February is Black History Month

Did you know that Toronto officially recognizes January 21st as Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

And did you know that February 6th, next Thursday, is the day to celebrate Bob Marley, as proclaimed by Mayor Miller?

I didn't. Until now! The whole of February is marked as the month to celebrate Black History in Canada. It seems fitting that just recently the Toronto District School Board has decided to open an Afrocentric school. Did they do that on purpose? Probably not. Sometimes fate sticks its chin in, though.

Black History Month started out as just a week back in 1926, when African American scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson added it to his school's curriculum. In the 60s, the time period was extended to a month, and the hope was to commemorate a "more balanced and accurate picture" of Black history. There are 662,200 Canadians that consider themselves black (according to the 2001 census), and 47% of them live in our fair city. Seven percent of all Toronto's population is black. I imagine the numbers are higher now, and they'll only go up from there.

So, if you're a fan of Black History, or even just Canadian history in general, you should check out these events:

  • Launch for Black History Month with Dr. Karolyn Smardz-Frost (winner of the 2007 Governor General Award for Non-Fiction for I've Got a Home in Gloryland: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad). Tuesday, February 5, 7-9 pm at the City of Toronto Archives. Free. Call 416-392-0558 to reserve a ticket.
  • Steve Pitt, author of To Stand and Fight Together: Richard Pierpont and the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada, will give an illustrated presentation based on his newly-published book. Sunday, February 10, 1 pm at Fort York. Free with regular admission to the Fort. Call 416-392-6907 for more information.
  • The Toronto Public Library, together with Toronto Museums, Culture and Heritage Services has two exhibits running at the Toronto Reference Library. A Glimpse of Black Life in Victorian Toronto, 1850-1860, and The Black Press in Canada West, will run until March 2nd. For more information, please call 416-395-5577.
  • Discover Black history in Toronto by walking through parts of Old York where African-Canadians carved a community through struggle and triumph. Saturday, February 16, 1-3 pm at Mackenzie House. For more detailed information about this tour visit Toronto Historical Sites' events page.
  • Explore downtown Toronto while listening to the stories of some of our earliest Black settlers. Sunday, February 17, 1-3 pm at Mackenzie House.
  • Explore the domestic efforts necessary in busy middle-class households, including those of affluent Black families of the Victorian period. Sunday, February 24, 12-5 pm at Mackenzie House.
  • A Glimpse of Black Life in Victorian Toronto brings to life a dynamic decade in the history of Toronto's Black citizens and offers a glimpse of a fascinating story of their participation in the city's development. Saturdays and Sundays, 12-5 pm at Mackenzie House.

    Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. street art by blogTO flickrite sthursby.

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