February is Black History Month, also known as African Heritage Month. Black History Month is a time to celebrate and highlight the best of Black History and culture, and to honour the ancestors and upcoming leaders of Black communities, their accomplishments and their continued fight for liberation.

It is also a time for all Canadians to reflect and educate ourselves on the history of Black enslavement, discrimination, bigotry and criminalization of people of African descent.

Canadian society has seen progress over the decades, but the realities of differential treatment towards African Canadians continue. Over the past year, the crises of over-policing and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and Indigenous communities have thrown a spotlight on how much remains to be done.

At the global level, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent is educating people on our world history of enslavement, discrimination, bigotry and criminalization. In 2016, this UN body visited Canada and wrote a detailed report on what they learned. They called for a number of actions, including one for the federal government to “issue an apology and consider providing reparations to African Canadians for enslavement and historical injustices.”

At our 2019 National Convention, delegates unanimously adopted a resolution to create our own anti-racism/anti-Black racism strategy for members in the union and workplace. Over the past year, Black, Indigenous and racialized CUPE members across Canada have participated in virtual Anti-Racism Strategy consultations despite the challenges of the pandemic. The goal of this work is to ensure that all Black, Indigenous and racialized members do not face barriers or any acts of racism, discrimination or bigotry.

Our union is committed to fighting racism and hatred in all its forms, and to empower our members to speak out and act against discrimination. We encourage members to celebrate Black History Month and to keep fighting anti-Black racism in their locals, workplaces, schools and communities.

Here are some ways to increase awareness, understand and change:

Learn

  • Download and print copies of CUPE’s newly designed Black History Month posters and bookmarks. You can also order free copies at cupe.ca. This year’s materials feature Jennifer Hodge de Silva, a Montréal-born documentary filmmaker whose ground-breaking work traced the experiences of Black Canadians and gave voice to the many ethnically diverse communities that shape our country.
  • Ask Black members what they need in terms of support.
  • Invite a Black activist or community organizations to speak to your members.
  • Contact Union Education to request CUPE workshops on Challenging Racism, Intro to Human Rights and Anti-Oppression to be delivered to members in your region.
  • Check out CUPE’s landing page on Black History Month to view activities and learning resources.

Act

  • See, listen, believe, respect and value Black voices and lives.
  • Listen to CUPE National Executive Board DVPs speak on Black Lives Matter.
  • Are you a Black CUPE member? If so, the National Rainbow Committee invites you to join them in celebration of Black History Month to express pride in being Black by downloading CUPE’s newly designed “Unapologetically Black” social media frame.
  • Allies, the National Rainbow Committee invites you to show your support by downloading our “I Value Black Lives” social media frame.
  • Take anti-Black racism complaints through the grievance process in its entirety.
  • Create space for Black members to network, communicate and share.
  • Celebrate and promote Black History Month within your local.
  • Lobby your government for the implementation of legislation that addresses anti-Black racism in your region, including employment equity legislation.
  • Support community organizations and movements such as Black Lives Matter and other community organizations that fight against systemic racism and violence.
  • Visit blacklivesmatter.ca and follow #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter.
  • Attend virtual Black History Month events across the county to celebrate, learn and network.
  • Update your bylaws to create an Equity Representative position to be part of your executive.

Bargain

  • Bargain employment equity language into your collective agreement to help ensure that your workplace represents the diversity of your community.
  • Ensure there is a Black equity representative on your bargaining committee.

Learn more at cupe.ca/black-history-month