and stacks of donated clothes, Hilaire explained that HSAC’s goal is to represent Concordia’s Haitian students and to provide a space where they can get together to talk.

He explained that HSAC regularly organizes events where Haitian students can meet, such as documentary screenings and icebreaker evenings. Hilaire also said the thrift shop event was part of HSAC’s push to go beyond Concordia and Montreal by helping people in Haiti as well.

“We’re in a university where there’s a lot of diversity, so sometimes people can get lost in it,” Hilaire said. “We have our office, suite K-202 at 2150 Bishop St., and we have get-togethers where people can come and talk. We make it homey for them.”

The student group was officialized in 2018 with the help of former HSAC president Andrew Denis after a 10-year hiatus.

“When I joined as VP External last year, I realized the organization had just started and it was really small, so it really became a mission of trying to get as many people to join the Concordian Haitian community,” Hilaire said.

The event was also an opportunity for members of the association to get signatures for a petition attempting to reinstate a Haitian history class that was removed from Concordia’s course calendar. Many of the students who attended the thrift shop added their names to the petition, which now has 100 signatures.

“We’re trying to show the university that we have a body of students who are interested in taking this class,” said Denis, who was helping at the event. “We want it to be re-added into the system and we want it to be taught by a person of colour or a Haitian individual.”

Hilaire said that HSAC is organizing four more events before the end of the year, including the Paint and Sip event, a collaboration between several black student associations at Concordia, which took place on Feb. 21.

“After that, we will be having our traditional Haitian drum event, called Tam Tam in Creole,” Hilaire said. He also mentioned there will be an exclusive, invite-only event to look out for, as well as HSAC elections before the end of the year.

Hilaire said that HSAC is also working on obtaining a scholarship for Haitian students at Concordia, but that it is still in early stages.


Photos by Clara Gepner


Queer spaces and their beauties

Why I feel safer in spaces dubbed as “queer”

I am grumbling and cursing in multiple languages as I make my way to La Sala Rossa on St. Laurent Blvd.

Where the flipping hell is this place?

I spot a few people smoking outside what could be the place I was searching for.

“Excuse me,” I calmly called.

“Yes, honey boo-boo?” one of them said, cheekily.

“Do you know where I could find La Sala Rossa?” I asked, a small smile playing on the corners of my mouth.

“It’s over here, baby girl! And let me just say, your eyeliner could kill a man! Work it, girl!” another one said.

I find myself smiling even wider. What a wonderful way to say hello. Suddenly, my mood is elevated. I stay outside for a while, sharing a smoke with this group of wonderful people before walking into La Sala Rossa, where the Massimadi’s Launch Soirée for the 12th Afro LGBTQ+ Film & Arts Fest was happening, Bo Johnson ready to take the stage.

Bo Johnson. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting to find, but I did not expect to feel so loved and accepted in a place where I knew no one.

“Non à la discrimination!,” someone on stage yelled. That seemed to be the founding theme the night. Everywhere I turned, people of all shapes, sizes, colours and genders were socializing with each other.

“Condoms? Can’t be too safe! Take ‘em, they’re free,” a person shouted at me over the music, with a big smile on their face.

I laughed wholeheartedly—and I was even more impressed by the fact that I didn’t feel uneasy at their comment. It was almost like they were offering me gum. It was that normalized.

Afro-beats and soulful music galore, la Sala Rossa was booming with love that night. And I think it is because it was a celebration of queerness and love.

I find that whenever I am in a space where queerness is not accepted, or is, but minorities aren’t, I feel uneasy and weird, as if I don’t belong.

But whenever a place is dubbed “queer,” I feel relieved. I feel safe. As if anyone and anything is accepted. And I believe this is why it is important to preserve these spaces, and not only that, but advertise them constantly. There is no better feeling than complete acceptance from the other, whether you are a person of colour, of a different religion, queer or straight. Everyone should adopt Lady Gaga’s philosophy!


The 12th edition of Massimadi, Montreal’s Afro LGBTQ+ film and arts festival is taking place now until Feb. 29. With panels, film screenings and dance parties, the festival celebrates local and international afroqueer artists and personalities, closing off with an extra-special dance party for Nuit Blanche.

Feb. 25

Massimadi: Virtual Reality, presented in collaboration with the McCord Museum and Gris Montreal, “Another Dream brings the gripping, true love story of an Egyptian lesbian couple to life. Faced with a post-revolution backlash against the LGBTQ community, they escape Cairo to seek asylum and acceptance in the Netherlands.” Experience afrofuturism at its most risqué. 


McCord Museum

Alternating times, for more information visit 

Feb. 26

Massimadi x Cinema Moderne screening of two films, Fabulous, directed by Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Badassery, directed by Sarafina McIntosh and Sunita Miya-Muganza, with special vogueing-guest, Lasseindra Ninja.

Suggested rate of 12$ 

Cinema Moderne 

7 p.m. 

Feb. 27 

Massimadi x Initiative for Indigenous Futures x AbTeC: Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace Panel: Intersections in Futurity, with Quentin VerCetty, Dayna Danger and Maize Longboat, moderated by Anastasia Erickson. Where Afrofuturist and Indigenous Futurist creators meet.


EV 11.705

6 p.m. 

Feb. 28 

Massimadi presents, Transfuturisk: two more film screenings, Negrum3 (Blackn3ss) and Transfinite, followed by a panel discussion on Afrofuturism as an Artistic Process, with Concordia Simone de Beauvoir Institute alum, artist, writer and creative director, Nènè Myriam Konaté.

Suggested rate of 12$ 

McCord Museum

7 p.m. 

Feb. 29 

Tour exhibition, A Hazy Collision at Never Apart with local artist Gaëlle Elma. 


Never Apart, 7049 rue Saint-Urbain

2 p.m. 

Feb. 29

Nuit Blanche closing party with Backxwash and PureMulaTo. 


La Sala Rossa, 4848 blvd Saint-Laurent 

10:30 p.m.


Feature photo by Owllix. Massimadi Opening Collection by Kevin Calixte.


Vision Gala 2020

Black Theatre Workshop’s annual celebration in honour of Black History Month

On Feb. 1, at the very start of Black History Month, Quebec’s only English-speaking professional Black Theatre Company organized their annual Vision Gala at the Hotel Omni Mont Royal.

The event pays tribute to outstanding Black artists and changemakers who contribute to the development of arts in Canada. It also celebrates a vision of growth, solidarity and unity inspired by the civil rights activist, and important historical figure, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

H. Nigel Thomas, Photo courtesy of Julian Haber

The 2020 honorees were author H. Nigel Thomas and community-driven arts educator, activist and multi-disciplinary artist, Leon Llewellyn. Thomas was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, and Llewellyn the Dr. Clarence Bayne Community Service Award.

“I feel very validated with this award,” Thomas told The Concordian. “There is a verse in the Bible that alludes to the fact that you are always honoured last by your own community. So to be recognized right now by the Black community is truly an honour.”

As a gay Black man writing about racism, and gender and LGBTQ+ issues, Thomas’ work is not without its share of backlash.

“But I must say, ever since 1993 when I wrote my first book, Spirits in the Dark, there has been great community progress,” he said.

The gala began with a dynamic cocktail reception, where champagne and canapes were served. In addition, attendees feasted their eyes on a number of artworks behind an eager artist, who had smaller versions of each canvas laid out on a table in front of them for sale.

Emmanuel Ayoola Akintade, also known as Emmanuel Ayo was born and raised in Nigeria, and now based in Montreal. The artist studied Studio Arts at Dawson College, which allowed him to hone his craft and passion.

In 2017, his first-ever self-organized solo show took place in Montreal at a public studio. Since then, his paintings have been featured in school associations (Concordia and McGill’s African student associations) and organizations such as Dawson’s yearly student exhibition (S.P.A.C.E – a science and arts exhibition.)

One of his most eye-catching works was of a bearded Black man, painted over a striking yellow background. Drawn simply from the shoulders up, his head is rolled back, eyes closed, with tears rolling down his cheeks and mouth agape. The sheer, raw emotion represented in this artwork was simply intoxicating.

When asked what he thought of Black History Month, and the fixation on artists of colour during that time, he shrugged.

“It is what it is,” he said. “All we can do is embrace it. At least people are paying attention, you know?”His words echo with honoree Thomas’ remarks.“I don’t mind that February is recognized as Black History Month,” Thomas said, “because it sheds light, and it might make people pursue and do their own research.



Photos courtesy of Julian Haber.


Spotlight on BIPOC artists should be unlimited, not constrained to the shortest month of the year.

 Clear out your schedule to make way for these important celebrations

As February begins, one better make space in their calendar for the number of events that will be happening this month. For indeed, the second month of the year will be full of activities because of “Black History Month,” a title that was given in 1926 as a celebration of African-American heritage. BHM today has seriously moved away from “African-american” heritage to completely encompass ALL of black culture.

During this month, a number of galleries aim to showcase works by black artists, and Concordia is no different. The Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) has recently selected their artists for the month’s pop-up exhibitions around campus, they encouraged “submissions by all artists who identify as a person of African descent.” Interesting choice of words FASA, black and African are not synonymous. Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square!

While dedicating a part of the year for minorities certainly is an important step towards inclusion, it is also important to remember that these artists are there all year—and should be celebrated every day; not only as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, (BIPOC), but as artists, and most importantly as human beings.

In any case, here are some things happening this February.

Jan. 27 marked three years since the Quebec mosque shooting, and Cinema Politica screened The Mosque: a community struggle in memoriam, and on Feb. 3, there was a screening of First Voices: an evening of Indigenous cinema as part of First Voices Week—and many more initiatives.

The prestigious annual Vision Celebration Gala, hosted by Black Theatre Workshop, is the official launching pad for Montreal’s Black History Month celebrations that took place on Feb. 1. Their Facebook event describes it as an event serving to pay homage to outstanding Black artist changemakers who contribute to the development of arts in Canada. It celebrates the vision of growth, solidarity and unity inspired by the great historical figure, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  (Stay tuned for my coverage of this next week.)

Many organizations are making sure to give a platform to black voices. For example,  Phi, a centre for contemporary art offers  Le Mois de l’histoire des Noirs: prendre la parole chez Phi. At the Cinémathèque Québécoise, there is a series of movies celebrating black lives, and honouring their history for the entire month of February—especially the renowned Kenbe la, jusqu’à la victoire. Shot between Haiti and Montreal, it is the story of an artist and militant, a black woman, who in spite of her sickness, strives to create a permaculture project.

February is not only reserved for the black community when it comes to Montreal but for a number of people of colour. For example, Cinema Politica at Concordia has made it their moral imperative to showcase a movie each week about POCs’ struggles—from First Nations to the Black community.

While at times it could be on a positive note and a sort of honouring, one can’t help but wonder why they all get crammed into 28, sometimes 29 days. Spotlight on BIPOC artists should be unlimited, not constrained to the shortest month of the year.




Graphic by @sundaeghost.

Student Life

Black History Month 2020

The 29th edition of Black History Month in Montreal kicked off on Jan. 23 at Place des Arts with a conference that introduced this year’s theme, representative spokespeople and laureates, and the events that will take place in February.

This year’s edition of Black History Month is called “Here and Now,” which focuses on celebrating Black excellence through the achievements of the younger Black generation in Montreal, and encouraging unity and action towards Black cultural education in Quebec. 

Michael Farkas, president of the board of directors for Black History Month, said it “allows the opportunity for Black excellence to be recognized, it creates awareness for all people, it brings us together, and it reminds us that Black history is a part of all history.”

For Farkas, recognizing Black youth contributing to Black excellence is vital in empowering the generation of the future. “There is an urgency to see the Black community, and particularly the youth, to come in and really play the vital role that they can, so that’s ‘Here and Now,’” said Farkas. “That means there is a space for them and a place for them and they need to be totally invested in the fabric of our society.” 

Singer and songwriter Sarahmée Ouellet, and comedian and actor Aba Atlas were chosen as the spokespeople for Black History Month. Alongside them, 12 distinguished Black youth from Montreal who excelled in their respective areas, which include teaching, entrepreneurship, and the arts, were chosen as this year’s laureates. 

Shanice Nicole, one of the chosen laureates, is a feminist educator, writer and a curator of free community resources in organizations such as the Black Foundation of Community Networks Scholarship Directory and All Black Everything in Montreal. She is working on a children’s book scheduled for publication in 2020 called Dear Black Girls.

“Young people are revolutionary and throughout history, young people have always been at the front and forefront of movements,” Nicole said of this year’s theme. “[Young people] have such capacity for change and a willingness as well to change that I think is really exciting.” 

Atlas said his race never came into question in Ethiopia, where he grew up, as it is a predominantly Black country. 

“Once I immigrated to Canada, that reality changed because the environments are different,” said Atlas. “That led me to want to know more about what it means to be Black, and I think it led me to where I am today; the importance of my race, the importance of my identity in general, and how it helps me to navigate the world,” he added, crediting his journey of education and empowerment.

According to the Canadian government’s webpage on Black History Month, the lack of any proper Black history was what inspired historian Carter G. Woodson to found “Negro History Week,” in 1926, which became Black History Week in the 70s. In 1976, it finally became Black History Month. According to the Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs’ website, the month of February was chosen because it was the birth month of two celebrated slavery abolitionists: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of this event was to educate the public and to empower the Black community by teaching Black history objectively and fairly, and to advocate for Black history to be taught in public schools.

Black History Month has been celebrated in Montreal for decades by public and private institutions. Despite this, it was only officially adopted into law by the Quebec National Assembly in 2007, inaugurating February as Quebec’s official Black History Month, according to the Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs’ website.

Catherine Verdon Diamond is a local weather and traffic presenter, and media personality at CBC. As the main public speaker and host of the event, Diamond invited the public to “get to know Black culture in all its forms, as infused into all of these shows, exhibitions, conferences and screenings more than 150 cultural and social activities themed around the achievements of Black communities will be in the spotlight.”


Photo courtesy of Napoleon Communications

Student Life

Memories of the SGW Affair

Re-examining the socio-political climate of 1960s Montreal

In light of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Sir George Williams Affair, Protests and Pedagogy, a two-day conference commemorating the largest student occupation in Canadian history, took place at De Sève Cinema in the LB building on Feb. 8 and 9.

The series of panels saw speakers, academics and activists from across the country join together to share information and memories of the events on Feb. 11, 1969. Resituating the occupation within the broader socio-political context of racial tensions in the 1950s and 60s in Montreal, as well as globally, underpinned each discussion.

Michael O. West, professor of sociology, Africana studies and history at Binghamton University, kicked off the conference by giving some much-needed historical context to the occupation. On April 28, 1968, eight students approached the Dean of Students with the initial complaint regarding their biology professor. “1968 was a year of protests and rebellion worldwide,” said West. “The Sir George Williams Affair was deeply rooted in the revolution of 1968.” Twenty-two days before the students came forth with their initial complaint “was the assassination, on April 4, 1968, of the King of Love,” said West. “Martin Luther King.”

Following West, H. Nigel Thomas, an author of various novels, poems and scholarly texts, chaired the second panel discussion between four individuals who were all involved, in one way or another, with the events surrounding Feb. 11.

Clarence Bayne, a then-professor at Sir George Williams University; Philippe Fils-Aimé, one of the Hall building occupants as well as one of the 97 people arrested that day; Brenda Dash, a Montrealer who vocally supported the students and was also arrested; and Nancy Warner, then a student-supporter from McGill who was outside the Hall building on Feb. 11. Every panelist had unique, insightful details of the intentionally misrepresented protest-turned-riot, all to convey one theme: it’s time the truth got a fair hearing.

The 9th floor computer centre after Feb. 11, 1969. Archive photo courtesy of Concordia University.

“Many people saw a face of Montreal that they had never seen before. The sheer hostility, the racism, the things that were said to people,” said Warner. “The degree to which what we thought were the rules of due-process, of the people being treated like they had some kind of civil liberties, were dashed.”

Some major news outlet headlines from Feb. 11 and onwards read: “Police Stay Cool in Chaos” and “Riot Squad Impressive” (The Gazette, Feb. 12, 1969) in which police are praised for appearing “relaxed and in good humour,” as well as “Student Moderates Alienated—Extremists go it Alone,” (The Star, Feb. 12, 1969) which stated that black students wanted to “burn down the university.”

“Much has been said about the destructive danuma of February 11,” said West. “A favourite description became and remains: riot. It being assumed that the rioters and protesters were one and the same.”

To this day, the administration and major news outlets present the mysterious fire as a point of contestation from the riots that day, despite the fact that students were arrested and charged with arson, among other offences, in the ensuing trials.

“I am going to also make a few comments on the question of this fire at the computer centre. I will tell you things that I have never said or mentioned before,” said Fils-Aimé. “As we were in jail, I had the chance to talk with Rosie [Roosevelt Douglas] and I said ‘Rosie, did you start this fucking fire, man?’ and he said ‘Phillippe, I must tell you, I didn’t have to.’” Fils-Aimé went on to explain how Rosie speculated that an individual whom they knew to be a devoted anarchist was the arsonist.

Details of the brutal events that took place once the riot squad stormed into the Hall building have not been downplayed—they have been left out of the history books altogether. “It is true that a riot occurred at the computer centre,” said West. “Except the riot only began with the arrival of the Montreal police riot squad.”

“The black occupiers were singled-out for especially brutal retribution. Black women, as could be expected, got the worst of it,” said West. “Subjected to bigoted bile as well as sexual violence. [Black men’s] bodies were ground in broken glass, they were kicked in the groin and genitalia.”

The students who made the initial complaint were taking a biology course, many of whom had dreams of attending medical school and ascending to the professional realm of society. “In sum, the police riot was also an attack on black sexuality and black reproduction,” said West.

West explained that, in regards to holding the police and the university accountable for the riots, “that has occurred to no one; that is, no one in a position of authority.” Fils-Aimé left attendees with a metaphor: when history is written by the lions, you’ll never hear the side of the antelopes. “In the process, truth became another victim,” said West. “It’s time, officially, that truth got a hearing at Concordia University. It’s time.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

Student Life

Black History Month: Black money and activism

Exercising your economic power to put your money where your culture is

Black History Month is upon us and I’ve got one question for you, dear reader: where is your money going? Black people all over North America spend this month bringing light to the horrible atrocities that were faced in the name of “building a republic.” In order to carve a better future, one must never forget their past; and in the case of black Canadians, they stand on the shoulders of giants. Men and women who persevered throughout the most unimaginable situations are now revered and fondly remembered.

When one thinks of slavery and Canada, it’s easy to think about how this country was the final destination of the Underground Railroad—the escape route many American slaves used, led by the fearless Harriet Tubman. However, allow me to shatter this perception of Canada.

In an article written by Joshua Ostroff published in the Huffington Post, historian Afua Cooper is quoted saying, “slavery was the dominant condition of life for black people in this country for well over 200 years. We’ve been enslaved for longer than we’ve been free.” Although slavery was abolished in Canada in 1834, so many black Canadians are still in bondage when it comes to their finances. So again, dear reader, I ask: where is your money going?

What was once regarded as trivial and inconsequential has grown to influence economic markets worldwide. The present-day black consumer has more power and influence with their $1 bill today than ever before—but this same consumer may be more ignorant about said influence.

Pioneers of the Civil Rights and Black Panther movements were aware of their influence, as evident through their actions. Robert E. Weems, in his article “The Trillion Dollar African American Consumer Market: Economic Empowerment or Economic Dependency?,” writes: “The Montgomery (Alabama) Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 remains the model instance of organized black consumer activism. One cannot overemphasize the resolve demonstrated by Montgomery’s black community during this action. The widespread publicity given black Montgomery’s ultimately successful campaign for respect and dignity subsequently emboldened blacks throughout the South to follow New York Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s advice to ‘withhold the dollar to make the white man holler.’” Black consumers put their money where their mouths were, and it paid off.

During this month where we take the time to remember our past, I implore you to support black businesses and ensure our future presence within the economic scene. It makes no sense that the majority of hair product stores in Montreal—where, in my experience, most of the shoppers are black people—are owned by East Asians; and hair is just the tip of the iceberg of products black people consume that others have a monopoly over.

Support black businesses. Put your money back into black businesses. Small ones, big ones, Mom & Pop’s, and everything in between. A quick Google search will give you a list of black-owned businesses in Montreal, in Canada, and online.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

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