Every February, Canadians participate in Black History Month festivities to honour black Canadians from the past and in the present. This year’s national theme for Black History Month is “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past” and Royal Roads University will be holding its own events inspired by the theme.
“It’s an opportunity for us to raise more awareness and bring community members together to learn, listen and engage,” said Ruth Nakalyowa, co-founder and president of the Royal Roads University Afro-Heritage Association.
The association was created last year to connect students of Afro-heritage and connect with students who are interested in learning more about diverse cultures.
On Feb. 19, a panel discussion titled “Celebrating Black Excellence” takes place at Royal Roads University’s Grant Quarterdeck. It will feature successful individuals of Afro-heritage from Africa, Canada and the Caribbean who are based in Victoria. Not only will they share their achievements, they will share their journey to success and talk about any hurdles encountered along the way.
“We want to highlight people in the community who are exceeding expectations, breaking down barriers and sitting at tables that perhaps may not have been the norm 10 years ago,” Nakalyowa said.
The panelists include Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, principal of Blue Mountain Solutions Theresa Ito, Pearson College’s community events and partnerships manager Angela Gatari and Binkadi Community Services executive director Me-Kon Hayes.
Nakalyowa, who is originally from Uganda and has lived in other parts of the world as well, said she is seeing that more people are becoming open to learning more about black culture and society. Being able to host events such as these means a lot to her, she said.
“Victoria is becoming more diverse as we speak with more newcomers, immigrants and refugees,” Nakalyowa said. “We don’t want to be othering. We want to open up the floor so people can engage with us and learn about who we are. We’re building bridges.”
The Celebrating Black Excellence Panel Discussion takes place on Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Royal Roads University Grant Quarterdeck.