Reflect on the reality of the African-Canadian experience, says prof.

Black History Month is both a reflection on and celebration of black culture

By Joe Petrik

Communications and Public Affairs

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While Canadians celebrate Black History Month, it’s important to reflect on the historic reality of the African-Canadian experience, says Jim Walker, a University of Waterloo history professor.

Walker points out that during the First World War, Canada had a segregated black labour unit — the Nova Scotia 2 Construction Battalion. It’s also important to recall that black veterans were buried in a segregated cemetery in Halifax, he says.

“These facts upset the standard impression of what that war meant to Canada, and what Canada was like at the time,” says Walker. “It enriches our knowledge, not just of African-Canadian history but of Canadian history overall.”

Black History Month is a time of both reflection on the struggles, and a celebration of the achievements of Caribbean and African-Canadians. From Anne Greenup, who settled in Montreal in the late 19th century and fought against poverty and exclusion, to Elijah McCoy, the brilliant Colchester, Ontario-born inventor and mechanical engineer, to Oscar Peterson, the legendary jazz pianist, the black community has made countless contributions to Canada’s culture, development and history.

On campus, four different student groups — the Association of Caribbean Students, UW BASE (Black Association for Student Expression) the African Student Association and the Federation of Students — are collaborating to showcase talent at the University of Waterloo.

One Seed. Many Roots begins on Monday:

“Discover your Roots” — February 11, Great Hall, Student Life Centre

UW BASE One seed. Many roots. eventRunning from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., this free event will feature hair braiding, music, Caribbean and African food, and an expo exploring black history and culture. This all-day event will culminate in a discussion and friendly debate starting at 6 p.m. in the multipurpose room.

"Showcase your Roots” — February 14, Humanities Theatre, Hagey Hall, $10

Beginning at 7 p.m., this talent show will explore the history and culture of black people from Africa, the Caribbean and North America. Featuring dancers, poets, musicians, singers and a fashion show called Rock your Roots for young and aspiring designers, this event will highlight black artistic talent at the University of Waterloo.

“Love Lockdown” — February 14, Federation Hall, $10

The official party following “Showcase your Roots,” featuring Toronto’s DJ Smartiez & DJ JC spinning alongside each other. Doors open at 10 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at the Hagey Hall box office. Find out more at UW BASE’s Facebook events page, UW BASE.