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AUSU Celebrates Black History Month

AUSU is proud to recognize and celebrate this year’s Black History Month. As we reflect on Black History in Canada, we can draw inspiration from the experiences, dedication, hard work, and resiliency of individuals who work across our nation for a more inclusive world. Often times, we tend to overlook the history of the different BIPOC individuals who shaped the way for our lives today. Without their sacrifices and vision for a better future for all kinds of life, I wouldn’t have been able to be here today. Therefore, I took the time in February, Black History Month, to learn about my surrounding black history in Alberta.

Stamp released by Canada Post in honour of Black History Month, featuring prominent members of Amber Valley, a forgotten Black community in northern Alberta. (Source).

Between 1908 and 1911, approximately 1,000 black settlers arrived in Amber Valley and Keystone (now Breton), Alberta from Oklahoma in response to advertising campaigns initiated by the Canadian Immigration Department. Many of them had been forced to sell their land because of racially discriminatory policies and looked to Canada as a land of tolerance and opportunity. Unfortunately, many of their new white and Indigenous neighbours in Alberta weren’t prepared just yet to treat them as equals. This resulted in them usually choosing to settle together in rather isolated locations.  These first settlers were looking for a place to live where they would get basic human rights not to make history. Unintentionally, they paved the way for my family to eventually move to Alberta in the late 1990s. Black History Month is important to me. No matter what your heritage is, or whether you are a mix of many beautiful backgrounds, your history is important to learn. It is to appreciate the individuals in the past that sacrificed for our better life.

Cultural Centre and hall in Amber Valley, Alberta. Site of a historical African American homesteading community. (Source).

What surprised me the most about my findings was the sense of connection I had learning about the first black families that settled in Alberta. No matter what point we are at in history, we are all humans seeking the same needs. And as 2020 made that crystal clear, the fight is not over. Our struggles may be different, but our dreams of inclusion are always the same.

This gave me the chance to connect with many local organizations dedicated to creating a positive impact on the lives of everyone. One such organization is The National Black Coalition of Canada- Edmonton Chapter, which works with other Canadians towards achieving full social, racial, cultural, political and economic harmony across Canada. The organization was first registered federally on October 19, 1969 and became the first Black and/or Caribbean National Organization in Canada. They offer a wide variety of workshops, art and historical exhibitions that explore the many different amazing Black cultures and backgrounds.

This February, let’s remember, learn, and celebrate the full range of who we are and what we can be in the future. May we encourage and support the new generation of young black youths to go forward and continue shaping a culturally diverse and inclusive nation.

On behalf of AUSU, Happy Black History Month.

Almigdad Eldoma
VP Finance and Administration