By Melissa DiNardo
Black History Month — how much do you really know about it?
In the city of Belleville where diversity is lacking, not much seems to be going on in the community to help raise awareness of racism.
Six students from Loyalist College were interviewed on what they knew of Black History Month. Most students did not even know that there were slaves in Canada starting from 1628.
During 1628, when Canada was known as New England and New France, a six-year-old African boy was brought to New France and sold multiple times. Finally bought by Father Paul Le Jeune, the boy was baptized in a Catholic church and given the name Olivier Le Jeune, after the priest.
“I didn’t know there was slavery in Canada. I thought the slaves had to escape enslavement by the southern states by running to Canada,” said Simon Yang, a broadcast engineering student from Loyalist.
Most Canadians are unaware of the slavery of both Africans and First Nations people within Canada. Those honouring diversity say this month should be to celebrate the freedom of all humanity and to take a look at history.
“We need to raise awareness of our history. They say if you know your history that helps in preventing from making the same mistakes over and over again,” said Yang.
When asked, most students responded they didn’t know that much about Black History Month.
“The most I know is that it is February every year,” said Sean Macey, a second year journalist-online, print and broadcasting student from Loyalist College.
Asked what Black History month meant to our community in Belleville, Macey responded, “I am not sure what it would mean to Belleville, specifically, just because it is not as multicultural here as it is in other places.”
Alicia Wynter, a first-year photojournalism student from Kitchener, agreed.
“I don’t do much, especially here in Belleville. There is not a lot of diversity. I have not heard of anything that is going on here to celebrate or educate.”
Wynter said Black History is “a month to commemorate the history and the achievements that African Americans and African Canadians or any person of colour who is black or African, Jamaican or Caribbean in the world has done this month.”
Wynter said that the change to stop racism needs to come from all of humanity.
“Everyone needs to stop thinking that we are different. If you really look into history, we all come from Africa,” said Wynter.
“If you really read about it, we all come from the same place. It’s just that our skin tone is different. We all have the same bodily functions. We all have the same dreams and aspirations and wanting to be happy. We need to stop looking at skin tone in order to stop separating ourselves.”
For more information on the history of slavery in Canada, please visit the website www.blackhistorycanada.com .