I want to begin this piece by stating that Black history is under constant attack. In my experience, that is especially potent here in the Great White North. 

Historians have commented on the state of Black history in Canada as a “collective silence” that hides a history of slavery. Historian Afua Cooper has further declared that this silence contributes to an “erasure of Blackness [itself].” Cooper is expressing that the systemic and historic injustices inflicted upon Black communities in Canada are consistently underrepresented and concealed, which remains a source of deep pain within our communities. 

This silence has numerous effects, which are all harmful and work in tandem to further disenfranchise Black communities. But despite the national silence on the history of Black Canadians, many of us are intimately aware of the most traumatizing aspects of international Black history.

The miserable truth is that many of us are unfamiliar with any understanding of Black history outside of simply agony and anguish. This largely has to do with the frequency in which the most traumatizing acts of racial violence and oppression are thrust upon us throughout our lives. These ideas are further strengthened by our own experiences, which we have had to learn to survive. We live in a world with an insatiable hunger for the images and narratives of Black trauma. It is unavoidable. 

However, Black history is so much more than simply brutality. Celebrating Blackness in all its forms is groundbreaking, radical, and beautiful. 

On that note, I have recently come to a very belated realization about this wonderful month we call February. That this is a time when, in both Canada and the United States, people are talking about, thinking about, and exploring Black history and culture. There are conversations happening, Black stories being told, and Black histories being brought back to life — all at this very moment. This fact might be obvious, but to me it is mind-blowing. 

At this moment, members of our community are diving into and centering stories of Black life — not simply stories of survival, but of resistance. The vibrancy, dynamism, intellect, and joy of Blackness being brought back to the fore is incredible to watch. Within the maintenance of Black culture, its creation of identity and community, and its outright refusal to be exploited, Black power is everywhere and that is what we need to understand and truly feel this month. 

However, celebrating Black history takes some unlearning, relearning, and effort. There are special qualities of Black history you are required to take with you. Just as the Black community is wonderfully diverse, so is Black history; your options are limitless. 

When learning, you simply need to ask yourself: what excites you? My advice is to follow that feeling and see where it goes. I promise that you will not be disappointed — it’s impossible. You can quote me on that. 

I would also like to propose a slight change in the way you may choose to celebrate Black History Month. This month — and hopefully other Black History Months in our future — should be a push for us to acquire the resources and knowledge that we need to apply to our everyday lives for the rest of the year. This can be accomplished by looking for resources centred around Black experience, learning about ideas or concepts that will alter the way you live, or simply rediscovering a community to love and care for. 

But rather than simply trying to consume as much information as we can — though it’s very difficult not to do so, given the richness of this month — I encourage you to find something to latch onto. Find something to live by. Find something to breathe. What learning will sustain you? By this, I don’t just mean information — I mean the experience of finding this information. How will you learn to be familiar with the proof of Black power and resilience? 

I would never want to be an abstractionist, so I’ll give you an example of the way I am attempting to structure the Black History Months of my future. I’ll start with what I’m interested in; at the moment, it’s Afrofuturism, an aesthetic and philosophy that combines African diaspora culture with technology. I am passionate about the themes of love and hope — from what I know, Afrofuturism can be a beautiful blend of all things that are unique to our community. 

But what’s next for me? I will try to learn on my own, attend any Black History Month seminars that are available, and gather resources I come across over the course of this month. I will not rush. Whatever information I don’t get to learn this month, I can continue throughout the year because I prepared for it.

Black History Month is the shortest month of the year. But, if we play it right, we can extend its knowledge far beyond the bounds of the 28 or 29 days that we’ve been given. In preparation for the rest of the year, let’s reevaluate what values are important to us as individuals and as part of a heterogeneous community. 

Let us build the connections we did not know we needed and lean on them for the rest of our lives. Let us start to build the foundation required to live as though we are already rooted in the knowledge of our collective and individual power. I have no doubt that the journey to that will be like no other, and I have no doubt that we will all be much better off for it. 

With that, I urge you to live fully in the beautiful year ahead of you. And, of course, have a happy Black History Month.