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Black History Month

February 22, 2021

Over the last year, I’ve been presented with many great opportunities to reflect. As a member of committees in my community, I have seen how this global pandemic disproportionately affects Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour.

This reality underscores the fact that our society is not where it needs to be.

When I look back at George Floyd’s death last May, and the agitations and unrest that followed, I remember how sick and unmotivated I felt in those days. It brings to mind that the  personal is indeed also political. Racism is costly to everyone – the earlier we realize this and educate those after us, the better society will be for us all.

It took about eight minutes and 46 seconds for Floyd to die. This sad event led to the  intensifying and increased support for the Black Lives Matter movement and civil unrest across North America.

It took several months into the  COVID-19 pandemic for the World to realize people of colour are more greatly impacted by the virus and dying at alarmingly higher rates. Additionally, members of Black communities are also front-line, essential, and personal support workers (PSW), who are sacrificing their own health for others even when they face a great risk.

So, as we celebrate Black History Month this year, many things  feel differently, both at family and societal levels. Let this Black History Month be a time to not only celebrate but also to reflect on how racism impacts everyone. It should be the moment you commit to doing more to foster equality. Let it be a time for you to prioritize combating anti-Black racism and being a vital part in Black people’s liberation struggle.

I believe this a great opportunity to truthfully examine how we  treat Black, Indigenous and people of colour and how we can better support those hit hardest by the pandemic. As we continue to ask ourselves questions about what truly happened on that fateful day last spring when Mr. Floyd was killed, we should really be asking ourselves;

What changes have occurred since then?

What did we learn from that sad event and many other similar ones?  

What are we doing differently now?

Perhaps, take time to reflect upon how you may benefit from a system that oppresses, discriminates and kills many like Floyd. Personally, I will be reflecting on my privileges and asking these questions this Black History Month and into the months afterward.

Irene Paul

A Social Justice and change advocate. Currently an Employment Counsellor with the Coalition for persons with disabilities. With over 13 years of professional experience in social services, including 4 years in Newcomer Settlement. Irene is exceptional in facilitating the success of people in job/career transitions and businesses needing staffing solutions.