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Thandiwe McCarthy: Who writes the stories of Black success?

February is a time for reflection

“Who writes the stories of Black success?”

This is a question I find myself reflecting on often during the month of February. Black history month, for me, is a time when I get to look back upon my cultural history and find inspiration to strengthen my vision moving forward.

But I often find myself alone in this. It seems like slavery and destruction are the only stories museums and governments are able to tell when it comes to Black history.

I never understood why, when great Black Canadians are highlighted, the province of New Brunswick has so few individuals from its own communities to showcase. Is it because New Brunswick just doesn’t have a history of Black excellence?

Shown, A history of Black Excellence

Shadows moved, Education gained

For the last four months the History department at the University of New Brunswick has been researching Black local heroes to showcase for Black history month 2020.

The results are impressive, and with the help of the Art Centre on campus, it has identified dozens of these portraits and displayed them prominently in the Student Union Building hallways. Later this month there will be a much larger event where poster-sized versions of all these Black success stories will be displayed in the Art Centre on the 21st of February.

I was amazed when I saw this because I didn’t know any of these individuals existed. When I was growing up in rural New Brunswick, if people wanted to mention a role model for me to look up too, it was either a famous Black athlete or musician.

The people who write our history and plan our cultural events don’t have the full story. It’s hard to believe how many lawyers, professors, TV producers, entrepreneurs, and artists of all domains enjoyed great success and they were from right here in New Brunswick.

Why have I never heard of this amazing person until now?! I want more stories of entertainment industry success!

Histories half told are communities corrupted

My hope and vision for this project is that it doesn’t just get thrown out once February is done. Not tucked away in a basement on campus somewhere, in a cardboard box, labelled “Black History”, collecting dust.

Especially while families across this province that cannot make the trip to campus still believe that Black excellence can only ever be athletic or musical.

No, I want these wonderful posters to receive funding and gain life beyond this month, I wish for them to be turned into booklets, published, and placed in town halls around the province. I want families, old and new to the province, to have access to recognize just how successful they can be in New Brunswick.

The province of New Brunswick is dealing with youth from all cultural backgrounds leaving the province in record numbers. Individuals often feel like this is a province you grow old in rather than one you grow successful in.

These posters help paint a different picture; they tell tales of great success for those New Brunswickers that stuck it out. They champion the stories of individuals who followed their passion regardless of challenges and came out on top.

The life stories of these individuals go far beyond just inspiring the Black community here in the province. I know this message of New Brunswick successes across all career paths is a story all New Brunswickers and all Canadians everywhere will love to hear.

One of the many individuals featured was my mother! Congrats mom!

See also: Thandiwe McCarthy: Shadows at midnight – My search for Canadian Blackness

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