As Black History Month draws to a close, we are reflecting on our work of shedding light on historical and modern day “hidden figures” in the Black community in British Columbia and Canada.
Why did we feel it was important to celebrate Black History Month? 2020 was undoubtedly a year of reckoning in race relations. We all watched in horror as the events surrounding George Floyd’s murder in the United States unfolded. We also took inspiration from the Black Lives Matter protests that emerged in response; not just in North America but around the world.
Here in Canada, it became impossible to maintain the illusion that our own racism manifests in subtler and less sinister ways. With the help of advocates like Hogan’s Alley Society, we learned through the 2020 homeless count 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.
At Housing Central, we made a commitment to train staff to understand and recognize racism. We also committed to make a conscious effort to confront racism when it arises in our work and communities. In truth, our staff have educated us. They have helped us understand our own role in perpetuating racism and a long overdue responsibility to lead change.
We have had some tough conversations this year – in our own organizations and within the broader community housing sector. We are committed to continuing those conversations. More importantly, we are committed to action as we look for ways to foster deeper and more meaningful inclusion in the community housing sector.
Tough conversations are a big part of the reckoning we are witnessing, but so is recognition. Black History Month has given us an opportunity to recognize the meaningful—but often ignored—contributions that Black Canadians have made to our communities.
Our journey down this path is just beginning. We hope you will join us.
Thom Armstrong, CEO, Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
Jill Atkey, CEO, BC Non-Profit Housing Association
Help us spread the word! You can download this statement here.