Black history celebration to focus on women’s firsts

Dennis Hanagan – 

A celebration of black history will take place Feb. 19 at Harbourfront Community Centre (HCC) in the Bathurst Quay neighbourhood as part of February Black History month.

“This year we’re going to be focusing on revolutionary women in black history that have contributed really extraordinary things,” says Natasha Francis, HCC’s youth programs supervisor.

Among the six black Amercian women featured at this year’s event will be former astronaut Mae Jemison (born 1956), first black women pilot Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) and inventor Sarah Goode (1850-1909).

“Black women were responsible for … making a really great contribution. As important as Rosa Parks is … this celebration is to highlight other black women who have made some really interesting strives,” says Francis.

Astronaut Mae Jemison.

Astronaut Mae Jemison.

(Parks was an African American civil rights activist who, in 1955 Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a city bus for a white person. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.)

Black Canadian women will also be highlighted at the HCC event. “Definitely as we get closer to the date and work on our information boards we’ll choose to include a lot of Afro-Canadian women who have made a difference, particularly in the Toronto area,” Francis says.

Members from HCC’s programs will contribute to the presentation. “We’ll have our family programs, our after-school programs, everybody contributing in a different way,” says Francis.

You might say Francis and her team of helpers have found themselves back in school as they prepare for the celebrations. “It’s definitely great that when we have these kinds of celebrations that we’re able to explore that history and not only share with everybody but also learn ourselves,” she says.

“It’s important especially for the children and the youth to get them involved in researching and working on presentations so that they can also learn this information.”

“Hopefully it’ll make a difference in their lives (to learn) that people who have really struggled and faced some adversity can be an inspiration to them,” says Francis.

There’ll be complimentary Afro-Caribbean foods such as Jamaican beef patties and punch. HCC’s youth cooking program will focus on different recipes. “It’s going to be a really good time. It’s really a community production,” says Francis.

The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.