Black History Month Sigil
Jhamesha Milord– OTTAWA • ON | 2-2-2023
This past Saturday at the National Gallery of Canada was the Opening Ceremony of Black History Month. This event was put on by Black History Ottawa and featured various speeches, performances and award presentations to recognize outstanding members of Ottawa’s black community.
The event was attended by several prominent Ottawa figures such as police Chief Eric Stubbs and Mayor Mark Sutcliffe who made an official proclamation that February was officially Black History Month in the city of Ottawa in a notable speech. The event also included statements from the offices of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The event was also attended by many ambassadors from various embassies including the Bahamas, Guyana, Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria.
The opening ceremony provided an important discussion about Black History Month and specifically how the Ottawa community would celebrate while acknowledging the injustices and difficulties that Black people still face in our community.
During the event, Canada Post revealed its Black History Month stamp for the month of February with a stamp of Chloe Cooley. Cooley was an enslaved black woman in Queenston, Ontario who was bought by an owner just across the border. William Gristley, a neighbor of Cooley’s, witnessed her screams and resistance and informed Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who motioned to ban slavery and reached a compromise. On July 9, 1793 an Act was passed to put a halt to the further introduction of slaves to Upper Canada.
CHUO’s News team interviewed the host Sarah Onyango following the event.
When asked about how she believed the events and programming of Black History Month could bring awareness to the wider Ottawa community she says, “We really try to bring it to the local level, so that people understand that there has been Black History in Ottawa.”
She adds, “When people are omitted from a country or community’s narrative it’s very easy for people to be racist and dismissive of them.” The news team asked about how the Ottawa community can support Black artists she says, “the best way you can support, is to hire these people and pay these people.”
She also spoke on the topic regarding the necessity of Black History Month and the challenges and barriers that Black Canadians face in preserving their history and culture, “I can’t wait for the day when we are out of business because Black culture, businesses, stories and narratives are woven into the mainstream in a positive way.”