Black History Month kick-off
By Dawn Gray
Members of the community celebrated a personal connection to culture and local history at the kick-off event of Black History Month, held at the Caribbean Centre on Feb 27.
It was a family-friendly night that featured local talent including poetry, art, singing and drums — all performed live in front of an audience of over 100 people. The event was a joint venture presented by the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, the Windsor West Indian Association and the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.
The Windsor area is rich in black history. The region has been home to people of African descent since the 19th century, when those seeking freedom from slavery streamed to this area by the thousands.
President of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, Irene Moore Davis takes pride in this history and said events like this are a great way to learn about, and also to honour, the legacy of those from past generations.
“Windsor and Essex County are incredibly significant in terms of black history. This was a major terminus of the Underground Railroad,” said Davis. “This is a place where many people worked very hard to overcome some of the struggles and challenges that were faced by people of colour across the country.”
The “railroad” started in the 1780s, when enslaved black people escaped what is now the U.S.and began settling across Canada. Many of them stayed here in southwestern Ontario. The exact number of slaves who found freedom by way of the railroad is not documented, but it is estimated to have been as many as 40,000.
Jessica Faught, a local poet who performed at the celebration, said events which shine a light on black history are very important in the black community. She expressed these feelings by reading some of her more personal pieces from the podium.
“Black history is an issue of the heart. Black history is an issue of our roots, where we come from,” said Faught. “Everyone needs to know where they come from.”
Tracy Ramsey, NDP MP for Essex, spoke at the event and said she supports spreading the knowledge of local black history through community events like this one.
“We have such a deep history. From Sandwich Town to Amherstburg, an incredible amount of people settled in this region and their stories have to be told,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey said she feels that celebrating different cultures together as a community truly show what Canada stands for.
“I think that it’s timely with what we see happening around the world, to really reinforce that this is who we are in Canada. We embrace all cultures.”
Over 20 black history events will take place across Windsor and Essex throughout the month of February. A full schedule of the activities can be found at www.amherstburgfreedom.org