With the calendar flipping into February, it marks the launch of Black Heritage Month in Guelph.
There are several events and activities happening in the city — many of them being hosted by the Guelph Black Heritage Society and many of them being virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Since December 2020, the organization has referred to the annual observance as “Black Heritage Month” and not “Black History Month” as it’s commonly known.
President of the Guelph Black Heritage Society Denise Francis said in an interview on Monday that they made the switch because the term “history” focuses on the past and the narrative of slavery.
She explained that they want to look beyond that while still acknowledging the bravery of those who came before us.
“So we recognize the history and the experiences but we also call on our community to celebrate today, look towards the future and as well to honour the past,” Francis said. “So we feel ‘heritage’ more encompasses the past, the present and the future than the term Black History Month.”
Throughout the month, several buildings in downtown Guelph will also be lit red, gold and green representing the colours of the African Nova Scotian flag, which was first introduced in February 2021 and created by artist Wendie L. Wilson.
The flag, whose colours are used by people of African descent across the world, will be raised at city hall on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. to begin Black Heritage Month in Guelph.
Two of the events planned — the BIPOC mental wellness journey on Thursday and the de-escalation workshop on Feb. 10 — are reserved for Black, Indigenous and people of colour and their family members.
Francis said they are an inclusive organization but sometimes the BIPOC community needs a safe space.
“When we’re together, we’re able to talk a little more freely and it’s a little more comfortable,” she said. “There will be opportunities to participate for the broad community but we feel in Black Heritage Month especially, we need to provide a safe space for our community to get together.”
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Along with the events, which are free with donations encouraged, the organization has also worked with Royal City Brewing to put out Latern Ale, which is available at the brewery on Victoria Road.
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All proceeds from Black Heritage Month will go towards the Guelph Black Heritage Society’s Give a Cup Campaign, which is selling a unique blend of its own coffee to raise money to pay off the mortgage of its location on Essex Street so it can focus on funding cultural and educational initiatives.
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Even with all the work that has gone into planning and organizing the events and fundraising efforts, Francis said all of the topics are still going to be relevant when the month is over.
“I always tell people we’re still Black on March 1st,” she said. “And we’re still Black throughout the year and these issues are still of importance to us.”
More information on the events can be found on the Guelph Black Heritage Society’s website.
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