Presenting Black History Month

Visual timeline displayed in Upper Ceilidh to tell the stories of little-known black Canadians

Members of the African and Caribbean Students’ Association will profile black Canadians such as Michaëlle Jean, the country’s first black governor general and Queen’s alumnus and donor Robert Sutherland.
Members of the African and Caribbean Students’ Association will profile black Canadians such as Michaëlle Jean, the country’s first black governor general and Queen’s alumnus and donor Robert Sutherland.
Photo: 

The African and Caribbean Students’ Association, together with CultureSHOCK, is hosting a visual timeline, “A Walk Through the Times: the Story of Black Canadians,” as part of the Black History Month events.

ACSA President Vanessa Denny, ArtSci ’09, said the ACSA executive decided to create the timeline as a way of bringing attention to eminent and little-known black Canadians and their contributions to the nation’s history.

“We thought the timeline would be a good way to educate and to inform the Queen’s community of the stories and accomplishments of Canadians of African origin who have helped shaped this country,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that are either forgotten or many people don’t know.”

Denny said the individuals profiled include Michaëlle Jean, the country’s first black Governor General and Queen’s alumnus and donor Robert Sutherland.

“Everyone we’re doing is someone that we feel people should be aware of,” she said. “That’s the point of doing it; bringing light to black Canadian history.”

Denny said ACSA is mindful of the racially-charged atmosphere on campus this semester, adding that she thinks it’s an ongoing problem.

“The racial tension on campus is something I believe should be on everyone’s mind because it has an effect on our Queen’s community as a whole.”

Greg Frankson, ConEd ’97, the first black president of the AMS and one of the individuals to be featured in the timeline, said he thinks racial tensions at Queen’s have gotten worse since he was a student.

“From the reports that I’ve seen … the situation has actually gotten worse, because now, the sorts of incidents that are happening on campus are more brazen and open.”

Frankson said he thinks there’s an unspoken approval for the status quo on campus, which allows racism to continue, and that racialized individuals won’t feel accepted at Queen’s as long as racist incidents continue.

“I guess it’s just that there are people who feel that there is a certain level of acceptance for that level of intolerance.

“The University is going to continue to portray itself as a hostile environment to people of colour. … So long as the culture does not change, the environment of learning will not change.”

Black History Month was an important event on campus during his time at the University, Frankson said, with events held by ACSA and the International Centre, among others.

He said he thinks the administration should take a more active role in fighting against discrimination, adding that he thinks the University made a mistake in not renaming the Policy Studies Building after Robert Sutherland when the idea was first suggested in January.

“The naming of the Robert Sutherland building is a powerful symbol,” he said. “They’ve already sent the wrong message.”

Frankson said the administration must foster dialogue and effect change to create a more inclusive environment.

“To refuse to act is an action. … You can say whatever you want; it’s about what you do, and Queen’s is not walking the talk.”

“A Walk Through the Times: the Story of Black Canadians” will be on display in the JDUC’s Upper Ceilidh Feb. 10, 11 and 12.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.