Andy Kusi-Appiah

“I did not create Black History Month, your racist tendencies did: Of Multiculturalism and celebrating difference.”


Kwaku Kusi-Appiah

Tuesday 20 February 2024

“I was raised in a racist environment. Every rule, every nuance, everything told me that Black people were dangerous & incompetent & evil. Then my parents went to work every day & left me with one.”

#John Vlismas, Republic of South African comedian.


“African Americans must understand that even while in the throes of slavery, their lives as Americans are likely much better than they ever would have enjoyed living in sub-Saharan Africa.”

#Jon Hubbard, USA Republican legislator, 58th District, Arkansas (2011-2013).


Throughout history, Black people’s contributions to society have been ignored or attributed to others. For example, until very recently, Mathieu DaCosta, a founding member of Canada, was not mentioned in any of our history books just because of the colour of his skin. Thanks to Black History Month, we now know that Mathieu DaCosta was as much a founder of Canada as is Samuel de Champlain. In this short article, I argue that contrary to what detractors believe, Black History Month is not an inherently ‘racist’ and useless occasion, rather, it is a celebration that highlights the authentic and diverse history of Black people in Canada, while educating the human race, especially the likes of Lisa Robinson and Joh Hubbard, about the struggles Blacks have faced and continue to face against prejudice and discrimination. Black History Month serves as a platform for promoting understanding, empathy, and equality. Celebrating our diverse communities can only bode well for Canada as a multicultural country, backed by the Multiculturalism Act of 1971 (Uberoi, 2016; Yan, 2012).

Beginnings of Black History Month:

What we now know as Black History Month began as Negro History in the United States of America, where it was first proposed by the historian and activist, Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926 (Williams, 2022). In Canada, Black History Month officially began in 1995. In 1993, the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS), successfully filed a petition in Ontario to proclaim February as Black History Month. Following that success, OBHS introduced the idea of having Black History Month recognized across Canada to the Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.

In December 1995, the Canadian House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada following a motion introduced by Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine (Williams, 2022; Oyeniran, 2020). The motion was carried unanimously.

In February 2008, Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Senate, introduced a motion to ‘recognize contributions of Black Canadians’ and February as Black History Month. It received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008. The adoption of this motion completed Canada’s parliamentary position on Black History Month. Black History Month is indeed enshrined in Canadian law (Oyeniran, 2020).

By acknowledging and celebrating Black history, societies can work towards fostering greater inclusivity, empathy, and social justice. Celebrating Black History Month does not mean excluding or diminishing the significance of other groups’ histories. Instead, it is about recognizing the unique experiences and contributions of Black people and promoting a more comprehensive understanding of history (Toldson, 2019a; Toldson, 2019b).

Aversion to Black History Month:

However, it is not everybody who sees Black History Month as a positive thing that could spur Black people in Canada to achieve their full potential. Councillor Lisa Robinson’s (Pickering, Ontario) latest dribble about Blacks and Black History Month exposes her for who she is – a bigot hiding behind the need to eschew racism in society. According to Councillor Robinson:

“We need to put an end to the creation of an environment that fosters racism and judging individuals solely based on the colour of their skin…it only creates a breeding ground for racism to exist.”

Councillor Robinson, 2024

Unpacking this seemingly excellent quote puts things in perspective. First, Councillor Robinson does not even know that there is only one race – the human race – and second, that the category ’Black’ has been socially constructed by the colonizer to keep oppressing the ‘other’. A cursory read of Ann Stoler’s ‘Racial Histories…’ and Kimberley Coles & Dorothy Kim’s ‘A cultural history of Race…’ clearly exposes how the myth of ‘race’ has been socially constructed to discriminate against the ‘other’ (Coles & Kim, 2023; Stoler, 1997).

Unmasking Duplicitous Behaviours:

Although Councillor Robinson claims she supports all people regardless of colour and background, we know that it is far from what the facts portray. Shallene Drakes-Tull, an Ontario author and educator calls Councillor Robinson out by indicating that the councillor only seeks to create more division. She said:

“For someone to say that we do not need Black History Month, [its divisive], shows that you don’t understand how people have to navigate through the world.”

Drakes-Tull, 2024

It is apparent that the problem is a lack of education about why Black History Month is necessary today. Fostering an environment free from prejudice and discrimination is crucial for building inclusive and equitable societies. It is essential to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their race or ethnicity (Williams, 2022; Oyeniran, 2020; Toldson, 2019b).


Addressing discrimination and prejudice effectively therefore, requires concerted efforts at multiple levels, including education, legislation, community engagement, and fostering empathy and understanding. For example, knowing that Mathieu DaCosta (founding member of the Canadian nation) is a direct ancestor motivates me to do more to move this country forward. And everywhere I go, I see Black people working hard to put food on the table of their households, and make sure that the roof over their heads are not leaking as we live in one of the harshest environments here in Canada. In other words, and as usual, Black people in Canada are trying to stand tall without stepping on anyone. We are vigorously engaged in telling our own stories from our own perspectives and nothing will stop that from happening. At the same time, Black people are aware that in order for this nation to prosper, all its constituent parts must be able to perform to their full potential. Celebrating our history is the first step to that awakening.

However, the likes of Lisa Robinson, Jon Hubbard and their cohorts are afraid that oppressed people will be liberated and take their rightful place in society if their histories are laid bare for all to see. In other words, celebrating Black History Month diminishes the oppressor’s ability to marginalize and abuse the ‘other’. The oppressor knows how to obfuscate the issues in order to put doubts in the minds of well-meaning Canadians. The oppressor will not succeed!

Works Cited

Coles, Kimberly, A., & Kim, Dorothy (2023). A Cultural History of Race in the Renaissance and Early Modern Age: Introduction.

Drakes-Tull, S. (2024). My teacher said: ‘Black people contributed nothing to Canada. That’s why we need Black History Month,’ Toronto Star, February 7, 2024.

Oyeniran, C. (2020). Black History in Canada: 1960 to Present. Canadian Encyclopedia.

Robinson, L. (2024). ‘It is not Black and White’. Op-ed in Oshawa Durham Central Newspaper, February 6-12, 2024.

Stoler, A. (1997). Racial Histories and their Regime of Truth. Political Power and Social Theory, (11): 183-206.

Toldson, Ivory. (2019a). Black History is the First Weapon Against White Supremacy (Editor’s Commentary). The Journal of Negro education, 88(4): 425-426.

Toldson, I. (2019b). No BS (Bad Stats): Black people need people who believe in Black people enough not to believe every bad thing they hear about Black people. Leiden; Boston: Brill Sense.

Uberoi, V. (2016). Legislating multiculturalism and nationhood: the 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique49(2), 267-287.

Williams, D. (2022). Black History Month in Canada. Canadian Encyclopedia

Yan, M. (2012). Canadian Multiculturalism Act and Beyond: Managing Diversity by a Human Rights Approach. In International Conference on Multicultural Challenges and Sustainable Democracy in Europe and Asia.

Dr. Kwaku Kusi-Appiah,a demographer and environmentalist is an adjunct professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University. His research seeks to provide a clearer understanding of non-market strategies that determine access to community resources, and how the resulting inequities shape livelihoods in marginalized spaces of Canada and the developing world. Kwaku Kusi-Appiah was president of the Ghana Association of Ottawa (1995-2003) and senior advisor on Diversity to the Mayor of Ottawa (2004- 2006) where he led many multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex diversity issues in a timely & sensitive manner. In September 2018, Kusi-Appiah was appointed by the Lt. Governor of Ontario as a public member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario College of Social Work and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW).