May 22, 2022

Organizations around the region are hosting a variety of events to educate and connect residents during Black History Month. From events like guest speakers, live streams, and music, to more active events like workshops, and getting outside, there is a way for everyone to participate.

Even though all of Conestoga’s events to honour Black History Month are being held digitally, Conestoga Student Inc. (CSI) members, like Premium Event Coordinator Kyle Wappler, think it has created a lot of opportunities to introduce new Black History Month programs.

“[We can] bring in acts that may not have been possible in a live situation, which can create a very impactful event even when delivered through a computer,” Wappler said via an email.

Tyrone Edwards was the first act hosted by CSI to kick off Black History Month. Through the Virtual Venue on Feb 1., Edwards spoke about his experiences with prejudice and discrimination, as well as encouraging others to make meaningful change.

On Feb. 3 at 1 p.m., another event is being held through the Virtual Venue, called “CSI Live and Local: Amplifying Black Voices.” The event will feature a variety of talents, including comedy by Cliff Knight, dance with Nichelle, poetry by Scribe, and a rap performance by Khunnit.

CSI’s Movies for Mental Health is hosting a virtual workshop on Feb. 7, with a goal to “explore mental health conversations through the work of Black filmmakers.”

Attendees can sign up anonymously online to discuss mental health, its stigma, and how the media portrays it. Three award-winning short films by Black filmmakers will be played, followed by therapeutic activities.

The final event through Conestoga is hosted online by the African, Black, and Caribbean (ABC) student committee. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 8, the ABC Welcome and Black History Event presents a chance for ABC students to connect and celebrate Black History.

Wappler feels it is important for the Conestoga community to take part in the events, to learn more about not just Black History, but about one another.

“All of us, no matter how far along the path we are, can always learn more,” Wappler said. “By opening ourselves up to new conversations, ideas, and people, we all make the world a little smaller – we grow to better understand those around us, and in turn, ourselves. Knowledge is power.”

For those in the region outside of the Conestoga community, there is the option of both events from home and in person.

Anyone who prefers to participate in events from home can tune into any of the three-day events the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region (CCAWR) is hosting. Beginning at 7 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 4, a two-hour radio feature by DJ Cool from 102.7FM will play on Facebook. The next two days will be followed by informational live streams through Facebook and YouTube from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

To stretch your legs and expand your knowledge, Stroll, an organization that hosts local walking tours, is hosting a special Black History Month walking tour. The tour, Black Presence in Berlin, aims to educate the community on the first ever Black residents in Kitchener and the buildings that were part of their lives.

The first barber shop (left) in Berlin, now Kitchener, owned by Peter Edward Susand, a Black refugee who escaped slavery. Photo courtesy of Stroll.

“The tour is important because Black History has been part of Canadian history, and it’s been largely overlooked,” said Juanita Metzger, the founder of Stroll. “The German and Mennonite history is very well known in our community, but there were other people present in our community, who were equally as important and contributed.”

All six tour dates are sold out now, but you can book a private tour, or wait for more dates throughout 2022.

If you are unable to attend any events in the region, there are multiple other ways to honour Black History Month. Conestoga Student Engagement will be posting highlights of Black History in Canada. For auditory learners, the ABC student committee compiled a Black History Month playlist on Spotify to educate on issues past and present.  

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