Students at the University of Manitoba are organizing a series of events to mark Black History Month on campus.
The Black History Month, a month dedicated to remember important events and people of Black history, is observed in February every year.
Oziegbe Michael Otaigbe, a student at the University of Manitoba and one of the co-organizers of Cultural Night: Celebrating Black History, Icons & Culture, explained that the purpose of the event is to create awareness and educate the university community “about Black history and build a stronger community.”
The series of events will include a fashion show, cultural dances, speakers, food and a poetry slam night.
Ramogi Nyonje, international students’ representative on UMSU council, said he decided to help organize the event at the U of M because he felt it was important to “always appreciate and celebrate people that bring positive change to the society as a whole.
“For example, people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks that changed black history,” he said.
Julie Rempel, UMSU vice-president (external), said she felt it was important that UMSU is involved in reducing and eliminating prejudices. One way to work towards that goal is helping to bridge the gap between people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds through events such as Black History Month, she explained.
“Like any other community, [the U of M] is situated in a historical context of racism and colonialism,” she said.
“While large strides have been made in combating racism, we still have a ways to go.”
Other events surrounding Black History Month in Winnipeg will be held in the Jamaican Cultural Centre on Feb. 11 and 25. These events will include a job fair hosted by Afro-Caribbean Association of Manitoba on Feb. 18 and a cultural awareness workshop by the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba on Feb. 21.
The Black History Month Celebration Committee (BHMCC) hosted the first Black History Month event in Winnipeg in 1981.
Antoinette Zloty, president of the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba, said she felt Black History Month was an essential celebration of the historical achievements of black people in arts, education, government, sports and science in Manitoba and Canada.
“Being left out of history books and being portrayed in ways which reinforce negative stereotypes, means that there is a lot of catching up to do in correcting past wrongs.”
She explained that events like this, which are coming from the black community, are there to help youth and people in general “to feel good about who they are, to love the skin they are in and to do what is best for their towns, cities, provinces and countries as some others have done before them.”