It's time Alberta moves beyond ‘symbolic’ Black History Month: Advocate
Now that Alberta has officially recognized Black History Month, advocate Bashir Mohamed says the next step is real policy changes.
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Advocates are calling on Alberta to take meaningful next steps now that the province has officially celebrated its first Black History Month.
Edmonton organizer Bashir Mohamed said the energy at the legislature building earlier this month, when the province recognized Black History Month for the first time, was unlike anything he’s ever seen before.
Official events at the legislature and Edmonton city hall were followed by community events throughout the city – some that Mohamed helped put together – that helped celebrate the country’s third-largest African and Caribbean community and shed a light on its long history in Alberta.
Mohamed said, overall, the month was a success, but the real work lies ahead.
“A majority of the actions [for Black History Month] have been symbolic, but we’re hoping for more structural change,” Mohamed told Metro. “There is still more work to be done. Specifically, with Black Lives Matter, changes to police policies regarding street checks and carding. And once [the province] includes black history within the curriculum so it’s not just something that happens only once a year, but something that Albertans are aware of after they go through our education system.”
Mohamed said exposing students to black history would help them learn how long the community has been in Alberta and also “understand why we still have issues of racism and discrimination within our city.”
There’s been little in the way of reconciliation from government in acknowledging past wrongs, he said.
Edmonton-Centre MLA David Shepherd said that, following the success of Black History Month, he remains committed “to taking real action to support the African and Caribbean communities in Alberta.”
He said he’s “very supportive” of adding more black history to the province’s school curriculum, which is currently under review by his New Democratic Party government.
“We’ve committed to doing that for the Indigenous people of Alberta, to include more of their history and more context so people can understand the systemic issues of that community,” said Shepherd, “and that’s something I support for the African community. Some academics had the opportunity to present, as part of the curriculum review, suggestions for including more of Alberta’s black history and I think the minister has indicated he’s open to considering it.”
Shepherd, who played a key role in having government acknowledge Black History Month, said he’s also met with elder, youth and business leaders in the community this year to talk about issues and accessing government supports.
In the meantime, Shepherd is already looking forward to next year.
“Being able to showcase more black voices and artists in the province would be fantastic,” he said.