Black History Month Message from Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor

The beginning of February marks the start of Black History Month 2023. The University of Waterloo is pleased to celebrate the diversity of people of African descent in Canada and their importance to the history and prosperity of this country.

While Canada is the strong and thriving country it is today largely because of the incredible diversity of people residing here, there is no doubt that Black people have made, and continue to make significant contributions to the growth and development of our country.

In 1995, former MP Dr. Jean Augustine, the first Black woman to be elected to parliament, introduced a motion to recognize February as Black History Month, across Canada. Today, Black History Month helps to provide a more complete account of the contributions that generations of Black people have made to Canada, which has historically been ignored.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black Excellence, a term used to describe the individual achievements and successes, contributions and perseverance of the Black community. As we celebrate Black Excellence, we must also reflect on the centuries of struggle and sacrifice that they have endured as a people and continue to face today. The tragic murder of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police and other incidents of hate-motivated violence recently in the news are a terrible and visceral reminder of the plague of racism in our society.

Beyond the 28 days of February, I urge you to remember that Black people live their Blackness every day. Collectively, they are subjected to racism, discrimination, suspicion, profiling and a myriad of inequities, because of the colour of their skin. I encourage you to reflect on the courage and resilience of our Black community, who have prevailed and thrived in the face of oppression and injustice.

Although UWaterloo has shown its commitment to confronting Anti-Black racism by signing on to the Scarborough Charter and working to implement the recommendations of the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce (PART), I recognize the tremendous amount of work that we have yet to do to continue to advance Black inclusion.

Racism and oppression have no room in our community. We must work together to help end racial profiling, eradicate barriers to employment and advancement and dismantle policies and processes that perpetuate disparities during Black History Month, and beyond.

We need the full commitment and support from the University community to continue to build and sustain a welcoming community that embraces diversity and inclusion. Together, we will overcome discrimination and oppression and create a fairer and more inclusive Canada for all.

2023 Black History Month Events

Black History at UWaterloo

Over the past year, PhD candidate Jonathan Zi En Chan worked with Dr. Christopher Taylor to uncover the history of Black student and faculty experiences at the University of Waterloo.

Read a brief history of Black experience at Waterloo

Learn about the poster series

Making a difference

Read about our students, researchers and alumni who are making a difference.

Re-imagining the histories of Black people in Waterloo region

“In 1833, several families moved approximately eighteen miles north of Waterloo, a small village in Waterloo County, to the southern fringe of yet unclaimed land known as the Queen’s Bush. It is believed that the group included Solomon Conaway, his wife and five children; Lewis Howard, his wife and six children, and Daniel Banks...served as the catalyst for the establishment of a new Black settlement also called the Queen’s Bush.”

The Queen’s Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865, Linda Brown-Kubisch, page 31.

"I have heard white people who lived at Queen's Bush say, that they never lived amongst a set of people that they had rather live with as to their habits of industry and general good conduct."

— William Jackson (Queen's Bush Settler, 1846), Brown-Kubisch, page 190.

"Most of the colored people living here are doing a well, if not better, than one could reasonably expect. Most of the grown people among them are fugitive slaves."

— Thomas L. Wood Knox (Queen's Bush Settler), Brown-Kubisch, page 191.

By Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor

I want us to take the time to reflect, learn, and engage. Together. To start, I'm providing a few quotes for us to re-imagine how we understand the intersecting histories of Black people in Waterloo region.

We have a collective tendency to think of Blackness’ and Black people as perpetual sojourners; individuals absent of belonging to the settler colonial space of what we now know as Canada. We use the 28 or 29 days in February to spotlight the Santaclausification of Blackness and Black History — 28 or 29 days to consume the palatable aspects of Black Achievers, Black Success, or Black Excellence. The stories of Dr. King Jr., Rosa Parks, or Viola Desmond.

I'm challenging us to (re)think and (re)imagine the space and place of Black people. The space and place of Black people in society, our historical narrative, and the one month a year we choose to ‘celebrate’ Blackness and Black people. Not just in Canada, but in Waterloo Region. 

I want us to learn the names of Howard, Jackson, Knox. Of Conaway, Pooley, and Little. I want us to truly think about what it means to be a Black “fugitive slave" (“Freedom Seeker”), to flee to “unclaimed land” (stolen Indigenous land) in the nineteenth century, and how the traumatic echoes of this dual erasure and oppression impacts us as a mosaic of communities that comprise the University of Waterloo in the twenty-first century. How can we take these lessons and apply them to our day-to-day environment to challenge systemic oppression in all its forms on our campus? I want us to do this before January and after March. Every year.

I want us to understand that this push against anti-Black racism and settler colonialism did not begin on May 25, 2020 with the murder of George Floyd. This is a fabric of our history and our contemporary reality. Right here in Waterloo.


I’m challenging us to (re)think and (re)imagine the space and place of Black people. The space and place of Black people in society, our historical narrative, and the one month a year we choose to ‘celebrate’ Blackness and Black people. Not just in Canada, but in Waterloo Region.

— Dr. Christoper Stuart Taylor, associate vice-president, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism

Photo credit:
All archival photos courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library. Special Collections & Archives, Kitchener-Waterloo Record Photographic Negative Collection and University of Waterloo Archives, Graphic Services fonds.
Special thanks to Danielle Robichaud, Digital Archivist, Special Collections & Archives.