Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

Speaking Out: Mark heritage via knowledge

By  ZAEVIAN DAWSON, Youth Speak News
  • February 16, 2022

The history of African-Canadians is vast, and there is so much information to unpack. We must seek to expand our minds and learn continuously. These are practical steps that we can all take to commemorate African-Canadian Heritage Month, celebrated during February.

We have all likely experienced school initiatives throughout our academic journeys that celebrate African-Canadian Heritage Month. These activities have taught us about our history and influential African-Canadians. As lifelong learners with vast amounts of online information at our fingertips, we are responsible for continuing to explore our heritage and the contributions of our people. Thus, this month should be something we look forward to and cherish. 

The first way to celebrate African-Canadian Heritage Month is with our minds. Adopting a winner’s mindset and honouring our ancestors by refraining from giving up are the first actions we should all take.

Our ances-tors persevered and strived for greatness even when times looked bleak. To continue forward with their spirit, we must adopt the same mindset, taking pride in our heritage and viewing ourselves in a positive light. We must be free and aim high. By striving to be the best we can be, we pay homage to our forebearers and make them proud.

We must also educate ourselves on our history and the context of our being. By pursuing knowledge and truth, we enhance our capacity to reach our full potential. And arming ourselves with knowledge is also an effective way to bring about change. We can tap into our intellect to advocate for others.

We can check out books related to African-Canadian heritage from our school or local libraries and watch documentaries about the history of our people in Canada. We can speak to our elders about their life experiences and to our peers about their opinion on the legacy of African-Canadians.

One of the benefits of this self-education on African-Canadian  history is understanding the significant contributions to Canadian and global society. We have many world leaders and problem solvers to emulate and we must share their success stories with others in the community. Contemporary role models of African descent include Andre Douglas, one of 10 people selected to be a NASA astronaut candidate out of 12,000 applicants, and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a researcher who led the effort to develop the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. 

Finally, we can be the change we want to see for those who feel that our communities are not doing enough to celebrate African-Canadian Heritage Month. Whether this involves joining the Black History committee at your school or creating an entire club that affirms our identity, knowledge and experience, we must be the leaders in this movement.

Activities such as volunteering to create a poster or asking our teachers to incorporate aspects of African-Canadian history into their assignments are tangible steps that we can take to celebrate our legacy.

We must continue to embody our ancestral spirit and fulfill all the dreams of those who came before us.

(Dawson, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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