The theme of this year’s Black History Month at McGill is “community” – an apt focus for an event that, now in its sixth year, brings people together to celebrate Black culture and the important achievements of Black people at McGill, in Montreal and around the world.
Of course, creating that sense of community is a huge challenge during the COVID pandemic, when social distancing and Zoom meetings are the norm. Like so many of the activities and events we hold dear, BHM will be all virtual this year.
“It is definitely challenging to replicate Black History Month during the pandemic given Black History Month is a time where the Black community comes together to learn, celebrate, laugh, eat and dance and so much more,” says Shondra Mings, Equity Education Advisor, Anti-Oppression and Anti-Racism Education, and one of the organizers of BHM. “While I think that many are excited to reconnect in person, we are happy to be able to have our events virtually this year as a way to bring everyone together.”
“The Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), in partnership with the Faculty of Science, are holding four main events, but there will be a variety of events hosted by student clubs and departments and faculties,” says Karen Diop Program Manager, Anti-Black Racism Action Plan, and BHM co-organizer. “We think the variety of events are certainly keeping the spirit of BHM alive, even if virtual.”
The advantages of being online
This year’s program is diverse, bringing together scholars, researchers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and members of the community – an extended community, at that.
“Being virtual has an advantage because our events are able to reach audiences we may not have before on campus, within the city and even across Canada,” says Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo, Black Student Affairs Liaison, and BHM co-organizer. “Typically, there tends to be a lot of Black History Month events so it is hard to attend all. This way, people can tune in from the comfort of their own homes or from their places of work. We even had someone email us who would be attending from Vancouver, which is pretty exciting.”
February 1: Opening Ceremony and Keynote Address
The Opening Ceremony will feature Dr. James Jones, the Trustees’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Black American Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Diversity at the University of Delaware. Dr. Jones’ will deliver the keynote address titled Diversity within Psychology. In advance of the event, Dr. Jones has written an op-ed for the Reporter, which can be read here.
The keynote speech will be followed by a special steel pan drum performance by Upköng Etang.
February 9: Black Perspectives: Artists Navigating Spaces
This panel discussion will feature Modibo Keita (who performs under the name Simb0), a multi-disciplinary artist and music entrepreneur; Koudjo, a music producer and entrepreneur; Montreal singer-songwriter, Sarah MK; and Camille Thurman, an Assistant Professor, Jazz, at the Schulich School of Music.
Panelists will share their knowledge and lived experiences navigating cultural and institutional spaces throughout the city of Montreal.
February 17: Decolonizing Approaches to Research
This panel will explore approaches to research in the Caribbean as well as McGill’s historical research relationship with Barbados through the Bellairs institute.
Moderated by Jean Saint-Vil is Special Advisor to the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation, the panel will include Dr. Terri Givens, the Provost’s Academic Lead and Advisor on McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism; Dr. Saleem Razak, a professor of pediatrics and health sciences education; and Jamila Dei-Sharpe, a Sociologist completing her PhD of Social and Cultural Analysis at Concordia University.
Asia Blackman (currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Epidemiology) and Khaelan King (currently pursuing a BA in political science with a minor in sociology) will also participate.
February 24: Soul Food Box
Local Caribbean and African restaurants will prepare a delicious boxed lunch for people who register in advance. Make sure you reserve your meal by registering here for your Soul Food Box by Thursday, February 17.
“Planning Black History Month events at McGill takes significant coordination with faculties, community partners, staff, student associations and so many more groups,” say the co-organizers. “BHM is about bringing communities together, so in the planning it was important for us to ensure that we have events and guests that speak to different audiences as well as cover different topics.
“With the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic we had to have contingency plans in case our events could not take place in person making the planning a bit more complex. Although it does take a lot of coordination, it is definitely a labour of love and we are beyond grateful for all those who played a part in this coming together.”
Find out more about Black History Month 2022. Information about events, including dates, times and registration, can be found online. For more information or to support Black History Month at McGill please contact Shondra Mings at firstname.lastname@example.org.