George Floyd’s killing created a wave of solidarity with the Black community. Events this February are opportunities to enhance awareness.
Author of the article:
Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed • Special to the Montreal Gazette
Jan 28, 2021 • 21 minutes ago • 3 minute read
For me, the end of January has become synonymous with the anniversary of the Quebec city mosque attack. As we wrap up the week and the month, I am grateful for the outpouring of love and support as well as for the educational online events on current social issues and Muslim art and culture these past few days. They have made an otherwise traumatic time of year that much easier to bear.
Now, we prepare to head into Black History Month. This year will be different, though, and that is largely a result of the events that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. The world changed with his death. As we watched the chilling viral video of Floyd’s final moments, we felt like we, too, couldn’t breathe. This led to hundreds of protests against police brutality and racism, the world over, despite the pandemic. Suddenly, it seemed as if everyone was standing up in solidarity with the Black community; its fight became the world’s fight, and we all vowed to do better.
So, while Black History Month is not new, it has heightened significance and relatability this year.
And there is another thing that is different in 2021: With COVID still among us, and restrictions on gatherings still in effect, we have unfettered access to virtual Black History Month programming taking place across the world. We don’t know whether organizers will continue to keep events accessible online once the pandemic is behind us.
While so many of us are Zoomed out, we should not miss the opportunity to learn more about the lives, trials and tribulations faced by Black communities, locally and in other places, and to honour this month for what it is.
We also need to understand more about about the significant contributions that Black people have made in Montreal and elsewhere. In a world where media representation and law enforcement profiling tend to be so heavily skewed against people of colour, and especially against Black people, biases can be created even in the most well intentioned of us.
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Education that highlights our common humanity is a necessary and powerful tool in the fight against racism and discrimination. It’s also important to listen to what those who all too often have been misrepresented or under-represented have to say, to allow them to speak for themselves. Black History Month affords exactly that opportunity.
I appreciate seeing members of Montreal’s Black community stepping into their own and reclaiming their narratives. The ability to tell our own stories is not exclusionary. If I tell my story, it does not prevent someone else from telling theirs. We need to recognize this and appreciate it. Let’s pass the proverbial mic to members of our society whose stories have gone untold for far too long.
As a BIPOC woman who has experienced her share of racism and discrimination, I can say from experience how important it is to be heard in order to dispel the negative narratives that we are cast into. I know what it feels like to be othered, to be treated with suspicion based purely on the colour of my skin or the way I dress, to be looked at as though there must be something wrong with me. What that has taught me is that we all need to do a better job of questioning our perceptions of and assumptions about those who look different from us.
I encourage everyone to participate in Black History Month to broaden our own understandings of the many accomplishments and contributions of the Black members of our society. In the words inspirational speaker and writer Ola Joseph, “Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.”
Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed is the founder and editor in chief of CanadianMomEh.com, a lifestyle blog.