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'Justice is occupying your cultural space': Beaumont celebrates Black History Month

It was a historic milestone as the Black Impact Alliance Foundation of Beaumont celebrated Black History Month for the first time over the weekend. For community members, it was a triumphant show of culture, history and solidarity. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)
It was a historic milestone as the Black Impact Alliance Foundation of Beaumont celebrated Black History Month for the first time over the weekend. For community members, it was a triumphant show of culture, history and solidarity. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)

It was a historic milestone as the Black Impact Alliance Foundation of Beaumont celebrated Black History Month for the first time.

For community members, the proclamation celebration was a triumphant show of culture, history and solidarity at the Le Rendez-Vous senior citizen centre on Saturday in Beaumont, Alta.

There were featured performances by youth in the community, including a vocal rendition of Lift Every Voice, composed by U.S. writer and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson, and a violin performance of Bob Marley and The Wailers' One Love.

The event featured multiple acknowledgements of the land and of the Black settlers in Alberta who paved the way for Beaumont's current community.

A community members plays a violin performance of Bob Marley and The Wailers' One Love for the Black Impact Alliance Foundation of Beaumont's inaugural Black History Month event.
A community members plays a violin performance of Bob Marley and The Wailers' One Love for the Black Impact Alliance Foundation of Beaumont's inaugural Black History Month event.

A violin performance of Bob Marley and The Wailers' One Love by Megan Taja was one of the highlights of the Black Impact Alliance Foundation of Beaumont's inaugural Black History Month event. (Jamie McCannel/CBC)

Flora Trebi-Ollennu, founder and chair of the foundation, said there is power in establishing a space in Beaumont to celebrate the Black community's achievements.

"Justice is occupying your cultural space in the public arena," Trebi-Ollennu said in an interview with CBC.

"If you do not occupy that public space in the arena, for your own people [and] for your own history, somebody else will, and you will not be doing justice to yourself and giving justice to the other people within your community."

John Adjaye has lived in Beaumont for 25 years and said he has seen a huge boom in the city's population.

"I would say that it's more of growing pains," he said, regarding some of the challenges in helping newcomers adjust to life in Beaumont.

"We need to get our own people involved and active, and that's a process that will take a while."

Adjaye said it was also important for community members who are not Black to work toward dismantling racial stereotypes by supporting the work of groups like the foundation.

The first Black History Month exhibition at the Bibliothèque de Beaumont Library is also being hosted by the foundation to grow awareness of the many ways Black Canadians have contributed to Canadian society.

Flora Trebi-Ollennu, founder and chair of the foundation, said there is power in being able to establish a space to celebrate the Black community's achievements in Beaumont. 
Flora Trebi-Ollennu, founder and chair of the foundation, said there is power in being able to establish a space to celebrate the Black community's achievements in Beaumont.

Flora Trebi-Ollennu, founder and chair of the foundation, said there is power in being able to establish a space to celebrate the Black community's achievements in Beaumont.  (Jamie McCannel/CBC)

For 17-year-old Noa Aliu, celebrating and spreading awareness of Black history and culture is important as someone part of a younger generation.

"I just think that being a part of an organization like this shows that narratives can change people's lives and shift their perspectives," said the social manager for the foundation.

"Helping each other and teaching each other can really help someone be more open to more cultures and to everyone ... because everyone is unique, and I think that's really beautiful."

Trebi-Ollennu said she hopes events held by the foundation can help Black newcomers feel more welcome in Beaumont.

"The best way to find your feet is to own your history within the community that you are living."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)