The following was written by Yvette, a Pathways graduate from Kingston, Ontario. Yvette is now living in Montreal where she is completing a Bachelor in Business Administration.
Picture a concert. The lights are warm. The stage is filled with what looks like an infinite line up of microphones. The celebration starts February 1 at midnight.
This is what Black History Month feels like to me.
It’s a celebration where I am invited to hold a microphone and share my pride alongside members of my community. And just like each microphone will amplify our voices, Black History Month shines a special spotlight on the stories and testimonies that inspire me and fuel me with drive all year long.
Throughout the month, one can find a multitude of events all across Canada intended to commemorate people of African descent for their achievements. Many will discover pioneers, inventors, artists, as well as everyday individuals who left their mark on history.
Five years ago, I created the first Black History Month Committee at my high school.
As a part of the committee’s activities, Black stories from our history that are often overlooked were broadcasted throughout the school every morning of the month. I wanted there to be more than what our textbooks taught us. I wanted to highlight a wide range of personalities. I wanted it to feel good and exciting!
I wanted the students of African diaspora to sit a little taller when learning how significant our ancestors were.
Yes, we were inventors. Yes, we were mathematicians. Yes, we were poets. Yes, we even walked on the moon. And if it had been done by others before, we could do it, too—and so much more.
So, there I was, with a microphone talking to more than a thousand students! I was grateful to be able to share stories of Black leaders from our history with such a wide audience. I knew that their stories had the power to inspire everyone.
The committee grew over time and we were able to find sponsors, host special activities, and create posters to hang all over the school. I’m proud to say that the tradition continues even though I have now graduated and gone on to university!
And I, too, have kept the tradition alive and have continued seeking out and sharing stories that help me grow into the person I aspire to be.
To excel in my career, for instance, I need to stay disciplined and focused on my studies. Lately, one of the most effective ways I’ve been able to do this is by listening to recordings of Malcolm X as I study. His articulated, rhythmic speeches have shown me how powerful knowledge is.
Some days are harder than others to get through and, on those days—when I feel lost with overwhelming emotions and frustrations—I look up to Phillis Wheatley, who expressed herself through poetry and fought ferociously to publish her writings. I admire her ability to persevere in the most unfavorable conditions. Her unwavering belief in herself and her talents give me an example to follow.
I also remember Queen Nzinga who wasn’t scared to defend Angola at all costs. I admire that she knew how valuable her assets were and how collected she remained through heated negotiations of treaties. Her leadership reminds me to be unapologetically confident in myself and to speak my truth with pose, no matter who or what I am confronted with.
Ultimately, I celebrate Black history daily by finding inspiring individuals whose achievements will motivate me as I write my own story.
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