Black History is Every Month, says Carleton’s School of Social Work Black Committee

Tuesday 19 March 2024

By Ijeoma Ukazu

Black History Month may have been over, but for the Carleton University School of Social Work, it is beyond the confines of February, woven into the fabric of the collective past, present, and future of Black Canadians.

MC Nana aba Duncan with keynote speaker Roxanne Francis Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

At 5 p.m., the event at Richcraft Hall at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a dinner and a guest list of over 140. Cool jazz and R&B music serenaded the guests as they arrived, striking a chord with the crowd.

Tagged “Black History is Every Month!” The event brought together students, professors, and community residents to honour the legacy, accomplishments, and tenacity of Black folks throughout history.

Professor Allison Everett welcomes the guests Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

Allison Everett, who holds the role of Master of Social Work Field Education Coordinator at the School of Social Work, said in her opening remark that the school’s Black History committee has been leading the way in providing much-needed inspirational events and information sessions on Black history, which is Canadian history, especially in relation to the social work profession, for the last six years.

She called for normalizing discussion about the Black experience beyond the confines of February, traditionally known as Black History Month, and through these events, the School of Social Work has striven to shine a spotlight on the remarkable strengths, achievements, and concerns often overlooked within Black communities.

While this is so, Everrett added that African, Caribbean, and Black Canadian lived experiences occur every day of the year, adding that it’s imperative to acknowledge and celebrate this truth every day.

According to her, “This event is a platform to amplify our collective voice, showcasing our resilience, culture, beauty, and solid strength. It serves as a call to action, urging us to show up in more intentional and courageous ways in the fight against anti-racial and anti-Black racism.”

Ken Campbell with the libation Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

While guests were seated, a one-minute silence and a libation by Kenneth Campbell was observed in honour of Black Canadian fallen heroes, including Ewart Walters and Jay Williams.

The keynote speaker, Roxanne Francis, a social worker and psychotherapist, advised Black Canadians faced with difficult challenges that hope and resilience remain the key words to thrive and break through.

“There is a need to take a breath and prioritize self-care,” said Francis. She advised Black people to understand that taking care of themselves is very important. “Some care is important—taking care of yourself, taking breaks, getting support, but also having allies who will open doors for us,” she adds.

As Black Canadians look to the future, Francis offered some advice to teenagers to find a safe space and mentors for guidance as they navigate through the rough patches of life.

Earlier, a welcome remark by Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard set the mood on a rollercoaster of reflection of how far the Black community in Canada has fought and is still fighting for a better future.

Senator Wanda Thomas receives award from Prof Nduka Otiono Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

Wanda, who received a lifetime achievement award presented by the Director, Institute of African Studies at Carleton, Nduka Otiono, has been a tireless advocate for social change, racial equality, and diversity. Her contributions extend beyond academia, making her a model of tolerance, understanding, and compassion.

Crooner Michael Hannah with maestro pianist John Danquah Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

While the evening was serenaded with performances from John Dapaah and Michael Hanna, Ottawa’s first English Poet Laureate Jamaal Amir Akbhari, performed some thought-provoking poetry about the freedom, resilience, and strength of Black Canadians.

Award winners Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

The highlight of the event includes performances by guitarist and vocalist Nambi. Manock Lual received a community builder award, while Dylan Bartley received a social work award for setting the pace for young black youth. 

Panel members Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

Melissa Redmond, an assistant professor at Carleton University, moderated a panel discussion session with Noah Inniss, Clarissa Arthur, Jamila Ahmed, and Adrienne Coddett to wrap up the event.

Moderator and panel members in group photo Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

The session addressed important mental health issues that Black people in Canada face and the individual and collective roles that are necessary to move forward.

The event was hosted by Nana aba Duncan, Carleton University Associate Professor and Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity, and Inclusion Studies.

Singer Nambi Photo credit: Carleton U Social Work
A cross section of audience Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene