Nathan Buchanan, Vice President of Communications, MSVUSU
February is African Heritage month, an important time to celebrate the contributions out Black students, and students of African Heritage. Hear from students who work in the Black Students' Support Office as they share why this month is important to them not just in February, but throughout the entire year.
February is recognized as African Heritage Month, a month that aims to recognize, empower, and celebrate African History Month. This year's theme is “Seas of Struggle – African People from Shore to Shore”, which according to Nova Scotia Canada, recognizes the resiliency, strength and determination of people of African Descent from the shores of Africa to the shores of Nova Scotia – with the Atlantic Ocean being the everlasting connection. The theme highlights the role the sea has played in the long-standing history of people of African Descent in the development of Canada and Nova Scotia.
Ajai Peets is a fourth-year Child & Youth Studies student from the beautiful Bermuda. She works in the Black Students Support Office (BSO) on campus as an administrative assistant, but acknowledges that the role expands into supporting all Black students at MSVU. Through her advocacy, she acts as a confidant, a supporter, and somebody that tries to understand their perspective.
“Black History is sacred,” says Peets when addressing why African History Month is significant to her. “We do not know the full story of our ancestors and where we came from. Over time, our history has been covered up, manipulated, re-shifted to match and please colonial history.”
For Peets, Black History is part of her identity and something she is proud of to share and be part of. Kayla Scott, a BSO volunteer, sympathizes with Ajai. “We are all tied to Africa, and for someone who is from Halifax, we do not know our ancestral roots,” explains Scott. “African Heritage Month is a time to celebrate unity and coming together. It’s a time to reflect on our roots and unite and celebrate our collective culture.”
Storytelling is rooted in narratives stemming from Black, Afro-Americans cultures. Virginia Hamilton, the author of The People Could Fly, said that storytelling was the first opportunity for black folks to represent themselves as anything other than property. John Lewis once said, “The movement without storytelling is like birds without wings.”
Black History is about the stories, and experiences, and accomplishes of people of African origin. Chika Godfrey, a Benin Republic native, BSO volunteer, and pursuing a mathematics degree, says “as someone from Africa, I have never celebrated African Heritage Month. I think it is amazing that this is something that Africans can be part of to share our history, tradition, and culture!”
There are many ways to engage with African Heritage Month on campus. Next week, Tuesday February 14th BSO is hosting a Black History Month symposium between 12-2pm. There, students will have a chance to learn about Black and African history at the Mount over its 150 years of its existence. The closing ceremony will be held in the McCain Atrium on February 28th. This commemorative ceremony will bring together culture, food, and music and have people from around the world of Black and African Descent and teach people about where they’re from.
It’s important though, even when Black History Month draws to a close, the celebration should remain year-round.
“Take time out of your day to ask questions [outside of only February], learn more, and explore,” says Peets.
To learn more about the Black Students’ Support Office, upcoming events, to book an appointment, or to volunteer with them, click here! You can also follow them on Instagram at @msvublackstudentssupport.