Looking Back on Black History Month

CapU hosted many events to commemorate this year’s Black History Month, in stark contrast to last year

Hadiya Ahmed (she/her) // Contributor
Sarah Harley // Illustrator

As February rolls around, Capilano University, along with many other institutions, celebrates and commemorates Black History Month. This year, the University is holding events that range from discovering different African cuisines at the Birch cafeteria, to a plethora of film and music events that highlight Black excellence in Vancouver and beyond. There are also discussion panels and collaborations with educators that allow for conversation surrounding Black resilience, disparities and success throughout African history. In short, CapU is hosting a total of 20 different events online and in person, as well as providing resources at the library and self-exploration opportunities over the reading break.

As we continue to enjoy these celebrations, however, one can’t help but notice the stark difference when compared to last year’s Black History Month events. So, what changed? 

One difference is that during last year’s Black History Month, the University was just beginning to reintroduce in-person events; therefore only a small number of celebrations could be held in person. This year, the planning committee prioritized organizing events well ahead of time in order to ensure that this year’s celebrations were more thoughtful.

Kartik Bharadwa, VP People, Culture and Diversity at Capilano University, highlighted this when asked how events were planned this year. “A lot of what was put together last year was very reactive and not activity-based,” said Bharadwa. “This year, the planning team made sure to be purposeful about including voices from that community to make sure that the activities resonated and were purposeful.”

Another factor that equated to the success of this year’s celebrations is the addition of the Change Educators Committee by the Capilano Faculty Association (CFA). According to Bharadwa, this committee was created to accomplish more in terms of “leading and planning for the Change Education Event Series,” whose goal was to ensure that this year’s events were action-based rather than performative. The objective was to recognize that it’s not just a month, but rather an ongoing endeavour to create an environment of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Some event highlights that took place in February of 2023 included workshop sessions with CapU Jazz professor Kofi Gbolonyo that explored African diaspora music. These music workshops highlighted the tracing, intersecting and multi-directional movements of people, music and cultures between Africa, Europe and the Americas. There were also various movies and documentaries shown, some of which held discussion panels afterwards to ensure thoughtful conversation and learning surrounding the information and experiences shown. Some honorable mentions include the showing of Ninth Floor, a documentary by Mina Shum that covers crucial moments in Canadian race relations, more specifically the Sir George Williams student riots. This documentary will be shown alongside Viper, a short film about Hogan’s Alley, the centre of Vancouver’s historic Black neighbourhood, by Raine Stephan LeMay, a CapU Motion Picture Arts alumni.

Bharadwa highlighted the importance of strengthening partnership with the Black community moving forward, as well as the Black Students’ Union, in order to get people’s voices heard. “I am trying to be very available so that people can help me with planning in the future,” he reiterated, inviting students to contact him at kartikbharadwa@capilanou.ca.

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