Each weekday this February, we’ll shine a spotlight on a Black woman whose story and accomplishments should be celebrated by all Canadians.
For years, I’ve had a complicated relationship with Black History Month. On one hand, as a Black woman in media, I’m never more in demand than I am in February of every year. I’m asked to speak on panels. I’m asked to give talks to impressionable teenagers at my old high school, where I was once a confused young girl surrounded by kids who didn’t look like me. In the moments when I get to look out a 16-year-old Black teen and make her feel less alone, I love Black History Month.
When I was a freelance writer, I didn’t have to pitch in February. The work came to me. The work was almost always about paying tribute to the history of Black people in this country — a history that is full of pain or stories of extraordinary human beings whose contributions to the fabric of this nation are overlooked and ignored. While it’s nice to feel wanted, every February I wonder why I don’t feel as wanted every other month. I wonder why I’m not worthy enough to speak to Black girls who are just like me in September or October. I wonder why the panel requests dry up come March 1 or why the achievements of Black people, specifically Black women, aren’t lauded every month. They should be, but the truth is that in many classrooms and publications, they aren’t. Every February, Black women take on the emotional labour of making sure the women who came before us are recognized. The Black women who have shaped this country — and are molding its future — are continually discounted for the stories of problematic old white men.
Growing up, I knew John A. MacDonald’s name, a man who did irreparable damage to Indigenous people in this country, but I didn’t know Viola Desmond’s. Now, you probably know Desmond’s extraordinary story. You may have even used a bill with her face on it. For every weekday this Black History Month, we’re going to showcase a Black woman who deserves to be known — past and present. We’re also going to make sure we continue to celebrate the achievements of Black women long after February 28.