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

Exit mobile version