As we shared in part one of this story, members of the community, along with staff and students of the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) came together for the third annual Black History Month event on Friday, February 26. Of course, this year’s event took place online, inviting members of the community to watch a live streamed video, featuring both performances by, and discussions with, WRDSB students.

The event offered an opportunity to hear directly from WRDSB students about their lived experiences, both in school and in the broader community. Abena Peprah, a member of the Black Brilliance Advisory Council, moderated the student panel and helped to lead this powerful discussion.

The first question put to the student panel was “How do you feel about Black History Month, and what does Black History Month mean to you?”

Justice Phillips, a CHCI student, explained that Black History Month is a time to reflect on Black History throughout North America, and to remember and learn more about Black figures who impacted and shaped our world. The same ones that have been largely forgotten by history.

“Black History Month is also a time where I am able to see myself reflected in Canada’s history,” said Phillips. “It’s also a time to embrace my Black ancestry and celebrate the beauty, the culture and the trials and tribulations that come with being Black.”

Nicholas Aboagye, also a CHCI student, explained that Black History Month has been a time throughout his life where he is able to connect more with his heritage. He explained that he wants to see Black history talked about and celebrated all year long, and not just in the month of February.

“I feel as though Black History Month is a good start,” said Aboagye. “I think it should be more than just a month and should be appreciated outside of this month.”

Aboagye explained the importance of students being able to see themselves in the history they are learning. To see people like them, who have had similar experiences and similar challenges helps all students to connect with history, and feel a part of the community in which they live.

Destiny Osunbiyi is also a student at CHCI, and explained that for her, Black History Month used to bring feelings of anxiety and nervousness. This was because of the way the month was approached in school, and she felt uncomfortable engaging in conversations on the subject. As she grew up, she gained the confidence to speak candidly about her experiences and opinions.

“Now, for me, Black History Month is an opportunity for me to learn more,” said Osunbiyi. “Not just about myself, but the people around me and important Black figures in Canada and around the world.”

Of particular interest to her, is learning about the accomplishments and achievements of Black Canadians. She, too, advocated for celebrating Black History throughout the year, and not just confining this learning to the month of February.

“Black excellence should continue to be promoted all year round,” said Osunbiyi.

The evening ended with a musical performance from Nardos Felefele, a student at CHCI, who shared her inspiration prior to performing her original song, All My Heroes. Her experiences growing up Black, being young and Black in Canada and the experiences of her family and loved ones all helped to shape her music and this song in particular.

“It all comes back to the idea of Black excellence and being proud of who you are,” said Felefele.

Michelle Olubobokun, one of the two student emcees for the evening along with Asher Wiggins, helped to summarize the purpose of the event, and Black History Month as a whole, as the evening came to a close.

“It’s our hope that this event afforded everyone the opportunity to learn something new and to understand why Black history is so important, in February, but also all year long.”