When we learn about Black History we usually learn about American icons like Rosa Parks, Henrietta Tubman, and Martin Luther King, but we rarely learn about influential Black Canadians. Here’s a list of seven awesome Black Canadians that deserve some love this Black History Month.
- He was the first Black Canadian elected to provincial legislature. He ran as a Liberal party leader and won in 1963, and was re-elected twice.
- In 1993, she became the first Black woman to be elected to the House of Commons.
- She was also appointed Secretary of State in 2002, making her the first Black woman to hold a post in Cabinet.
- In the 90s, she played a crucial role in establishing a federally recognized Black History Month in Canada.
Mary Ann Shadd
- She was the first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada! She founded and edited The Provincial Freedman, first printed in March 1853.
- She talked about the successes of freed Black people living in Canada, while being anonymous in her own work.
- He’s regarded as the most talented Canadian jazz pianist of all time.
- He received Félix Awards in 1989, 1994, 2007, and 2008. He also won Juno awards in 1986 and 2009.
- He was a child prodigy, taking songs he’d heard on the radio and replicating them from memory at home.
Leaders in their communities
- She’s a doctor whose work is addressing the health inequities that racialized and immigrant communities face.
- She has led U of T’s effort to build medical school curriculum for anti-Black health inequities.
- Canada’s Rosa Parks. She refused to leave a Whites-only section of a movie theatre and was arrested, despite the fact Canada didn’t have any segregation laws in effect.
- Fun fact: she’s on our $10 bill! Viola is the first Black person ever to be featured on Canadian currency.
- He was a spiritual leader who established a settlement called Dawn in northern Canada for enslaved people fleeing from the United States.
- He co-founded the British-American Institute, to help refugees of enslavement gain trade education and labour skills.
Take it a step further
While February is Black History Month, we should celebrate Black history and excellence every day. Below are some ways you can honour and support the Black community:
- You Are Collective has a list of Black-owned businesses in the Okanagan. Try to support them where you can.
- If you’re not living in the Okanagan right now, afrobiz.ca has a list of Black-owned businesses in major cities in Canada, the US, the UK, France, and Africa. They also have an option to add new ones if you find ones that aren’t listed.
- The Canadian Women’s Foundation has a list of resources for learning more about anti-racism and its intersectionality with misogyny.
- They also link to a list of anti-racism resources for white people, including lists of books, movies, documentaries, and podcasts to check out!
Events and initiatives
- UBC has a variety of events happening that give students the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate Black history.
- The African Caribbean Student Club is also hosting some events for Black History Month. Check out their Instagram channel to learn more @ubcoacsc.
- The Equity & Inclusion Office is offering Black Care Baskets for students who are part of the Black community.
- EMERGE, a virtual Career Week designed specifically for Black students and students of colour, is happening at the end of February.
Happy Black History Month!
About the author
Sarah Kloos is a transfer student from Okanagan College. She’s a Creative Writing major, a collector of cool rocks, and a lover of novels. While she’s still not 100% sure what she’s going to be when she grows up, she’s okay with that. For now, she’s learning everything she can from her co-op work term, and loving every minute of it.