Ottawa launches 2023 Black History Month

Saturday 28 January 2023

by Donielle Ramon

Carl Nicholson receives his Community Builder award from BHO President June Girvan

Because Of Them, We Can – Official Launch of Black History Month, presented by Black History Ottawa

Against the beautiful backdrop of the National Gallery of Canada, Black History Ottawa hosted the Official Black History Launch on January 28th. The 2-hour event is the first in-person event since the pandemic halted such get-togethers and changed our world to that of a virtual reality.  The event was stacked with commemorations, awards, good laughs and magnificent performances. Numerous representatives from the different levels of government and High Commissions attended the event.  

The Black History Launch official launch commenced with a Land Acknowledgement by the CEO and Interim Director of the National Art Gallery, Angela Cassie. During the acknowledgement, Angela discussed the importance of having Black representation on the wall, in the boardroom and at events; for far too long Black voices and expressions have been excluded. (should I share about Canada’s first Black artist in Venice?)

An Empowerment Statement of Truth followed the acknowledgement, recited by the talented Liam Quiring-Nkindi and Leila Eve Themonvil; we were then graced with renditions of the Canadian National Anthem and the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” both impeccably performed by Jisca Kamau; Kolaa Divine and Lisa-Gaye Price and a great segue into the presentations by our government officials.

Mark Sutcliffe, Mayor of Ottawa, presented President June Girvin with a proclamation officially marking February as Ottawa’s official Black History Month. This was followed by numerous officials, including messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford congratulating the launch of Black History Month.

Throughout the event, we were graced with some very artistic performances. Maya Spoken performed a captivating spoken word piece. Voices of Change, written by June Girvan, told the tale of Chloe Cooley, an enslaved Black woman in Upper Canada, in 1793. Her acts of resistance in the face of violence led to Canada’s first legislation limiting slavery. You could feel the tension in the air during the powerful performance; the screams of Chloe Cooley echoed off the walls and pulled you in.

The unveiling of the commemorative Black History Month stamp by Canada Post’s, Director of Diversity Brandy Ryan followed this. The stamp features a breathtaking picture of Chloe Cooley, which will be available at all Canada Post outlets as of February 1st, 2023. A truly inspiring performance by all the actors and artists.

Each year, Black History Ottawa recognizes, honours and celebrates Ottawa’s Black Community Builders. A Community Builder is described as someone who cares about their community and acts to improve it, and this is evident with each winner of this year’s Awards.

Community Builder award winner Felicite Murangira, right, with husband Geoffrey Photo credit Felicite Murangira

See the 2023 recipients below:

  • Felicite Murangira -2023 Black History Month Community Builder Award
  • Carl Nicholson –  2023 Black History Ottawa Community Builder Award
  • Ben Weis – 2023 Black History Ottawa President’s Award
  • Fitzroy Reid 2023 Black History Month Community Builder Award
  • Yanaminah Thullah – Black History Ottawa 2023 Youth Community Builder Award
  • Abigail Jackson – Black History Ottawa 2023 Youth Community Builder Award
  • Fanta Souare – Black History Ottawa 2023 Youth Community Builder Award
  • CHEO & Alex Munter – Black History Ottawa Award – The “Every Child is Sacred” award to Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and its President Alex Munter for their excellent work on children during the pandemic.

Jamila Ahmed and Reuel Kofi Omarey Dartey were surprised by the unexpected Community Builder Award from the United Way of Eastern Ontario.

The venue, the crowd, and the energy were incredible. The talent of the performers, the board’s organization, emcee Sarah Onyango’s charisma and all the pieces were simply synergistic.

Thank you to Black History Ottawa and its supporters; we commend you on a very successful launch to Black History Month.


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Donielle Roman

Donnielle Roman has over 10 years experience in management and over 15 years working with children and youth facing multiple barriers and adversity. As the Manager of Youth Services at OCISO, she works with her team to provide safe and inclusive programming to newcomer youth in their settlement journey.  Donnielle utilizes positive energy and a sense of humor to create and nurture holistic relationships with the youth she supports. She believes in a strengths-based approach, believing in a youth’s ability to drive and determine their own future. She has also volunteered as a Mentor and Coach. Outside her of professional life, Donnielle is an avid reader, writer, and seeker of peace and happiness.

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