Black History Month celebrations at the college and university in Lethbridge are often vibrant affairs that include dancing, storytelling and sharing food, but this year things look very different as events will be held online.
Lethbridge College instructor Ibrahim Turay says it’s important to still honour the significance of the month despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For us, it’s a time to reflect on some of the stereotypes and assumptions we always have of Black people,” Turay explained.
“The college is also posting trivia questions related to Black History Month, looking at the history of Black people in Alberta.”
Lethbridge College student Anthony Lamai moved to Canada from Nigeria a year ago and says this is a good time to remind others that Black history is Canadian history.
“For me, who just moved to Canada, I found that the $10 bill, the lady who is on it — Viola Desmond — she played a huge part, and so things like that will help you educate yourself and make informed decisions when you’re interacting and communicating with people in society,’ Lamai said.
While this year has a different feel after the historic Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the world last summer, advocates say there is still much work that needs to be done in order to truly achieve racial equality.
“As an institution, are we focusing on the systems which cause disadvantage and racism, so it’s not just about Black History Month,” said Erasmus Okine, provost and vice-president of academics at the University of Lethbridge.
Okine has been in academia for decades and says he has seen a noticeable shift in the way Black achievements are celebrated and inequalities are discussed, offering some optimism for the future.
“It is possible that we’ve made progress,” he said. “There’s still a long ways to go, but we are making progress, and that is what I see.”