For the months of February and March, the BAHRC is collaborating with Brock University and the Niagara community to celebrate African Heritage Month. This celebration typically lasts for a month, but in order to acknowledge the significance of Black History and the Cultural Heritage of Africans and people of African descent, it has been stretched to two months.
Understanding this cultural history is a continuous process with many aspects to be explored. Educating yourself on black history is important in order to understand the significance and importance of African culture.
“You don’t become black on February 1 and cease to be after Feb. 28. You’re still black come December 31, ” said Dr. Wilma Morrison, a notable historian of black history within the Niagara region.
“There continues to be a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes around African contributions to Canada and the world in general. One approach to dispelling these myths and stereotypes is to take time whenever we can to showcase, demonstrate, and have intelligent and meaningful conversations around the contributions that African people have made to the world. And there are many, dating back to the Black Pharaohs who ruled Egypt 4,000 years ago. Europeans later borrowed from Egyptian civilizations in science, math, medicine, architecture and so forth,” said Richard Ndayizigamiye, the Co-Chair of Brock African Heritage Recognition Committee (BAHRC).
Ndayizigamiye states that it’s important to understand that African history and heritage is also World Heritage, as validated by the UN General Assembly.
“In its Resolution 68/237, it proclaimed the years 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. This declaration also emphasizes that Africa and its people have experienced the most extreme suffering and degrading treatment throughout human history: the Arab Slave Trade, the Transatlantic Slave Trade and African Holocaust in the Americas, the Europeans’ forceful and brutal colonization of Africans, the looting of their resources and so on,” said Ndayizigamiye. “Therefore, acknowledgments such as this one present opportunities to recognize, learn about and appreciate African cultures and African-made contributions in Canada and around the world.”
Along with appreciating the contributions made by African culture, Ndayizigamiye also acknowledges the importance of debunking stereotypes about Africa and its people. He believes that doing so creates a stronger sense of self for people of African heritage.
“In North America, it is often easy for African peoples, specifically youth to get confused about their identity. They grow up in a culture that neither acknowledges their existence, nor values their history and the contributions of their elders. That marginalization can lead to unconscious feelings of ‘inferiority’ rather than pride in their heritage,” said Ndayizigamiye.
Brock will be hosting events throughout the months of February and March to emphasize the importance of black history and culture.
There is a significant difference between African Heritage month and Black History month, one that many are not aware of.
“Carter G. Woodson, who started Negro History Week back in the 1920s, focused on trying to recognize the contributions that African people made to the history of the United States. The historians at the time generally excluded African contributions, so it was part of a move to counter racism at the time,” said Ndayizigamiye.
“Negro History Week morphed into Black History Month and people began to think about African liberation as well (in the 1950s and 1960s), which considers the past, the present, as well as prospects for the future. African Heritage Month is about looking at all dimensions of African history and African heritage and publicizing the roles that Africans and Africa have played in human history.”
This year’s African Heritage Month is focused on the theme of “decolonizing our minds”. The goal is to encourage the “unthinking” of previous perceptions of ourselves that were falsely imposed upon us through colonial, racist discourse. Several events will be hosted on campus in the upcoming months and provide Brock faculty, staff and students an opportunity to understand why we celebrate black history.
For more information and updates on upcoming events visit experiencebu.brocku.ca.