Camosun College Sociology Instructor Shares Stories for Black History Month

"Until the lions have their own historians, the hunter will always be the hero,” is an African proverb that highlights the potential of Black History Month for Camosun College sociology instructor Dr. Francis Adu-Febiri.

Adu-Febiri believes that by sharing our own histories we can all better understand the impact of letting these voices be heard.

“Before things like Black History Month, the history of Africa was told by academics and the media, not from within our own communities,” says Adu-Febiri. “Africans are more than one story, we are human beings that have things to be proud of, major contributions to Canadian nation building to be proud of.”

Although national recognition of Black History Month arrived only in 1995, there have been some incremental shifts to bring the histories of Black Canadians to the forefront. However, the roles of Black pioneers in Victoria and throughout Vancouver Island history, is still widely unknown or goes uncelebrated.

“If we don’t tell these stories to the people that live there, we’re erasing our history and erasing our presence. In order to progress we need to be visible, and to do that we need to tell our own stories,” he adds.

Some examples he points to include the Alexander family who were among the first Black pioneers in B.C., arriving in 1858 and going on to build the first school in South Saanich as well as the Shady Creek church. Sir James Douglas, the first governor of the province was bi-racial, and helped resettle African Americans in Canada. Salt Spring Island was home to many Black homesteaders, who came to the island and created one of the provinces most important Black communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

As an instructor and academic, Adu-Febiri sees a strong potential impact in projects like updating provincial curriculum and investing in a local African Heritage Cultural Centre to bring these stories to the forefront for everyone to learn from.

From taking students on field-schools in Uganda to working with local groups and municipalities to mediate hands-on courses on diversity in the workplace, Adu-Febiri knows that applied learning is the most effective way for students to connect theory with the real-life issues and experiences of their peers.

Working with the social sciences department of Camosun’s School of Arts and Science, Adu-Febiri gives students the confidence to construct positive identities for themselves, and the tools to create anti-racist strategies that strengthen marginalized voices.

Original article from Camosun College