Black History Month kicks off

Yesterday’s opening ceremony focused on increasing awareness within the Kingston community

Judith Brown speaking at the ceremony yesterday.
Judith Brown speaking at the ceremony yesterday.

Yesterday’s Black History Month opening ceremony emphasized the importance of reaching out to the broader Kingston community.

The second annual opening ceremony was organized by Queen’s Black History Month Committee, which is comprised of the African Caribbean Students’ Association (ACSA) and the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS).

It took place in Wallace Hall in the JDUC at 8 p.m. Approximately 40 people attended.

Judith Brown, president of the Afro-Caribe Community Foundation of Kingston, Wayne Myles, director of the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) and Felix Akols, president of the Kingston African and Caribbean Collective spoke at the event. Daniel Quainoo, part of QBAS and one of the organizers of the event, also spoke at the event.

Brown, who spoke first at the ceremony, brought up the stories of several Black Canadians and the impact they’ve made.

She discussed Viola Desmond, who decided to sit on the ground floor of a theatre in Nova Scotia when only white patrons were permitted. She also referenced black Canadians who were prohibited from enlisting as soldiers in World War I.

Brown said that as a Kingstonian, she was pleased with the multi-cultural growth of the city.

Despite this, she said not enough has been done in the broader community to combat racism.

“Do I see change in the hands of power, or in the boardrooms?” Brown said. “We have to be more proactive.”

She said she was disappointed that Mayor Mark Gerretsen and Principal Daniel Woolf didn’t attend the ceremony.

Brown said that they had perhaps had “better offers” for engagements that night.

“We need to let them know that we are part of the city, and we need to see their presence,” she said.

She mentioned Robert Sutherland, a black alumnus, who “provided funds to keep the university afloat.” The function should occur outside of the Queen’s campus, at the K-Rock Centre, or City Hall, she added, as Kingston should fund cultural events as Vancouver does.

Akols said he hadn’t planned to speak, but mentioned several events going on in the area. He added that the black community should work collectively to make a difference.

Wayne Myles spoke next, discussing his personal ties to South Africa, and the impact that a small group of students made in 1988-91 in changing the culture at Queen’s to be more inclusive.

He said he wondered if the same kind of activism and criticism of the administration would occur today.

Quainoo, ArtSci ’15, gave a Nelson Mandela tribute speech at the end of the ceremony.

He told the Journal that since different groups have come together to create the event, more of an impact can be made.

“By instituting an opening ceremony that is a joint project between different organizations, we’re able to create an infrastructure that’s transient,” Quainoo said. “[It will] stay and continue to exist after we leave.”

He said the clubs, and the Black History month events, exist for more than just black students, or students with African heritage.

“We don’t just do this for ourselves … we want to make an impact on the general community,” he said.

Quainoo said his hopes for the month are for black-oriented student groups to reach out to the broader community.

“[We’re] dedicated to activism and social equality and we can’t just do that by just talking amongst ourselves,” he said.

“We would love if people felt this was a forum … people can have a conversation and share in our culture.”

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