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Shining a light on the contributions of black Canadians

Guests got up to dance as the Starlight Steel drum band played music during the event Saturday at the Region of Waterloo Museum. [Lori-Anne Little]

February being Black History Month, the Region of Waterloo welcomed it in Saturday with a celebration of the achievements of black Canadians.

Among those gathered at the regional museum in Kitchener on February 1 was Lannois Carroll-Woolery, president of the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo (CCAWR), who said the event “is a way to make the community aware of African-culture and African-heritage right here in the region.”

“Canadian’s of African descent: going forward, guided by the past” is the theme this year’s Black History Month, the 25th year it’s being marked. The idea behind the theme is to bring to light the achievements of black Canadians and their contributions to Canada that may have been overlooked in the past.

The event that took place at the Waterloo Regional Museum, organized by the CCAWR, shone a light on the inventions of black Canadians such as the stethoscope and the butterfly technique, which is used by hockey goalies. Inventions created by black Canadians and the stories of the people who created them covered the tables that lined the room.

“We could have filled the room with tables of inventions made by black Canadians, but we had to work with the space that we had,” said Carroll-Woolery.

There were booths covering all sorts of topics, including a book club focused on the literary works of black authors, a group bringing attention to HIV and AIDS awareness, and BASE, the University of Waterloo’s Black Association for Student Expression.

Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo made a speech that many of those in attendance said hit home for them, reminding them that while there has been social progress, there is still much work to be done.

“Black students are still being pushed out of our education system. Black community members are still not receiving the healthcare that they deserve and that they need because of the colour of their skin. Black community members have come to my office as recently as yesterday with a background in tech and cannot break through to the tech-sector right here. We have so much work to do, but there’s hope,” said Lindo in her speech.

Coming together as a community to help those who are less privileged was something that all the speakers said helps make an impact on the battle for equality.

BASE president Ola Idri said “it’s really hard existing every day as a black person but then you come to a community like this where you’re meeting people who have had beautiful achievements and are willing to help you learn how to get to where you want to go.”

Event organizers said that they were happy with how the event turned out and the number of guests that came to join the celebration.

“Waterloo Region has been so welcoming of people of different parts of the world and I think it makes us stronger as a community … this is just our way of saying to the community come and celebrate with us were going to have a party for the month of February,” said Carroll-Woolery.

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