February 1 marked the beginning of Black History Month across Canada and many other countries. The annual event celebrates the many achievements of Africans and their descendants and is a time for recognizing the integral role of the black community throughout history.
The Niagara Region is strongly bound to African-American history in particular through the Niagara Freedom Trail and The Underground Railroad. Both of these were a network of people, routes and safehouses that hid and guided black slaves as they fled the United States to seek freedom in Canada throughout the 19th century.
The railroad began at The Crossing, located along the Niagara River by Fort Erie and ending at the British Methodist Episcopal Church/Salem Chapel in St. Catharines. Now a national historic site thanks to its association with black activist Harriet Tubman, the Crossing was an important place for abolitionist activities in the late 1800s. Tubman was referred to as the Black Moses and her activities and formation of societies assisted former slaves in adjusting to their new life of freedom.
As such, the region hosts a wide variety of events held to honour and celebrate Black History Month. Some of the events that will be happening are:
Masks, Myths, and Masquerades Exhibition
From Feb. 4 until Mar. 1, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. the James A. Gibson Library at Brock will be facilitating an African heritage exhibit entitled Masks, Myths, and Masquerades. Students can attend the exhibit free of charge and no RSVP is required.
Black History Luncheon
On Feb. 6 from 12:00 p.m. — 2:00 p.m. the Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre will be hosting their annual Black History Luncheon. Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite at the cost of $30 per person which includes both a buffet lunch and entertainment. Proceeds from this event will go towards a scholarship fund for a young person in the community of Welland.
Black History Month – Tales by Moonlight
In African culture, drumming and storytelling are part of the celebration of life, most especially its cycles and seasons. On Saturday, Feb. 16 from 11:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m. the Niagara on the Lake Public Library will facilitate a program led by Babarinde Williams that uses the African cultural arts of interactive storytelling, dance and hand drumming to teach and motivate children. The first 80 participants in the program will receive a free Djembe (a West African drum).
Black History Month at the St. Catharines Museum
To celebrate and honour the contributions of the Black community to St. Catharines’ history, the St. Catharines Museum is offering special one-hour tours of the award-winning Follow the North Star exhibit. Tours are open to the general public and admission is by donation of any amount. Registration is not necessary, but visitors are asked to call the museum if they plan to attend one of the tours.
Tours will be held on:
- Feb. 7, 14, 21, and 28 at 10:30 a.m.
- Feb. 9 and 23 at 10:30 a.m.
Black History Month Town Hall
On Wednesday Feb. 27 from 4:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m. there will be a Black History Month Town Hall hosted by Brock University. The event is free to attend and will be held in Welch Hall room 209.
Short Film: C’est Mois
The Niagara on the Lake Public Library will be hosting a free screening of the short film C’est Moi on Feb. 28 from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Set in modern-day Montréal, C’est Moi explores the collision of the past as it meets the present in the forgotten story of an important figure in Black Canadian History and her efforts to fight against slavery in 18th Century New France. Interested students can register to see the film via Eventbrite.
African Voices/Voix africaines/ Sauti sa Afrika
On Feb. 28 at the Rodman Hall Art Centre from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Brock’s Faculty of Humanities and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in cooperation with Brock Radio will be hosting an event entitled African Voices/Voix africaines/ Sauti sa Afrika. The event will see members of the Niagara African diaspora community share in manifestos their thoughts and experiences in the Niagara region as visible minorities in English, French and African languages.
This list is by no means exhaustive so interested students are encouraged to monitor ExperienceBU during the month of February for more Black History Month events.