Vincent Black

Black or white. All lives matter…



February 1 to February 28 is Black History month in this country.
Every February, people across Canada participate in Black History Month events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black people in Canada and their communities. These celebrations have become much more popular and front and center over the last five years. With the protests around “Black Lives Matter” that have occurred, much more commercialization of this event has taken place. The emphasis on the black communities, and having mainstream media coverage, it would appear that we need to understand their pain and struggles, but they may be a bit over blown.
Black history month does not just promote diversity, it celebrates diversity. Promoting diversity is bringing awareness to the idea that we are different and we all have something to contribute. Is this attention for an entire month each year a good thing? Well, there is one train of thought that cultural education is always a good thing, until it is overdone and, in your face continuously. Sometimes you can also create discrimination without because you have not analyzed your thought process.
During this month-long celebration, one of the events that will take place is a dinner that will be honouring significant achievements in the black community. The problem that l have with this event, is that it’s advertised that only blacks can attend and has been kept low key so not much attention has been brought to it. The mainstream media except for a few had the fortitude to point this out and ask the question if this reverse discrimination. It may not be politically correct to mention this, but if you step back for a minute, it really is and the organizers should change their promotion because it sets this movement back with this type of messaging.
The civil rights movement has had both successes and losses. Overtime, its organizing strategies and messaging have evolved and modernized. Yet historically and now in the 21st century, the fundamental demands of black communities look quite similar. During the most recent mobilization for human rights – the incessant taking of black life at the hands of law enforcement was exposed like never before. It has been said that the Black Lives Matter movement is one of the largest movements in history. The institutionalization of anti-black racism can now be named a system not broken, but as history tells us, functioning as intended.
Black history month is celebrated in this country and south of the boarder as well as in Ireland and England, but other countries have not followed suit as we have done so. More education needs to take place, but education that is filtered in an unbiased way and not putting whites against blacks but have mutual respect for everyone and their backgrounds. The unfortunate thing is that our mainstream media continues to have many non-black folks question these celebrations. We should not question these celebrations unless they are unfair and pit whites against blacks.
Working with everyone, white, black, brown needs to be a form of respect and not look at the color of one’s skin. Many people still unfortunately look at your color and many make decisions based on it, unfortunately that this is true, but the continued education of our youth is the only way that we can get better with future generations. Our future generations and how we set their minds through education and parenting is the way to make significant changes for all our future citizens.
The question that faces us today is whether black history month is still relevant, and in addition, a vehicle for change?
These two questions need to be asked without prejudice because we need to work and live together in harmony and continue to raise our children without putting labels on people and how they look. This sounds easier said than done, but we need to continue to keep trying and trying, whether we succeed or not. On a personal note, when l look at someone to communicate or to do business with, l do not look at someone’s skin color. Yes, there are those that continue to do so, and it is not right, but unfortunately it still exists. As l have said, there are no easy answer but with education and respect, we can co-exist with one another.
I have no issues with a continued celebration of other cultures and in particularly the black community, but with limits that do not over market the point but instead educate and have all cultures feel equal and not put the spotlight on the black community only. Yes, black lives matter but so do white lives, brown lives and all human beings.
My involvement with black history month happened in 1983 when we first launched the Harry Jerome awards in Toronto that recognizes and honours achievements within the Canadian Black community. The Harry Jerome Awards are now a national event that occurs during the month of February when the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) announces the recipients.
I would like to give an honorary mention to Lincoln Alexander who was the former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and someone who had a major impact on the black community in this country.

Vince Nigro/MS

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