What is Black History Month

Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. It honors all Black people from all periods of U.S. history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.

Among the notable figures often spotlighted during Black History Month are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equal rights for Blacks during the 1950s and ’60s; Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1967; Mae Jemison, who became the first female African-American astronaut to travel to space in 1992; and Barack Obama, who was elected the first-ever African-American president of the United States in 2008.

Why February? A group known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (born February 12), who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and African American abolitionist, author, and orator Frederick Douglass(born February 14). 

Since the deaths of Lincoln and Douglass (in 1865 and 1895, respectively), the Black community had celebrated their contributions to African American liberation and civil rights on their birthdays. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.

There has always been a lot of criticism about celebrating the Black culture for just one month, with a lot of conversation around that. However there are a lot of ways we can continuously support black culture and black history month. Some of the ways are: 

  1. Staying educated on culture, history; having conversations on what happened and understanding some of the major things and events that made impact and changes 
  2. Consider donating funds or volunteering to national organizations—like Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, or Center for Policing Equity—or local organizations in your area like Black Designers of Canada dedicated to addressing inequality.
  3. Proactively find ways to acknowledge Black achievements, amplify Black voices, and/or be an upstander when the opportunity presents itself.
  4. Support Black-Owned Businesses in your area, learn more about what they do, who they are. 
  5. Celebrate with the community and Have a movie night with the Toronto Black Film Festival. 
We would love to hear back from you, please leave your comments below on your thoughts, feedback and experience!

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