By Dali Carmichael
The Algonquin African Club has joined several other culture-oriented groups to host a cultural showcase celebrating Black History Month, to be held on Feb. 28 in the Student Commons.
“Basically, what we’ll be doing is having an event where people will be doing poetry, singing, dancing, whatever, anything artistic,” said Sara Bempah, president of the Algonquin African Club. “The main purpose of the event is to educate and entertain and inspire people.”
The events currently being planned by students reflect Algonquin celebrations of the past, which focused primarily on showcasing cultural and educational aspects of various black cultures, from the heart of Africa to the islands of the Caribbean and everywhere in between.
In addition to inviting guest speakers to discuss Canadian black history, “we used to have a fashion show, dancing, singing, slam poetry. We had tables set up with vendors, there was some food. I even hired some professional entertainers to come in,” said Anne Kalil, formerly an orientation officer for the school and one of the staff organizers of BHM events. Currently, she is the college’s recruitment director.
Kalil also noted that the events used to run for a full week, highlighting a different cultural aspect every day.
The annual recognition of Black History Month is a tradition at the college, though some believe that celebrations have tapered off in the last several years.
“I’d like to see students get more involved. I know they’re busy and everything, but that’s just me personally. I know the students that did it in the past really enjoyed it and you learn so much,” said Kalil.
Janice Pryce, a former Algonquin student, used to organize BHM events with Kalil. She was a member of the Black Students’ Association, an organization that no longer exists on campus.
Pryce believed that Algonquin, as a learning institution, should not be held accountable when it comes to holding or recognizing cultural events.
“I think the onus needs to be on the students because if you as a student can’t appreciate and bring something about for your own heritage, then how do you expect that Algonquin should do that for you?” she said.
Whether they were involved in past events or were involved in planning current ones, all agreed that recognizing Canada’s culturally diverse background is important.
“The thing that I enjoyed the most was learning about people in our country who shaped our country,” said Kalil. Of the events, she said: “Its nice to make them well-rounded and show history and the arts, prominent people, fashion, maybe how things evolved, because how we are today happened because of things in the past.”
Bempah agrees with the sentiment and has started planning events that would extend past February.
“I feel like black history or African history is something that should be recognized all the time. It’s important to know their contributions to the world, educational systems, things like that. I just feel that its important that it was recognized all the time, not just within the month.”