From left to right: Taseera Lwanga, Donneil McNab and Ruth Nakalyowa. Royal Roads University’s Afro-Heritage Association will host two Black History Month events at the university this month. (Courtesy of John-Evan Snow)

Royal Roads honours Black History Month by celebrating black excellence

National theme is ‘Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past’

Every February, Canadians participate in Black History Month festivities to honour black Canadians from the past and in the present. This year’s national theme for Black History Month is “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward, guided by the past” and Royal Roads University will be holding its own events inspired by the theme.

“It’s an opportunity for us to raise more awareness and bring community members together to learn, listen and engage,” said Ruth Nakalyowa, co-founder and president of the Royal Roads University Afro-Heritage Association.

The association was created last year to connect students of Afro-heritage and connect with students who are interested in learning more about diverse cultures.

READ ALSO: Black Canadians Forum hosted in Victoria for Black History Month

The first event on Feb. 5 is called “Black Speaks: Conversations on hair, interracial dating, the ‘N’ word and cultural appropriation.” It is a student-focused round table discussion about popular topics where the audience can hear different opinions and even chime in with their own thoughts and questions using a special website. The audience’s comments will be displayed on a screen while the discussion goes on.

Nakalyowa said it will be a laid-back event that will give audience members a chance to hear different perspectives amongst black students.

“These are things we are saying affect us but just because we are all black doesn’t mean we have the same opinions and experiences,” Nakalyowa said. “This session is not to reform people, it’s just about knowing that black people have different opinions.”

On Feb. 19, a panel discussion titled “Celebrating Black Excellence” takes place at Royal Roads University’s Grant Quarterdeck. It will feature successful individuals of Afro-heritage from Africa, Canada and the Caribbean who are based in Victoria. Not only will they share their achievements, they will share their journey to success and talk about any hurdles encountered along the way.

“We want to highlight people in the community who are exceeding expectations, breaking down barriers and sitting at tables that perhaps may not have been the norm 10 years ago,” Nakalyowa said.

READ ALSO: EDITORIAL: Black History Month offers an opportunity to learn

The panelists include Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, principal of Blue Mountain Solutions Theresa Ito, Pearson College’s community events and partnerships manager Angela Gatari and Binkadi Community Services executive director Me-Kon Hayes.

Nakalyowa, who is originally from Uganda and has lived in other parts of the world as well, said she is seeing that more people are becoming open to learning more about black culture and society. Being able to host events such as these means a lot to her, she said.

“Victoria is becoming more diverse as we speak with more newcomers, immigrants and refugees,” Nakalyowa said. “We don’t want to be othering. We want to open up the floor so people can engage with us and learn about who we are. We’re building bridges.”

The Black Speaks: Conversations on hair, interracial dating, the “N” word and cultural appropriation round is Feb. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Royal Roads University Centre for Dialogue.

The Celebrating Black Excellence Panel Discussion takes place on Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Royal Roads University Grant Quarterdeck.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


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