As February comes to an end, and Black History Month along with it, I am cognizant, today more than ever, that the work to dismantle systemic racism and oppression does not end with a month. The year that was 2020 exposed massive racial inequities that are the root cause of many societal issues on this planet. Although enslavement may feel distant, racism remains very much in the present.
Black History Month is a celebration recognized worldwide to honour and acknowledge Black communities and their contributions to history, culture, and civilization. It is a necessary period of time devoted to inspiring open dialogue and celebrating achievements that have been overlooked, or omitted, from history. I think the most important question remains: then what?
I used to think, from my privileged position, that I needed to stay in my own lane and that some issues were not my job to address. What I now know is that what you permit you promote and what you allow you condone. Silence, even if you don’t always get it right, is no longer an option because the inequities are unfathomable.
Raising voices who deserve to be heard, highlighting contributions that make significant impacts, and celebrating diversity all around us is our job this month, next month, and every month following. When we are acknowledged, we will rise.
A Few Things I’ve Learned:
- The goal is not to be “colour-blind” – in fact, it’s the opposite. It is to SEE, acknowledge, appreciate, and respect all the diversity in this beautiful world.
- Do not ever underestimate your power to simply acknowledge another. We all want to know that we matter.
- An awareness of your privilege takes work. The more privileged you are, the harder it will likely be to see it. That’s privilege.
- Silence is no longer an option. In fact, remaining silent on issues that are important to so many, especially when marginalization and racism are experienced, speaks louder than words.
- Being an ally is not a designation you assign to yourself.
- It’s not about getting it right, it’s about showing up with an open heart to know better, do better, and be better.
The work, our work, does not end. It’s a continual journey of learning and growing and it is so much braver to do that together. Turns out, when you sit with the winners, the conversation is different.
Some Of My Incredible Teachers:
I feel so fortunate to have been connected to this beautiful human who has become a friend, mentor, and one of my greatest teachers. Jesse is an activist, actor, musician, father, and all around soul-lighting force.
“Empathy moves at the speed of change”.
– Jesse Lipscombe
This woman has no idea how amazing she is. Sarah is a grade six teacher with Edmonton Catholic schools, a speaker, an activist, and co-founder of the Black Teacher’s Association here in Alberta. She is incredibly humble, so wise, and everything the world needs right now.
“It’s important to amplify the voices in the room. You have to listen to the people in the room and make it ok for them to express their opinions. Uncomfortable conversations are not bad things.”
– Sarah Adomako-Ansah
Sadia Khan & Dieulita Datus
These two inspiring women created an organization called UBUNTU with a mission to raise the voices of marginalized people. They are daring, bold, true to themselves, and engage with communities to have hard conversations in safe and accountable ways.
“If you remain afraid of saying the wrong thing, and say nothing at all, you limit your progress because you don’t move forward. Ask yourself if your comfort is more important than the lives of the radicalized individuals that go through this every day.”
– Sadia Khan
Natasha is an educator, actor, director and activist. She is a first generation Canadian, born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and is of Trinidadian Heritage. For over 15 years, Natasha has been mentoring and empowering youth through the arts, and is co-creator of Braided Arrows a platform highlighting culture, identity and antiracism. We are so fortunate to have her on our team of moderators on our Kids These Days group for educators.
“If we are truly ever to be anti-racist, we must first work at dismantling our own implicit and explicit biases. The work starts with us. The work is continual.“
– Natasha Joachim
Naomi has been a first-grade teacher, is a wife and mother, and blew me away the first time I had the opportunity to see her speak about cultural responsiveness in the classroom. She has created a library of incredible resources including, “How to talk to white kids about racism” which has made a significant impact in the way I approach conversations with my children.
“Social studies is what’s missing in the classroom. Kids are growing up to become adults who are culturally insensitive because they need to build their cultural intelligence.”
– Naomi O’Brien
LaNesha is a powerhouse in the world of cultural bias and awareness in the classroom, is a mother, teacher, and all around gamechanger. In 2016 she recognized a huge gap in curriculum and the need for social studies in the classroom because many of the subjects we require as adults were not being taught.
“It’s our job for the kids we teach to see the world through us.”
– LaNesha Tabb
Growth is never an end game. You don’t arrive at an endpoint. I can’t wait to continue sharing how I and this team learn, grow, and improve on so many of the things that we don’t know, as we celebrate, recognize and honour. There is no history without black history, and the work does not stop here.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
– George Santayana
Our commitment is a lifetime of listening, learning, sharing, and taking action to bring change. It won’t be an easy journey, and we won’t always get it right, but in the attempts to be better, we will always grow. We can be the change we seek. And we are indeed, braver together.