Lethbridge College is recognizing and celebrating the history and contributions of its Black community, as Black History Month celebrations move online for 2021. Throughout the month of February, the college will use its website and social media channels to share a variety of stories and resources that highlight the cultures and backgrounds of those who make up the college community.
In past years, the college celebrations have been organized by a group of instructors, employees and students of African and Caribbean descent, with support from the Lethbridge College Students’ Association (LCSA); past celebrations have included speakers, dancers, sports activities, and food. This year’s celebrations will focus on sharing the stories of the Black communities and will highlight issues of equality, diversity and inclusion.
“Histories mark our lives, and the people often interested in learning about these pasts are those most negatively impacted,” says Ibrahim Turay, School of Justice Studies instructor and Black History Month organizing committee member. “So, as we celebrate this year’s BHM, I invite everyone to think about some of the cultural or criminal stereotypes you have heard in your community about Black peoples, Black youths, particularly.”
Turay adds that the question that must then be asked is to what extent have those perceptions, consciously or otherwise, influenced behaviour when interacting with members of the Black communities.
“‘Racial’ stereotypes were once used to justify chattel slavery in the Americas,” he says. “‘Racial’ stereotypes – like thugs, gang members or criminality – continue to be used today to defend the disproportionate representation of Blacks in prisons in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., as well as their deadly encounters with law enforcement. Racism still exists, and more so alive in our criminal justice system and other institutions, including educational and health institutions.”
Lethbridge College has stated its commitment to fight racism on campus and in the community, and to create an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination. As part of the two-year Dimensions pilot program, a team within the college is evaluating what Lethbridge College is already doing to promote equity, diversity and inclusion on campus, and identifying areas in need of improvement.
“As a post-secondary institution, we have an obligation to support our community by listening, learning and adding to the important conversations that are taking place,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO. “This past year has clearly shown us how racism, both institutional and overt, still affects nearly every aspect of everyday life. We need to elevate the voices and stories of our Black communities and ensure everyone knows they have a place in our college.”
Black History Month has been officially recognized in Canada since 1995 and celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of people of African and Caribbean descent to the development and cultural diversity of Canada. Stories, information and resources will be posted throughout February on the college’s website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.