O’Siyo ᎣᏏᏲ “o-si-yo,” (Cherokee: I see you) Hello and Bonjour!
Happy Black History Month Union Siblings,
I’m often asked, what does Black History mean to me?
I’m happy to see Black Canadian historic figures celebrated, in whom I see myself, and our contributions to Canada brought to the forefront. Yet I worry that this is the only time the next generation sees themselves highlighted and that one month isn’t enough for Canadians to learn of our roles within our country.
I’ve always made it a point to uplift our impacts on Canada year-round.
This year’s theme for Black History in Canada is Black Excellence. There is much of that in our Ancestors to celebrate as Canadians. However, too many are individuals that are not much older than I am. There are stories of the over two hundred years of Slavery in Canada and nearly one hundred and seventy years of segregation told by those such as Viola Desmond. There is also the closing of last segregated school for Black children in 1983. The enslavement and segregation of Black Canadians back-to-back means Canada has been robbed of too much Black ingenuity, art, originality, creativity and so much more. This has exacted a heavy price on Black Canadians but they have still found ways to contribute to Canada. We can do better and we can be better. My members have shown us all how.
I join an elite group of Black Women such as:
1825 – Rose Fortune Considered by many Canada’s 1st Female Police officer
1853- Mary Ann Shadd Cary First Female Publisher in Canada and a Black Women
1983 – Shelly Peters Carey 1st Black Woman RCMP Officer
1987 – Andrea Lawrence 1st Black Woman Regular Member of the RCMP
1996 – Jean Augustine Canada’s 1st Black woman Elected to the House of Commons
2005- Michaelle Jean Canada’s 1st Black Head of State as General
2007 – Lori Seale-Irving 1st Black Woman Commissioned Officer of the RCMP
2022 – Caroline Xavier First Black Woman Deputy Minister
I also sit among the ranks of union Black excellence firsts such as the likes of the Sleeping Car Porters, Cal Best, Muriel Jean Collins, Livingstone Holder, Mervis White, Craig Reynolds and Larry Rousseau. I will do my utmost to live up to the trust members have put in me and to make my communities proud.
I hope you will take some time this month to think about and share a few of the stories of Black Excellence historically within Canada but especially those making a contribution within your place of work, community and beyond.
Thank you, Merci, ᏙᎾᏓᎪᎲᎢ “di-da-yo-li-hv-dv-ga-le-ni-s-gv,” which means “Until we meet again”
Union of National Employees