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Black History is celebrated in Durham

Photo: Student volunteers from the Congress of Black Women’s youth program welcoming the audience into the auditorium.

Students and families enjoy the kick-off of Black History Month at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate

On February 2, Black History Month was launched in style at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate. Cultural Expressions Art Gallery partnered with the Durham District School Board (DDSB), the Durham Black Educators Network (DBEN) and the Congress of Black Women of Canada (CBWC) to help make the launch a success.


Photo: Minister Faust delivers an impactful keynote address at the Black History Month launch.

Members of the community came out to participate in the 12th Annual Black History Month event. This year’s theme was, “Afrofuturism Achieving Wakanda Today”. It focused on showcasing how people of African descent have been on the forefront of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) initiatives even as far back as building the pyramids in Egypt, to present day with screenwriting for a modern-day blockbuster movie like Black Panther, that features an advanced African civilization. A secondary theme was that black history didn’t start with slavery, and that young people need to be exposed to the great accomplishments of the culture. 


“We try to lift the kids up to tell them, ‘listen, you are great – you come from an awesome background,’ and I wish that they would understand that,” expresses Ester Forde, the Co-Chair of Durham Black History Month Celebrations. “I want our young people to see how strong a heritage they have. And know that it is not impossible for them to do these things [make a positive impact]. We did it centuries ago.”


Forde is very happy that the event is growing stronger and bigger every year. She said that the community really appreciates it.


There was something for everyone at the event. Students and families enjoyed cultural foods, they learned how to tie an African headwrap and listened to a live band. They also engaged with local firemen, police officers, and many other community organizations and discussed the many resources that are available nearby.


The event also featured live performances from City of Pickering Break Dancers, Ngoma Ensemble drummers, a spoken word team from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School, and a fashion show in which the designers talked about the significance of their pieces. The keynote speaker was Minister Faust. Faust is a Kenyan-Canadian author, who is known for writing science-fiction. He said that it’s important for black youth to see themselves in a positive light and to dream big.


“If you want to start creating the future, you have to start dreaming right now,” expresses Faust. “The future is yours, if you build it.”


Tianna Blackman is a Grade 9 student at J. Clarke Richardson and she was proud that her school was hosting the event and she was happy to volunteer. “I was hoping to learn something from it, but also to help out the community,” she said.


With only standing-room available during the performances and speeches, the launch was a great success. Attendees were excited to continue to participate and learn about black history throughout the remainder of the month and beyond.

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