Black History Month still contentious for some

by | Mar 2, 2015 | News

Jessica Tedesco
News Reporter

Morgan Freeman, in a famous 60 Minutes interview, said that he finds Black History Month ridiculous. Why should Black history be relegated to a month?

The controversy around Black History Month and the usefulness of this commemoration lingers, as some argue it only highlights racial segregation.

 “Why limit the idea of Black history to one month of learning?” said Jake Carlson, a first-year pre-service Firefighter Education and Training program student at Humber North campus.  “Do we have a Filipino history month? I know there’s no Jewish history month…”

Throughout February, Humber has hosted various events celebrating the annual observance, such as “Ubuntu” (the spirit of human kindness), a leadership and character development workshop in tribute to Nelson Mandela with whom the Bantu term is now closely associated.

“Ubuntu” is a presentation designed to promote kindness and humanity among Humber students and staff, said Candice Warner-Barrow, Human Rights, Equity & Diversity coordinator at Humber College.

“This presentation is brought alive through songs, music, chants, drumming and story-telling,” said Warner-Barrow. “It is a traditional African philosophy that offers us an understanding of ourselves in relation with the world.”

When asked about the importance of celebrating Black History Month at Humber College, Warner-Barrow refers to Ontario Black History Society President Rosemary Sadlier who said, “African Canadian students need to feel affirmed, need to be aware of the contributions made by other Blacks in Canada, need to have role models, need to understand the social forces which have shaped and influenced their community and their identities as a means of feeling connected to the educational experience and their life experience in various regions in Canada. They need to feel empowered”

However, the actor Freeman argued the only way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it. He suggested instead of history being divided by race, it be celebrated in a collective and unified experience in which Black history is known as every-day history.

Proponents still believe it’s important to acknowledge that Black History Month as an opportunity to correct many of the misrepresentations and misunderstandings of Afrocentric culture, as well as promote an open dialogue and positive environment in which to celebrate racial diversity.

“The events that the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Diversity presents for Black History Month reinforce that Black History is everyone’s history,” said Warner-Barrow.