On Wednesday, February 1, more than 120 people attended the opening event of the first full-month celebration of Black History Month organized by the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office. There were speakers, singers and dancers and even a bit of steel pan music to usher people into the event.
Adrienne Piggott, Chair of McGill’s Subcommittee on Racialized and Ethnic Persons, acted as emcee. In a nice twist of McGill history, one of her duties was to introduce her father Glyne Piggott, Professor Emeritus and member of the McGill Faculty since 1973. Glyne Piggott taught Linguistics for four decades, as well as serving terms as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Graduate Program Director, and Chair of the Department of Linguistics. He is a world-renowned specialist in the study of First Nations languages, especially Ojibwa.
Adrienne Piggott won’t soon forget sharing the experience of launching the first full Black History month with her Dad. She says her father has been part of the fabric of the university for a long time, and was an early advocate of equity and inclusion, which wasn’t always easy.
“I believe that Black History Month will continue to be important for as long as people still ask Who is Viola Desmond? or Who is Charles Drew?” says Adrienne Piggott. “The history, and in particular the achievement, of Black people is an untold and often forgotten history. There is pride and inspiration that so many could feel from knowing that their people aren’t just the typecast thugs they see in action movies; their people are doctors and engineers and scientists and freedom fighters. Their culture, accomplishments and history is as rich as any other.
Various prominent activists and distinguished guests from the greater Black community as well as from the McGill community also spoke.
“As many people know, this is the 10th anniversary of official Black History Month celebration in Quebec,” Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi said. “It is also the first February that we are celebrating Black History Month at McGill in such a concerted way, involving many people from across McGill and wider communities…. I am impressed by and proud of the interest these events have generated. I believe that we should build on this, ensuring the celebration of Black History Month every year at McGill.”
Manfredi spoke of the importance of realizing the promise of equity and diversity. He underlined that McGill must be a welcoming place for all students, faculty and staff, no matter their identities or beliefs.
“We have been sharply reminded in recent days of how hostile to diversity our world can be. Confronted with these sizable challenges, it becomes our shared responsibility to uphold our steadfast commitment to respect and tolerance, and to take concrete measures to that end within our University,” he said. “This work is difficult but essential and, as Provost, I am committed to it.”
He also thanked organizers Shanice Yarde and Law student Chantelle Dallas, along with Veronica Amberg of the SEDE Office, as well as Adrienne Piggott.
“One of my goals for this exciting celebration is to provide a bridge between McGill and the greater Montreal community,” Yarde, of SEDE, said. “I am so proud to be collaborating with the Black community and finding ways to amplify their voices and knowledge. We all have something important to share and I am honoured to create more spaces for Black Excellence at McGill and across Montreal.”
The month of February will feature a diverse selection of campus events, workshops, and activities in celebration of Black Excellence.
There are updates on Facebook and a video of parts of the launch party can be found on the Facebook page.