Black History Month ‘should celebrate the present’

It may be time to update the focus of Black History Month, says Kyla Williams.

Black History Month, celebrated each February, has traditionally had a strong emphasis on remembering and honouring the stories and people who struggled through slavery, segregation and the fight for civil rights.

Williams, though, says the more recent past shouldn’t be ignored.

We shouldn’t forget about our past.

—Amy Jones

“Personally, while I think it’s important to remember the past, I just don’t think we should spend every February every year talking about the same things that happened such a long time ago,” the 38-year-old African-Canadian Toronto resident said. “I think we should also be looking at the accomplishments black people have made recently and should celebrate the present as well.”

Toronto-resident Amy Jones, 66, disagreed.

“We shouldn’t forget about our past,” she said. “We have the current system today because our ancestors fought to change the old one and we should learn about that.”

Kuumba, an event marking Black History Month at Harbourfront Centre from Feb. 3 to 5, bridges that divide, said Barbara de la Fuente, one of the event’s lead programmers.

Barbara de la Fuente (Barbara de la Fuente)

“It is always hard to please everyone,” she said. “We wanted to show different perspectives and I think the event does that.”

Kuumba, de la Fuente said, features established and emerging artists while continuing to tell the stories of the past.

“Kuumba is designed to present African heritage, but it is catered towards people of every ethnic background,” she said. “We are presenting events and activities — such as games, music and arts workshops — for all ages and ethnicities.”