Pulchérie Mboussi, left, founder and program manager of the Victoria African Cultural Society, joins Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps for a photo at City Hall where Black History Month in Victoria launches Jan. 31. Facebook

Black History Month in Victoria and around B.C. a celebration of contributions

Chapters in proivince’s Black history continue to be written by work of local role models

Black History Month in Victoria is far more than a celebration of the Black Canadian history of the region, according to Silvia Mangue, president of the BC Black History Awareness Society.

“Of course it’s important for people to be aware of the contributions of Black Canadians in the past, but it’s just as important to use that knowledge and build an awareness of their contributions in the present and the future,” she said.

The month-long celebration begins Wednesday (Jan. 31 from 5 to 8 p.m.) at Victoria City Hall, where attendees will be introduced to local Black Canadians – True Role Models – who are making a difference, particularly for young people in their communities. These Laureates are also featured in Black History Month Magazine, which will be distributed around Greater Victoria through February.

The official kick-off happens Saturday (Feb. 3, noon to 2 p.m.) at the Central Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library from noon to 3 p.m. Other activities and events this month range from special church services and performing arts events to tours of heritage sites with special relevance to Black history.

Victoria’s Black history can be traced in part back to Fort Victoria founder Sir James Douglas, whose mother, Martha Ann Telfer, was a Barbados native who married a white Scottish merchant. Aware of increasing discrimination against Black Californians in the years leading up to the U.S. Civil War, Douglas sent word to that state that Blacks would be welcome and be recognized as free British citizens in British Columbia. More than 400 people took him up on his offer.

Since then, the number of Black Canadians who have contributed to the community is stunning and includes men like Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, who was honoured last year with a plaque in James Bay and whose name will grace one of the meeting rooms at the new library there.

“If it wasn’t for Black History Month, a rich history of Black people that helped shape B.C. would be lost on today’s youth,” said society vice-president Ron Nicholson. “We have a lot of stories to tell and they’re beneficial, not just for Black Canadians. These men and women lend confidence to every generation, particularly young people who are visible minorities, and whose own sense of identity may still be forming.”

Another aspect of Black History Month that organizers hope to promote is the understanding that skin colour does not mean a uniformity of culture, belief or heritage and that communication is critical to developing understanding.

“I have people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you’re from Africa’ with no understanding that Africa is a continent with 54 countries and a multitude of cultures,” said Pulchérie Mboussi, the founder and program manager of the Victoria African Cultural Society. “African is not a nationality. Those same people wouldn’t assume that all Europeans are the same, regardless of if they came from Italy or Norway. I’m from Cameroon, but that culture is very different from South Africa, for example.”

“People are afraid to offend, so they don’t engage in meaningful conversation about where I’m from. But there’s no sense in talking about inclusion and acceptance if you don’t know where people are from and who they are.”

One thing Mboussi hopes is achieved through Black History Month is that it motivates people to take time to talk to others without fear of political correctness. Only through learning more about the person in front of them will true understanding and acceptance be possible, she added.

More information on outstanding members of the Black community in B.C. can be found at bcblackhistory.ca/index.php/learning-centre/stories.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

WATCH: Murdoch defeats Jensen for mayor’s seat

Kevin Murdoch excited about strength of team joining him at the council table

Voters in Saanich and Victoria support creation of citizens’ assembly on amalgamation

Group will continue to keep pressure on Victoria and Saanich councils after amalgamation referendum

EDITORIAL: Voters across Greater Victoria embrace progressive ideas, new course in regional governance

Election results also reveal regional fissure between core and outer communities

Former councillor says new Saanich council blends a range of perspectives

Coun. Dean Murdock, who endorsed the four new elected councillor, says voters choose well

Last chance to vote in 2018 municipal election

Polls close Saturday night at 8 p.m. for mayoral, councillor and school board

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for Oct. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. man sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Cam Levins ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Most Read