Black History Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians, past and present, bringing attention to the vital role they have played throughout Canada’s history.
2016 marks the 20th anniversary since Black History Month was first officially celebrated in Canada.
Join the global conversation: #BlackHistoryMonth
Recognizing Black Canadians
Violet King Henry (1929-1981)
Violet King Henry was the first Black female lawyer in Canada, becoming the first Black law student to graduate from the University of Alberta in 1953, then becoming both the first Black woman admitted to the Alberta Bar and the first Black woman admitted to practice law in Canada in 1954.
King Henry practiced criminal law in Calgary until 1956, when she accepted a position with the Canada immigration service.
In 1963, King Henry moved to New Jersey where she became Executive Director of the Community Branch of the Newark YW/YMCA. She was appointed Director of Planning for the Metropolitan Chicago YMCA in 1969, then in 1976, was named Executive Director of the Organization Development Group, becoming the first woman appointed to a senior management position within the American YMCA organization.
Violet King Henry was 51 when she died of cancer in 1981.
George Elliott Clarke (1960-)
Canadian poet and playright George Elliott Clarke was recently named as Canada’s seventh Parliamentary Poet Laureate.
A seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq First Nations heritage, Mr. Clark’s work has largely focused on the history and experiences of Black Canadian communities in the Maritimes, particularly the African-American slaves’ descendants who settled on the east coast of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Clarke has been the recipient of many honours, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Awards’ Gold Medal for Poetry, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s Trudeau Fellowship Prize, the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction, and the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry. He has also been appointed to the Order of Nova Scotia and to the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer, and recently completed a three-year term as Poet Laureate for the City of Toronto.
“As a people, with roots dating back to 1603, African-Canadians have defended, cleared, built and farmed this country; our presence is well established, but not well-known. The celebration of Black History Month is an attempt to have the achievements of Black people recognized and told.”
— Ontario Black History Society
VIFF: Black History Month
1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver
Throughout February, Vancity Theatre will mark Black History Month with a series of specially curated films including documentary, music, comedy, and drama.
Black History Month on Granville Island: Afro Hair Savoir Faire
February 20, 2016 | 1:30 p.m.
Granville Island, Vancouver
A celebration of short films and inspiring techniques to care for Afro hair naturally.
Black History Month on Granville Island: A Ballerina’s Tale
February 21, 2016 | 2:00 p.m.
Granville Island, Vancouver
A Ballerina’s Tale examines the career of the first African-American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre.
February 26, 2016 | 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | 4460 Beresford Street, Burnaby
Saturday, February 27, 2016 | 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Burnaby Mountain Secondary School, 8800 Eastlake Drive, Burnaby
Race Matters is organized by Dr. Annette Henry to respond to the calling out of racism with positive responses.