We asked Black professionals in Canada and America one question: what does Black History Month in 2021 mean to you? Read what they have to say.
Black History Month is a designated time of the year to observe Black Americans’ history and culture while celebrating our achievements of the United States. The Black/African American experience and contributions are profoundly important in all aspects of American culture and society since the birth of our nation. For some, the month of February can be a time of the year that triggers memories of some of America’s darkest moments. It’s necessary to acknowledge that part of our country’s past to appreciate what Blacks consider to be our American experience. Today, many of the fundamental human rights afforded to Black Americans resulted from years of struggle and protest. Knowing the past and appreciating the progress made is paramount to understanding the challenges facing Black people in nearly every aspect of society today.
I have experienced and appreciate corporate environments where Black history, the history of all diverse populations, and their contributions are appreciated. This study and reflection should never be seen as being done at the expense of company culture, time, or morale. It should, however, be a celebrated pillar of organizational culture. After all, Black history is American history.
Ramon Simmons is a transformational communications leader specializing in executive and diversity, equity and inclusion messaging. Along with his more than 20 years delivering innovative marketing and internal communications solutions at well-known brands, Ramon also consults on DEI communications through his firm R Simmons Consulting.
This year, I’m recognizing Black entrepreneurs who have carved out opportunities for themselves and their communities during one of the most challenging times in recent history. I’m saluting young people like Nate Saunders using his voice to show that from the fullness of our lips to the kinkiness of our hair, Black is beautiful.
I’m honouring Black love which has been the source of our joy and our resistance. This year and every year, I celebrate Black History 365 days of the year.
Barbara shares her experience and learnings as a professional who is navigating a career in education, corporate & media; working with over 30 elementary and middle schools across Toronto, Peel, and York facilitating literacy storytelling workshops. Barbara is n entrepreneur; celebrating Black excellence & resistance through storytelling.
Black History Month this year for me is about accountability. Since the passing of George Floyd, I have seen a lot of agencies in the advertising industry make promises but those promises have not been kept. So, what I need from agencies is accountability. For them to practice doing as they say. ‘I said this and I am standing behind it’.
This year, rather than people coming forward and saying ‘I want to help’, I want them to move away from the lip service and be held accountable for their words and actions. Let there be some level of accountability. What I want this year as we celebrate Black History Month is progressive accountability across all boards. Across politics, across the economy and across every aspect of our societies. Anyone who talks about Black History Month should work towards creating accountability wherever they work.
Peter Ukhurebor is an Advertising Strategist, User Experience Designer and diversity activist. Starting his advertising career over 14 years ago at WPP agency, he has worked across 3 continents growing his experience in the advertising world. Peter is the Director of One Block Village of Detroit a non-profit with a goal of infusing more diversity in the advertising industry across the globe by providing more opportunities for people of color and Experience Design Director of Osaukus LLC a bouquet design studio.
Canada has this reputation of being ‘better’ than the United States and forgets to acknowledge our history. People in this country believe that racism is not alive and present which is false. That’s why Black History Month is so important in Canada.
It gives us the chance to learn about our Black history and a chance to acknowledge our present. It allows Black people to be appreciated for all their contributions to Canadian culture.
Onome Oyiborhoro (she/her) is a third-year student at Carleton University studying Political Science with a minor in philosophy. She is currently the co-president of the Carleton Political Science Society and hosts a podcast called The Political ThisThat Podcast which focuses on social justice and politics. Her interests include health policy, representation in politics, and US politics.