Celebrating Black History Month
February is Black History Month. This celebration has its origins in the United States dating back to 1926 when the African American scholar, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, raised awareness of the African experience through school curricula. In Canada, where this experience included slavery, segregation, racism, and systemic discrimination, Black people and historic Black communities have been contributing to all sectors of society, shaping Canada’s culture and heritage for more than 400 years. Celebrated first in Toronto in 1979 and declared unanimously through a motion proposed by Canada’s first Black Senator, Donald Oliver, to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians, February was proclaimed Black History Month in 2008. In 2022, we celebrate Black History Month across Canada.
At Nipissing University, we celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Black students, staff, and faculty members in academic and campus life and their tireless advocacy and activism, whether individually or through collectives such as the Nipissing University Black Association for Student Expression (NUBASE) and the Caucus of Racialized Persons (CRP), towards issues of anti-racism, equity, and discrimination on our campus both past and present, difficult work that is sometimes performed within a context of trauma that is inflicted through racist actions and systemic injustices.
We recognize that systemic racism has pervaded Canadian institutions historically, and ours in particular. During my first few months as President, I’ve spent time talking at length with individuals and groups to better understand Nipissing University, its history, and how people experience the institution. I have been meeting regularly with equity-seeking groups and have heard about their experiences with racism, discrimination, and systemic issues at the University. These important conversations will provide the foundations for change on our campus, guided by our accountability to the Scarborough Charter, which requires the University to establish specific structures to address racism, provide support to recruit and support Black faculty, staff, and students, and to establish strong partnerships with Black-led organizations. We must take action to create an inclusive campus for every student and employee of Nipissing University. Systemic and cultural change will not be possible without the full participation, meaningful engagement, and accountability of all our community members.
Black History Month should be a catalyst for discussion, education and the celebration of students and colleagues, but anti-racism and social justice are year-round priorities that must be foundational in every aspect of campus life. Those of us who have never experienced racism and racial discrimination must educate ourselves and understand our responsibilities towards creating and sustaining an inclusive campus.
Thank you students and colleagues who have organized events at Nipissing University to celebrate Black History Month. Please join me in participating in the events listed on our Black History Month webpage. Events will continue to be promoted and populated throughout the month so we invite you to check back often.
Dr. Kevin Wamsley
President & Vice-Chancellor