By Juanita Onochie
It’s February. It’s Black History Month. It’s the time to celebrate, to commemorate, and maybe take time to reflect on the path and people that got us here – right? I’d think so. At least I know that’s what the history books, the college/university professors, the news articles and the parents would tell you.
Are they all wrong? Or misleading? NO, they are not. Especially in this political climate, it’s important now more than ever to take the time to celebrate the moments in our culture that are significant to us. However, as individuals, we should ask ourselves are we doing enough? Why should it only be one month in the year to celebrate our heritage? Why aren’t we taking more time to celebrate our global heritage?
Black History celebrations date back to 1926 in the United States. At the time, it was only a week-long period focused on learning about the accomplishments of African Americans. 50 years later it grew into month-long festivities and then, in 1995, Canada began to recognize the period as well. Like all things, this time focused on highlighting Blacks has gone through its own journey to evolve to where it is today. Now, thankfully, no matter where we go, we all have the privilege of walking through streets, visiting historic sites or even museums, like the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, to get a glimpse into the history and culture. But is that enough?
I come from a country (Nigeria) where everyone has spent the past several decades reveling in the division of tribes and ancestral conquests; where people are focused on what their tribe can achieve and how those accomplishments can help their own kin; who will be the first or who will take the turn to have their slice of what we’ve termed the “national cake”. Over time, while this mindset has worked at various times for different groups, in the long haul, all we’ve seen it create is a strengthened pitfall that will inadvertently shallow us if we continue to not pay attention. Nigeria is miles away, but its troubles are part of what’s inspired this thought. No matter what tribe, country or descent we are from when we spend time and energy focused on the issues and/or points that divide us; we forget the traits that bind us as humans.
In a time when individuals are more and more inclined to turn on one another, when the political climate from our brothers and sisters in the south shows us how bitterness and hate can destroy progress, I believe as immigrants, as Nova Scotians, and as Canadians, we need to do more to celebrate the things and stories that make us better. The sufferings and lessons of others that are forged in history shouldn’t only be to promote what one group has done for their kin, but what it signifies for everyone’s future.
African Nova Scotian Affairs promotes the provincial theme for the year as, “Our History is Your History”. This theme rings through now more than ever because as we celebrate the story of blacks, past, present and future; we shouldn’t only be trying to learn about our truths, we should also be learning to be aware of the truths of our neighbors as well. We should be learning to celebrate our global heritage because only when we’ve accomplished that will we be able to facilitate the positive change we need to grow.