Ontario Black History Society holds brunch to kick off Black History Month

Published On January 27, 2020 | By Sydnee Walcott | Arts, News
Jay Douglas and The Band performing a medley of songs at the Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch. (Sydnee Walcott)
Sydnee Walcott

It may still be January, but for the Ontario Black History Society, Black History Month has just begun.

Although the celebrations don’t officially start until February, the Ontario Black History Society started early when they held their annual Kick-Off Brunch on Sunday.

OBHS 2nd Vice-President Mawuli Chai and City News Reporter Tammie Sutherland co-hosted the Jan 26. Brunch. (Sydnee Walcott)

The event, co-hosted by Tammie Sutherland, a City News reporter and Mawuli Chai, second vice-president of OBHS, was all about celebrating the achievements of Black Canadians in the community, while attendees enjoyed a three-course meal, a shopper’s market, and entertainment including a keynote presentation, performances and plaque unveilings.

“Black History Month is a time that we as a country can really come together and acknowledge the achievements of Black Canadians everywhere,” Sutherland told Humber News. She also received The Mathieu Da Costa Award that day honouring her achievements.

She said celebrating Black history is important because Black Canadians are often marginalized in a way where their voices are not heard. Sutherland said it is important to help lift people which is why she enjoys participating in these events.

Cameron Bailey, the event’s Keynote speaker accepts the Dr.Daniel G Hill Award. (Sydnee Walcott)

“February is cold, it’s grey, it’s short, but it’s ours,” said Cameron Bailey, the event’s Keynote speaker and artistic director and co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Bailey, who took home the Dr. Daniel G. Hill Award that day, shared the struggles that black people had faced over the years and how there is still work to be done as young black people are policed more than any other group of young people.

“For every person in this room who is not Black, you are our allies,” said singer Jully Black, who performed a medley of songs from the upcoming play Caroline, or Change, where she stars as the main character.

Singer Jully Black performing a medley of songs from the play Caroline, or Change, where she plays the lead character, at the brunch. (Sydnee Walcott)

She said that people of all races should come together to build bridges instead of walls.

“We build bridges, not walls in Canada,” Black said.

Andria Barrett, the President of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commence, a non-profit organization with a mandate of encouraging and supporting black entrepreneurship in the black community, told Humber News that she has been attending these brunches over the years as she is personally a firm supporter of the OBHS along with the CBCC because she thinks it’s important to celebrate black history in different areas whether it be black business history or black financial history.

Andria Barrett, President of the Canadian Black Chambers of Commerce came out to support the OBHS (Sydnee Walcott)

“This is a very important event with a lot of stakeholders that are getting involved,” said Richard Miller. The founder of Keep6ix, a guns for tuition program to help at-risk youth, told Humber News that he participated in the event as a way to reach out the community about the work Keep6ix does.

During the brunch the news broke of NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant’s death and a moment of silence was held in his honour.

Since 1978, OBHS has been at the forefront of celebrating, promoting and preserving black history in Ontario through exhibits, presentations, and bus tours and walking tours.

The OBSH is also the organization that was responsible for bringing the celebration of Black History Month to Canada at all levels of government after yearlong efforts to extend the celebration.

The first celebration of Black History Month in Canada was in Toronto in 1979, with the Province of Ontario joining in on the celebrations in 1993.

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