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Greetings to the Lakehead community during Black History Month 2022
Of course, we know that Black people have been in Canada since the 1600s. Don’t we?
We know that is not since time immemorial, like Indigenous peoples, whose territories we occupy, but 400 years is a good long time. And we know that the contributions of Black people in those 400 years are to celebrated along with others who have been on Turtle Island only 400, 300, 200, 50, 10, or 5 years. Don’t we?
We know that Black History Month was declared officially in Canada 26 years ago by the unanimous approval of a motion by The Hon. Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman to serve as a federal Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament. Jean is also a strong, supportive role model for me, Lakehead’s first chancellor who is a woman of colour, and to all who strive in the world of education. She is a former teacher and principal.
Some of my colleagues greatly prefer “Black Futures Month.” This year’s Heritage Canada theme captures the spirit: “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day”
Lakehead community, we need both, the history and the future. For those of us in this community the time is now, to celebrate the contributions of the last 400 years. To be glad that Lakehead Orillia is in Simcoe county, named for Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who passed the Act Against Slavery in 1793, aimed at ending the sale of slaves by Canadians to Americans. The act also liberated slaves entering Upper Canada from the US, but did not free existing adult slaves already in Canada. Not enough, but up to us to finish the job of liberation, of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Greetings to the Lakehead community of 70 International nations and numerous Indigenous Nations this Black History Month. We are all responsible for Black Futures this month and every month, for social justice work and celebration.
Rita Shelton Deverell, CM, EdD
Widely known as one of the co-founders of Canada’s Vision TV, WIDC alumna, former CWWA Board member, actor, author, advocate and filmmaker, Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell was appointed Chancellor of Lakehead University, Ontario, Canada in fall 2021.