Seventeen people from The Nathaniel Dett Chorale joined in song at Humber College’s North campus to celebrate Afrocentric culture.
They sang in Haitian Creole about slavery and resilience.
“My grandmother was five when slavery ended,” said Brainerd Blyden-Taylor who started the choir to celebrate spirituality in the Black community.
“I wanted to start the event today with ‘Mama Africa,’ because it included the drums and I know Humber will end the month’s celebration with the drums,” said Blyden-Taylor.
He directed the choir, which performed at Humber’s Black History Month’s (BHM) opening ceremony.
Jude Antonio, a student at Humber, said she enjoyed listening to The Nathaniel Dett Chorale.
Antonio said she knew February was black history month before attending the opening ceremony.
“The lyrics are a bit religious but it touched on freedom, perseverance, and people’s resilience,” she said.
Black History Month, however, does have its detractors.
“It’s now a month to generate interest in ‘State Canada,’ and I think there are some serious problems associated with Black History Month,” said Dr. Arnold Itwaru, a Caribbean Studies professor at the University of Toronto St. George.
Itwaru said while Black History Month is an important event, it doesn’t account that there are numerous communities from the African diaspora and each is unique.
“Capitalism exploits everyone, and now we have Black History Month situated inside
Canada’s capitalist society,” Itwaru said.
Itwaru said Jean Augustine, a former Grenadian politician and one-time parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and others felt they were doing something good for the black community when they campaigned for Canada to recognize Black History Month.
“February is the shortest month of the year, you don’t need this month to celebrate or reflect on your reality,” he said.
Itwaru said descendants of the African Diaspora should celebrate their culture every day of their lives, not only wait for February.
“Well some people will argue that Black History Month is a good thing and should happen once a month, but that’s what ‘State Canada’ wants people to think,” Itwaru said.
Humber’s opening ceremony attracted many prominent figures from the college’s administration.
Jessica Bowen, the Human Rights, Equity & Diversity Advisor at Humber, helped plan events for BHM.
She said Black History Month at Humber is not exclusively for blacks, it’s for everyone who wants to look back and celebrate Afrocentric cultural identity.
The opening ceremony was supposed to occur on Feb.2, but was delayed due to the weather.
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale performed a few spiritual songs and featured two solo performances.
“Black History is not just a month, it’s something we celebrate every day of our lives,” Blyden-Taylor said.