The Brock African Heritage Recognition Committee is once again teaming up with its partners at Brock University and in the community to celebrate African Heritage Month this February 2015.
The month-long celebration provides opportunities to recognize, learn about and appreciate African cultures and African-made contributions in Canada and around the world.
Co-Chair of the Brock African Heritage Recognition Committee Tamari Kitossa took some time to explain and reflect on the importance of African Heritage Month and the significance of the theme that was chosen.
TBN: Why do you feel it’s important to celebrate African heritage?
TK: There continues to be a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes around African contributions to Canada and the world in general. Part of dispelling those myths and stereotypes is to take time where we can to demonstrate, showcase and have conversations around the contributions that African people have made.
For example, the Queen Charlotte Islands and Charlottetown were named after Queen Charlotte Sophia of England whose father was the Duke of Florence, and he was mixed. So we have British royalty and places in Canada that are named after people who today would be defined as Black, but we don’t know that. It’s important to make it very clear that African history and heritage is world heritage; it’s also important to dispel myths and stereotypes so as to promote a stronger sense of self-esteem for African youth.
HM: Is there a difference between African Heritage Month and Black History Month?
TK: The difference between the two is in some ways a continuation of an idea. Carter G. Woodson, who started Negro History Week back in the 1920s, focused on trying to recognize the contributions that African people made to the history of the United States. The historians at the time generally excluded African contributions, so it was part of a move to counter racism at the time.
Negro History Week morphed into Black History Month and people began to think about African liberation as well, which considers the past, the present, as well as prospects for the future. African Heritage Month is about looking at all dimensions of African history and African heritage and publicizing the roles that Africans and Africa have played in human history.
HM: What kinds of events are happening around campus in honor of African Heritage Month?
TK: There are two events being put on by the African Heritage Recognition Committee. One of them is a health symposium that looks at the panic around Ebola and the contributions of the Cuban government in dealing with the Ebola outbreak. We also have a specialist on HIV/AIDS in the African Canadian community who is talking about the politics of HIV and how that has impacted the community.
Then we are going to have a really dynamic lecture by Horace Campbell, who is looking at Canada’s changing role as a “warrior state.” Canada used to be perceived as a peace-keeping nation, but it is now more on the footing of a warrior nation that intervenes and engages in global conflicts. So both of these conversations are really important for us to have.
HM: Is there a particular focus for this year’s African Heritage Month events?
TK: The coherent theme is “communication and healing.” This is a play on words because we understand that diseases and war both need healing, but this is only possible if we have conversations about them. The theme is really about how we might understand problems such as illness and war, and how we might find effective means of healing both of those.
*Wednesday, Feb. 25: Healing Through Communication Symposium: HIV/AIDS, Sexualities and Anti-African Racism
*Friday Feb.27: third annual Dr. Wilma Morrison African Heritage Lecture
For more information on BAHRC’s events, contact Tamari Kitossa at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Richard Ndayizigamiye at email@example.com.