“It was exciting to see people come out in great numbers. From the look at the trends, its get better every year Fort McMurray is really a unique place to be at this time of the year. The diverse peoples here supporting and celebrating the cultures of the Afro-Canadian communities speaks volumes to Canadian multiculturalism,” Regina Oppon, Executive Director of Rehoboth Alliance shares her thoughts with Diversity Magazine on the 5th Annual Black History Month Celebration in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
On February 22, 2019, Alberta’s diversity capital, Fort McMurray, or better still, the entire Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, hosted the largest Black History Month celebrations in Alberta. The event drew hundreds of people from the community members; business, and political sector. A trailblazer; Honorable Dr. Jean Augustine, graced the event as the first woman of African descent to be elected to the Canadian Parliament, and the one who got the Canadian Parliament to legislate February as Black History Month.
The theme for the event was, “Honouring the Past, Investing in the Next Generation”. The presence of the next generation was showcased by the exciting dance performance by Mezzy, Vize Braimoh, Emmanuel and Jordan. The inspiring spoken word performance by Kuda Simbi was also exhilarating.
This theme certainly connected with the heavy involvement of young people such as the exciting dance performance put on by Mezzy and Vize Braimoh of the Group Future Generation Dancers, the inspiring spoken word performance by Kuda Simbi, award of prizes to students from the Lincoln Alexander School Contest, and the energetic entertaining dance performance of Emmanuel and Jordan.
Also in attendance were elected representatives: David Yurdiga, MP Fort McMurray and Cold Lake; the two MLA’s Tony Yao, MLA fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo, and Laila Goodridge, MLA Fort McMurray- Conklin; and the City Mayor, Don Scott who all presented plaques to the organizer of the event the Rehoboth Alliance and the Afro –Canadian Community of Fort McMurray. The plaques were received by the Executive Director of Rehoboth Alliance, Regina Oppon.
Like the theme of the celebration, “Honouring the Past and Investing in the next generation”, the Honorable Jean Augustine shared her own journey and used it to inspire the audience with a strong message for the young people of African descent. The Honorable Dr. Jean Augustine unforgettably proposed the motion of Black History Month to the Canadian House of Commons in December 1995. It passed unanimously and today, Black History Month is celebrated across Canada.
“We are each other neighbor. If we respect, include, and appreciate everyone,” Hon. Jean Augustine said, and went on, to elaborate that “to whom much is given, much is expected”. Some words of wisdom from Honorable Augustine, if we cross the river together, the Alligator wouldn’t bother us. The world makes way for the person who knows where he or she is going. Accept nothing less of yourself than your best. A lot of our young people give up easily. Don’t go with the flow. Speak up…”
Mr. Gilbert Weeks, President of YANAGIL Management Ltd. Had this to share with Diversity Magazine, “we support the Black History Event on a yearly basis. I am very rooted in the black community. From my experience of the black struggle in Toronto I thought it will be appropriate to support this event”.
David Yurdiga, MP Fort McMurray-Cold Lake; “we are a multicultural community. We are one of the strongest communities in Canada. I’m very proud to be on the Heritage Committee. A big shout out to everyone out here who came out tonight to support this event”.
Laila Goodridge, MLA Fort McMurray-Conklin “it is such an absolute honour and pleasure to be here tonight at the fifth anniversary celebrating Black History Month here in Fort McMurray to celebrate the fantastic Black History we have here in Canada and across North America and the world”.
Councillor Mike Allen, of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, “this is one of my community events which to me helps to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures that we have not just across Canada, and right here in Wood Buffalo and the diversity they all share and the richness of their history that makes us strong”.
Awa Mbacke, TD Canada Trust Manager in Yellowknife, “I believe this type of celebration is important as TD is committed to support a strong and diverse community, as well as, foster an inclusive culture for its employees”.
Shawnnette Frasier, Logistic Vice President with TD Bank, “I am just so honoured to be here today at the 5th annual Black History Month. At TD we have a mandate not only to our black employees but also to take part in the events that matter within our community and make sure that we are sponsoring and supporting this gives us an opportunity to do that”.
Tany Yao, MLA Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, “I am wishing everyone a happy Black History Month. We all need to embrace our roots and share with everyone”.
Tochi Okoro, 1st place Black History Essay Contest Winner with a goal to inspire others with his essay.
Vincella Thompson, Dean for University College at Keyano College, “for me diversity is very important. It says that everyone belongs, everyone has a place in our society, it says that everyone can contribute in a meaningful way”.
Jihan Jones, Teacher with Public School Board in Fort McMurray, “when I think about what Black History means to me, I really focus on the understandings of the past and recognizing that our history was interrupted by slavery it’s about recognizing who I am and sharing that with my children, my community and the world around me”.