Sunday, 23 July 2017
featured Racism

Little government support for Black History Month on PEI

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Stephanie Douglas, a Black PEI resident and diversity consultant, thinks the government should do more to promote Black History Month.

On the PEI government web site there is a story that mentions the month in passing. It is about Scott Parsons, a Black singer-songwriter and president of the Black Cultural Society. And that’s it.

And while there are government news releases about Family Violence Prevention Week, and Canadian School Counselling Week, there is no such news release about Black History Month.  

The West End Rangers (above), a Black Islander team from the Bog, a black community in Charlottetown, in 1899. Players were well known for their skills. From https://charlottetownstories.wordpress.com

That may sound trivial, but it matters, says Douglas.

“Especially right now, with Black Lives Matter, with the aboriginal issues, with Trump south of the border, acknowledging Black history is important,” she says.

There has been a Black community with a rich history on Prince Edward Island for hundreds of years. Lately that community in PEI is changing thanks to an influx of new immigrants.

“For the first time really in hundreds of years there is a significant number of first generation Black islanders. They come from Nigeria, Kenya, all parts of the world, and their children at times were born here,” says Douglas.

This is where support from the government becomes important. “The white islanders here need to hear that this is a community that is important and vibrant. These Black people are born here, and they are islanders,” Douglas says.

We asked the government what it is doing to support Black History Month.

“There are several initiatives underway. There are activities organized in the schools, events and displays at public libraries, a special feature being prepared for the government website and many community-based activities,” writes Jean Doherty, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture.

Doherty also provides a link to a CBC story about Black History Month listing several events.

These are indeed excellent events, but there was no further response when I asked what the government’s involvement in these events entailed. And it’s been three days.

“As far as I know the Black Cultural Society didn’t get any finding from the province, although they asked for it two years in a row. And although the province funds the libraries, the Black History Month events at the library are covered by its regular budget,” says Douglas.    

Douglas has made the case for greater government involvement in Black History Month events for years, she says. But it is difficult to get her message out, something she partly blames of the lack of diversity among local media.

“I have lived in four provinces,” she says, but PEI is the only place where the government doesn’t acknowledge the contributions of the Black community.”

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