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Black History Month 2020

In Canada, every February we celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians who have enriched and continue to enrich Canadian culture and society. Black History Month has been officially commemorated in Canada ever since the House of Commons recognized February as Black History Month in December 1995; the motion to recognize Black History Month was introduced by no other than the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.

For Black History Month in 2020, we are featuring three Immigrant Centre staff members who are part of the Black community in Manitoba, and who agreed to answer a few questions for Black History Month. Below you will find their answers and insights on Black History Month, belonging to the Black community in Manitoba, and on their experience as immigrants or refugees to Canada:

Hamda Ahmed

Hamda Ahmed, Employment Facilitator at Immigrant Centre

Like many people at the Immigrant Centre, in addition to working with newcomers to Canada, you have also lived the newcomer experience as an immigrant to Canada. What does it mean to you to be an immigrant?

Being immigrant have a mixed feelings, including excitement for first time, reality shock, fear, self-doubts terms of adapting and fitting to the wider society.

During Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians. Is there a Black Canadian, or a newcomer to Canada of African descent, that you particularly admire or that inspires you – and why?

Abdikheir Ahmed, he is one of the people who inspires me as a newcomer and a black woman. I met Abdikheir when I was working with IRCOM since then we have been in touch I admire not only because he is black and immigrant but the fact that he is an advocate for humanity in large and his advocacy in immigrants and refugees in Canada. He is also an active member of our community

This year’s theme for Black History Month is “Canadians of African Descent – going forward, guided by the past, reflecting on the past to build a successful future. Thinking of your experience as an immigrant, what was the thing/things from your past – before coming to Canada – which has or have shaped your current success?

My educational background and also being an advocate for human rights particular children and women and also refugees have helped me to succeed in Canada. I am passionate about working with people who are in need. I believe that immigrants and refugees need a lot of support in terms of integration and resettlement.

Adelola Abioye

Adelola Abioye, Employment Liaison at Immigrant Centre

Like many people at Immigrant Centre, in addition to working with newcomers to Canada, you have also lived the newcomer experience as an immigrant to Canada. What does it mean to you to be an immigrant?

Being an immigrant to me is a mix of different things; happiness that I live in a place that is accepting and inclusive, pain that I get to miss my family in my home country, and shock, that I had to go through a lot of hurdles to fit in professionally.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month to me is a recognition of the contributions of Black Canadians to the society. It is a way to have all people remember that Black lives matter, that we count, and have meaningful contributions to society. It is also an opportunity to showcase the many achievements of Black Canadians throughout history, so Black leaders can learn a thing or two from the past generation to forge them ahead for a greater future.

This year’s theme for Black History Month is “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past”, reflecting on the past to build a successful future. Thinking of your experience as an immigrant, what was the thing (or things) from your past – before coming to Canada – that has or have shaped your current success?

As someone from Nigerian descent, one of the key things that has shaped my success here in Canada is the value for knowledge and education. Growing up, we were imbibed with the values that one of our forefathers in Yorubaland, Pa Obafemi Awolowo had; that having a good education, acquiring knowledge and hard work will set the pace for success in any area of life. Most people of black descent are known to be industrious people, which is evident in how Canada was shaped in terms of the many contributions of the Black community. Like the saying goes in Yoruba language, “hard work never kills, poverty does”, this has helped me become who I am today in Canada.

Black History Month is a time to learn more about the diversity of Black communities in Canada and their importance to the history of this country. We would love to hear an example of one of the many cultural elements that you and your community contribute to Canada.

The Nigerian community is vast in its culture and language, as a result there are many cultural events of Nigerian descent that happen all year round such as the Egbe omo Yoruba cultural day, Igbo community day and the exhibition of the Yourba heritage, arts and culture by Segun Olude. The Nigerian community as a whole participates yearly in the Folklorama Festival, the AfriCanad Festival, and the Nigerian Professionals In Manitoba quarterly events that bridges the Canadian and Nigerian culture.

Harouna Samura

Harouna Samura, Immigrant Settlement Facilitator at Immigrant Centre

Like many people at Immigrant Centre, in addition to working with newcomers to Canada, you have also lived the newcomer experience as an immigrant to Canada. What does it mean to you to be an immigrant?

For me personally, been an immigrant to Canada is a journey of life, which continues to teach me about perseverance, courage, and reinventing myself and remaining hopeful despite all evidence to the contrary that something better awaits us.

Navigating between various intersectionalities in Canada is a challenge as an immigrant, Black man, and a person with a physical disability. I endeavor to look at the positives and give my contribution to the community to the best of my ability.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Let’s face it Canada is deeply divided regarding race relations social and economic status. Black History month, underscores the fact that there a need to set aside a time to recognize honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. I wish it were the other way around.

During Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians. Is there a Black Canadian, or a newcomer to Canada of African descent, that you particularly admire or that inspires you – and why?

Willie O’Ree, is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player, known best for being the first black player in the National Hockey League. He helped to break racial barriers in hockey.