February is Black History Month in Canada. Black History Month is the annual commemoration of the contributions of Black and African diasporic communities in Canada. It recognizes their significant role in our history, even while enduring unending inequality, oppression, and erasure. Each year, Canadians celebrate this month by uncovering parts of our own colonial legacies to better understand our present and future.
Canada first recognized Black History Month in December, 1995, when MP Jean Augustine tabled a motion in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Augustine was the first black woman elected to the Canadian Parliament. Since then, Canadians have been commemorating this event in schools, libraries in each district, community centers, etc.
Our celebration of Black History Month stems from the 2020 global response to systemic racism that has existed for centuries against Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC). We were horrified at the events as they unfolded. Many organizations—including our own—showed their support and issued statements in solidarity and support against systemic racism.
At Housing Central, the events of 2020 compelled CHF BC and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) to hold a mirror to ourselves and reflect on our efforts to address racial inequity as a community.
With the help of advocates like Hogan’s Alley Society, we have learned how systemic racism has contributed to the disproportionate number of Black people in Metro Vancouver experiencing homelessness. Viewed through an equity lens, every meaningful indicator—health, education, income, or employment—leads to one inescapable conclusion. Racism is a fundamental characteristic of our social, economic and political systems, and always has been.
Housing Central’s work is focused on strengthening and growing the community housing sector. We have done some incredible work since we created our alliance in 2015. With a united effort, we are working to share the rich cultural heritage and positive contributions of Black and African diasporic communities in our province. This is a tangible step toward ensuring the goal of racial equality remains at the forefront of our work.
The experiences of many members of Black and African diasporic communities in Canada have never been heard—or heeded. Thriving in our communities is only possible when we are valued. We can only make productive contributions if we trust others to treat us equitably. Part of this is having our stories heard and understood.
Housing Central wants to to make the stories of Black Canadians more visible and concrete. This is part of our effort towards a more equitable, inclusive, and just future. To this end, we have invited author and journalist Harrison Mooney to our office on February 16th to speak about his book and life experiences. Harrison is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Invisible Boy. The event will be livestreamed, so please join us virtually if you can!
There will be an online replay of this event on February 21st at 6:00pm.
For many people, learning about anti-racism can be a difficult and personal process. We are all in different places in our journeys to be anti-racist. It can often be difficult to know where to start, or where to go next. A good way to continue this work is by reading, watching, and learning. We have compiled a list of these resources for you to review and reference when need.