Black History Month: Opportunities for Reflection and Growth at the College of Arts | College of Arts

Black History Month: Opportunities for Reflection and Growth at the College of Arts

Posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2024

Graphic including photographs of Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and one of the most photographed Black men of the 18th century, Nneka MacGregor, activist-in-residence at the University of Guelph, Carter Woodson, the historian behind Black History Month, and Dr. Marsha Hinds-Myrie, activist-in-residence at the University of Guelph. The text overlaying the graphic reads "Black History Month. College of Arts Celebrates Black History Month."
Photographs above feature Frederick Douglass, Nneka MacGregor, Carter Woodson, and Dr. Marsha Hinds-Myrie.

During Black History Month and every day, we encourage our community to engage with opportunities to reflect upon the past, recognize where we are now, and resolve to build a stronger future for everyone. This month, the College of Arts is proud to play an active role in various events to encourage every member of the U of G community to collectively listen, engage, and learn about Black Canadian history. 

On Wednesday, February 7, Deirdre McCorkindale, assistant professor of Black Canadian Studies and History in the College of Arts, will speak about the many misconceptions that surround Black History Month, the meaning of the month, and the reason it is celebrated. Her lecture “‘Why February?’: The History of Black History Month” will explore the origin of Black History Month nearly 100 years ago when American historian and activist, Carter Woodson, remarked that Black students didn’t feel they were reflected in the nation’s history. Woodson noticed this lack of representation had debilitating effects on the quality of their lives and stunted their rights in Civil Rights movements in the 1920s. 

The talk will explore how Woodson established a week-long celebration aimed to improve the lives of Black people. He built the celebration upon a joyous occasion that Black communities were already observing, the birthday of Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and one of the most photographed Black men of the 18th century. Woodson’s aim in this endeavour was to increase the representation of Black people and their communities in national history. Professor McCorkindale’s lecture will embark on a historical journey which will examine Woodson’s impact on the lives of Black people in 18th century America, in present-day Canada, and on a global scale. This event will be held in Room 113 in the MacKinnon Building (also known as the Arts Research Centre) from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. No registration is required. 

Additionally, two new Activists-in-Residence Nneka MacGregor and Dr. Marsha Hinds Myrie have recently been welcomed to the Grounded and Engaged Theory (GET) Lab. The GET Lab, co-directed by Dr. Monique Deveaux, Philosophy professor, College of Arts, and Dr. Candace Johnson, Political Science professor, College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS), encourages the use of hands-on research practices and socially-engaged studies to foster improvement in peoples’ lives and the world around them. 

The Activist-in-Residence (AiR) program, the GET Lab’s flagship program, is a critical initiative for advancing collaboration between academics, students, and activists in crucial areas of need. The focus of MacGregor's and Hinds Myrie's activism is Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and in particular, Black women's organizing in response to GBV. MacGregor is founder and director of Women at the CentrE, the first national organization led by and for survivors of GBV. Hinds Myrie’s life and work embody dualities and intersections. She is a Barbadian/Canadian citizen with an ancestral, cultural, and intellectual home in Africa. Her career intertwines activism and education. Learn more about the work of the Activists-in-Residence.  

The AiR program’s objectives include fostering community, knowledge sharing, and research collaboration by engaging in research methods that centre the voices of members of justice-seeking communities. This year’s program is led by Deveaux, Johnson, and Dr. Leah Levac, Political Science professor, CSAHS, and canada research chair (tier two) in critical community engagement and public policy.  

On Thursday, February 8 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Guelph Black Heritage Society’s Heritage Hall, MacGregor and Hinds Myrie will host “Black Women’s Leadership in Resisting and Responding to Gender-Based Violence”, a fireside chat sponsored by the AiR program and coordinated by Levac. The intention of this dialogue is to recognize and celebrate the vast contributions of Black women to naming and responding to misogynoir and all forms of GBV. This conversation will encompass ways to resist and respond to GBV locally, globally, and transnationally. The discussion will also include discourse on how Black women practice everyday resistance, research and activism, and policy advocacy in service of advancing justice for Black women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals. Joining MacGregor and Hinds Myrie will be Don Mahleka, equity lead at the Guelph Community Health Centre (CHC). Register for the event. 

The events above form part of a suite of programming that various University partners are offering and participating in in honour of Black History Month.