As Black History Month starts, 'discover who you live with'

As people gather in Moncton for the beginning of Black History Month, many say it's more than just a month. It's about learning to appreciate each other's cultures.

Immigrants urge fellow Moncton residents to learn to appreciate each other's cultures

Alfred Bessawa came to Moncton five years ago to study and now runs a business inspired by his African heritage. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

Five years ago, Alfred Bessawa left Cameroon and settled in Moncton.

He studied transportation and logistics at the community college in Dieppe.

But his love for his African culture led him to start his own business.

Bessawa says it started when his mother, who sews, sent him some clothing to sell. It soon attracted attention.

"'Oh, wow, that's really nice. Where did you get them?' And I said 'Oh, my Mom made them,' and they were like 'Oh nice! Could you get more of them?'" Bessawa said.

That's how Design From Africa started. Bessawa said the community support for the business has been wonderful.

He was on hand as the Congolese Association of Congo Kinshasa of New Brunswick kicked off the beginning of Black History Month in Greater Moncton.

Bessawa models a sweatshirt from his business Design From Africa. (Facebook )

To Bessawa, it's more than just a month. It's about people embracing each other and learning to live together, he said.

"You have to discover who you live with," he said. "You have to share the cultures of people around you and learn about them as well. It's all about learning about each other. And our purpose with our business is cultural diversity."

Ngindu Kalala, who is originally from Congo, agreed.

Kalala arrived in the city 20 years ago to attend the University of Moncton and is now food service manager at the YMCA of Greater Moncton, where the kick-off took place.

He said Black History Month is important to him because he wants his three children to know about his culture.

Ngindu Kalala says it's important people learn about all cultures, so they can relate to one another. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News )

"On an everyday basis we mostly integrate," Kalala said. "You know you can spend a lot of time looking forward and forgetting where you're from and then get lost along the way. I want people to know I have a history and I have something to share — I have something to take and I have something to give."

Kalala said it's important to learn about all cultures.

"I think by knowing people more you kind of relate," he said. "There's a lot more things to relate than just colour. So most people should know about black history, Acadian history everything, everybody."

Paryse Suddith is organizing "Afro Cultures from Here." a full day of activities to celebrate the cultures of people of African decent who chose Moncton as their home.

For Black History Month in Moncton, Paryse Suddith is organizing an event celebrating African music, dance, food and storytelling. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News )

She is the president of Old River Productions and Legal Services, a non-profit group that works to protect and promote cultures of all backgrounds.

"Because of globalization, people are moving around," she said. "We are welcoming now in Canada and in the Maritimes peoples from all parts of the world, from Africa, who come to study at the University of Moncton, Crandall University, at the colleges, French and English colleges.

"Most of them study and enjoy when they're here and some of them like it so much that they decide to stay and they become part of the fabric of the Greater Moncton society. And we need to learn from each other and learn to appreciate each other's cultures so that we grow as communities."

Suddith hopes people from all cultures will come to the Moncton Lions Club on Saturday, where she's organized an event offering music, dance, food and storytelling.

A number of events will be held throughout the month until Feb. 27.