BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021

Black History Month is month where we celebrate blackness and black excellence in all areas of society. From scientists, to artists, to educators, to activists, black folks have long been making contributions to our society that have had deep impacts and have gone unrecognized - well before there was a month to celebrate it.

Black History Month is month where we celebrate blackness and black excellence in all areas of society. From scientists, to artists, to educators, to activists, black folks have long been making contributions to our society that have had deep impacts and have gone unrecognized - well before there was a month to celebrate it.

Black History Month is also a month where we reflect on white supremacy, slavery, ongoing colonization and how allies can work actively to challenge anti-Black racism, undo white supremacy and work together to build a society that’s more inclusive.

COPE Ontario denounces anti-Black racism, white supremacy and recognizes that our union system and culture is not outside of this. COPE Ontario works hard to show that we value this by striving for strong collective agreements language that empowers workers to confront and end racism and promote workplace diversity and equity, and fighting for workers and folks both inside and outside of the Labour movement. We also commit to actively fighting Anti-Black racism not just in February but today and every day.

So many of our Black Sisters and Brothers, friends and comrades have fought, achieved and have played key roles in shaping the Labour Movement, and engaging and empowering our communities and society as a whole, through their activism and involvement in movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement.  Just recently, after years of intersectional, border crossing, and consistent direct action, the Black Lives Matter movement was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize – a well-deserved recognition.


Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things you can do to celebrate, educate and activate, this Black History Month!

  • Support Organizations That Are Doing Work at the Ground Level. There are a lot of amazing organizations, groups and initiatives out there that do work with little to no support in the way of funds or resources. Support these groups and initiatives. If they aren’t coming to you, make the effort and look around your communities to see where and who you can offer support to.

Check out “19 Organizations Supporting Black Canadians to Donate to” by Elle Canada for a list of fantastic organizations doing great work 

  • Celebrate and Support Black Artists and Creatives. Anti-Black racism is also present in not just the content of the material we consume, but the structures within the systems. Celebrate and support writing, music and art by Black artists and creatives. Support folks when they ask for solidarity in combatting systemic anti-Black racism in creative communities.

To get you started, here’s a few helpful links:

  • How you can support Black Canadian musicians” from CBC
  • Black Art Matters Online Exhibition from the Art Canada Institute

  • Make Space for Black Folks in Your Local and Support Black Unionists in the Wider Movement. Often, the perspectives and wisdom of Black, racialized and other marginalized folks doesn’t make it to the elected decision making level of our Unions which in turn just further entrenches white supremacy within the Labour movement. Work to create space for these perspectives and voices to be heard – infuse equity into all your events and create spaces, opportunities and seats in your Locals.

Outside of your Local, in the Labour movement, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) acts as a space for Black workers to come together for support, solidarity, and to work together fighting anti-Black racism and white supremacy in the Labour movement. In February and March, the CBTU is holding a “Black History Month Webinar Series” discussing many engaging topics such as “Defund the Police: What the Heck Does that Mean?”, “CBTU Black History Month Trivia” and “Racism in the Labour Movement & Building Inclusive Unions”. For more information on these webinars and the CBTU, check out their website at http://cbtu.ca/2021/02/cbtu-black-history-month-webinar-series/.

Think about your own actions during the pandemic and how not contributing to the spread is an act of allyship with Black, racialized and marginalized communities. Support initiatives that are supporting these folks and communities.

One such initiative to support is Black Lives Matter Canada’s “Black Emergency Mutual Aid Fund” that is providing one-time microgrants to support Black Canadians during the pandemic. To donate and find out more, head on over to www.blacklivesmatter.ca. 

  • Work to Unpack and Challenge White Supremacy. White Supremacy isn’t just as obvious and overt as white hoods and racist slurs, it’s a lot more insidious, nuanced, systemic and harder to expose for what it is. It’s the systems and hierarchies we all live and are socialized within. Recognize and take ownership of this and work to educate and activate yourself to challenge both internal and external white supremacy.

For resources on unpacking and challenging white supremacy, check out this collection curated by Racial Equity Tools

  • Be an Active Ally. Allyship isn’t a banner you wear, but a practice that is ongoing, evolving and ground in action. Be an active ally. Listen to feedback. Take action.

For allies, shut down anti-Black racism that is happening rather than leaving the onus to the person who’s experiencing racism. It’s incredibly isolating to experience racism and oppression, especially in environments which are dominated by White folks. Support Black folks who come forward and are fighting anti-Black racism they are experiencing. Foster environments that tackle anti-Black racism directly.

Don’t be an enabler through your own complacency. Be an active ally  - click here for tips on Bystander Intervention.