Celebrating Black History Month
Join us in learning about Black history and celebrating Black contributions
February is Black History Month — a time where we celebrate the many achievements that Black Canadians have contributed to Canada's history and culture.
Alberta has a rich history of African culture. In fact, the fastest growing Black population in Canada is on the Canadian Prairies, where it has quadrupled in the last 20 years.
Although we are still in a pandemic, there are still many ways for us to learn about the contributions of Black Canadians digitally and safely in-person. Look below for a list of local and national resources.
Virtual events to attend
- The Calgary Public Library and Edmonton Public Library are presenting an evening with author Lawrence Hill | Online on Feb. 2, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
- The Calgary Public Library is hosting a panel discussion of noteworthy Calgarians including Cheryl Foggo, author, documentary film director, and historian, Courtney Walcott, Ward 8 City Councillor, and Susannah Alleyne, President of CABL and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Counsel. Moderated by CBC Alberta's Tahirih Foroozan | Online on Feb. 3, 7 to 8:30 p.m
- The University of Calgary is holding an evening with 2019 Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo | Online on Feb. 3, 7:30 to 9 p.m.
- The Calgary Public Library is hosting a virtual screening of documentary John Ware Reclaimed | Online on Feb. 10, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
- The University of Calgary is hosting readings and conversations by African Canadian writers | Online on Feb. 11, 10 a.m.
- The Calgary Public Library is hosting an in-depth discussion on the creation and impact of the film We Are the Roots: Black Settlers and their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies | Online on Feb. 15, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
- The University of Calgary is hosting a discussion about understanding anti-Black racism and Black health and wellness | Online on Feb. 17, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
- The Calgary Folk Music Festival's Block Heater series and Afros in tha City are putting on a special Black History Month panel discussion | YouTube on Feb. 17, 7 to 9 p.m.
- The University of Calgary is hosting A Refusal to Hate: Writing and Black Wellness | Online on Feb. 24, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
- CBC Calgary, CBC Gem and the Calgary Public Library are screening the first episode of The Porter followed by a Q&A with creator and originator, Arnold Pinnock, and directors Charles Officer and R.T. Thorne. Hosted by Tarik Robinson from CBC Radio One's Key of A. | Online on Feb. 24, 7:30 to 9 p.m.
- Woezo Africa Music & Dance Theatre Inc. presents a digital viewing of UNGANISHA: Explore. Connect. Dance., a dance theatre production bringing together popular dance genres such as tap, jazz, hip-hop, samba, Capoeira, step, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, and salsa | Online on Feb. 26, 6 p.m.
- Ethnik Festivals Association is putting on Ethnik Festival of Arts and Culture, a display of creative genius from artists in Calgary and Edmonton | Online on Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m.
- The University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business is hosting Conversations with Black Leaders in Business | Feb. 28, 12 to 1:30 p.m.
- The University of Calgary is hosting Black Excellence in the Time of EDI: Celebration or Tokenism | Online on March 3, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Films and TV series to watch
Movies from Black Filmmakers:
The Calgary Underground Film Festival has put together a list of 10 films from Black filmmakers whose work should be celebrated during Black History Month. They have listed some of their favourite films from the past two years from Black creatives around the world, and where, if possible, you can stream these films online.
Summer Of Soul (...or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021) | Directed by Questlove | Documentary / Music | United States
A look at the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity.
*Available on Disney+
Subjects of Desire (2021) | Directed by Jennifer Holness | Documentary | Canada
A culturally significant, thought-provoking documentary that ultimately deconstructs what we understand about race and the power behind the beauty.
The Guilty (2021) | Directed by Antoine Fuqua | Crime / Thriller | United States
A demoted police officer assigned to a call dispatch desk is conflicted when he receives an emergency phone call from a kidnapped woman.
*Available on Netflix
Learn To Swim (2021) | Directed by Thyrone Tommy | Music / Drama | Canada
Two contemporary jazz musicians develop a stormy and tragic romance.
His House (2020) | Directed by Remi Weekes | Horror / Thriller | United States
As a young couple from war-torn South Sudan seeks asylum and a fresh start in England, they're tormented by a sinister force living in their new home.
*Available on Netflix
One of Ours (2021) | Directed by Yasmine Mathurin | Documentary | Canada
After a Haitian-born youth is racially profiled at an Indigenous basketball tournament, he wrestles with his shaken sense of belonging in his Indigenous adoptive family while attempting to heal from his past.
Crazy World (2014 / 2020 CUFF Selection) | Directed by Nabwana I.G.G. | Action | Uganda
The latest Wakaliwood release, Crazy World is a violent action-packed Ugandan film about a gang of child-snatching mobsters called the Tiger Mafia.
Residue (2020) | Directed by Merawi Gerima | Drama | United States
A young filmmaker returns home after many years away, to write a script about his childhood, only to find his neighborhood unrecognizable and his childhood friends being scattered to the wind.
*Available on Netflix
Candyman (2021) Directed by Nia DaCosta | Horror / Thriller | United States
A sequel to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.
*Available on Apple TV and Crave
Zola (2020) Directed by Janicza Bravo | Comedy / Crime / Drama | United States
A stripper named Zola embarks on a wild road trip to Florida.
*Available on Apple TV and Netflix
Educational videos from the Calgary Public Library:
- The Story of Violet King
- The Story of Oliver Bowen
- The Story of Virnetta Anderson
- The Story of Charles Daniel
- The Story of John and Mildred Ware
Educational video on CBC Calgary:
CBC Calgary is highlighting the legacies of three black Calgarians who broke barriers, changed the city's history and influenced its present. Learn how Virnetta Anderson, Oliver Bowen and Violet King changed their city here.
Movies and TV series on CBC Gem:
- VOICE OF FREEDOM | Documentary | Feb. 1
On Easter Sunday, 1939, contralto Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Inscribed on the walls of the monument behind her were the words "all men are created equal." Barred from performing in Constitution Hall because of her race, Anderson would sing for the American people in the open air. VOICE OF FREEDOM interweaves Anderson's rich life story with this landmark moment in history, exploring fundamental questions about talent, race, fame, democracy, and the American soul.
- THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG | Documentary | Feb. 1
An intimate four-hour series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Finding Your Roots), THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG explores the 400-year-old story of the black church in America, the changing nature of worship spaces, and the men and women who shepherded them from the pulpit, the choir loft, and church pews.
- THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION | Documentary | Feb. 1
In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for Black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.
- BLACK BOYS | Documentary | Feb. 1
*Exclusive Canadian Premiere
BLACK BOYS illuminates the full humanity of Black men and boys in America. An intimate, inter-generational exploration, BLACK BOYS strives for insight to Black identity and opportunity at the nexus of sports, education, and criminal justice. Speaking with an array of figures — ranging from educators, athletes, journalists, activists, parents, and youth — the documentary explores the body, mind, voice, and heart of Black boys and the double edged sword of having to build up their own self worth while knowing the world is not built for them.
- MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE | Documentary | Feb. 1
This unprecedented film weaves Maya Angelou's (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos, which paint hidden moments of her exuberant life during some of America's most defining moments. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana to her poetry reading for President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the film takes us on an incredible journey through the life of a true American icon.
- I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO | Documentary | Feb. 1
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO envisions the book James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time) never finished, a radical narration about race in America, using the writer's original words, as read by actor Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction). Alongside a flood of rich archival material, the film draws upon Baldwin's notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the racial narrative in America.
- THE PORTER | Drama | Feb. 21
*Exclusive Canadian Premiere
Set in the early 1920s and inspired by real events, THE PORTER follows train porters Junior Massey and Zeke Garrett, Junior's wife Marlene, and upstart performer Lucy, as a tragedy in the community sets them on starkly different paths to a better life. While Junior takes advantage of a broken system to pursue money and power in gambling and bootlegging, Zeke fights the railway to change the system from within by unionizing the Black porters. Marlene questions whether her work as a Black Cross nurse is truly serving her community, while Lucy takes her success into her own hands – whatever the cost. As each pursues their goals, their once unbreakable bonds are stretched to their limits. Will they need to betray each other and their community to make their dreams reality?
- ALL THE STREETS ARE SILENT: THE CONVERGENCE OF HIP HOP & SKATEBOARDING | Documentary | Feb. 21
The culture-shifting collision of hip hop and skateboarding is thoroughly and passionately unpacked in this dynamic new documentary from Montreal-born director Jeremy Elkin (Call Me Caitlyn), a seasoned skate-video maker. Narrated by Eli Morgan Gesner (Condemned), co-founder of the iconic NYC skateboarding company Zoo York, ALL THE STREETS ARE SILENT zeroes in on a pivotal chapter in New York history, 1987 to 1997, when Manhattan's cauldron of youth-led subcultures married hip hop with skateboarding and gave birth to a potent (and profitable) "street culture" movement that infiltrated every urban corner of the globe.
- CARGO | Drama | Feb. 25
*Exclusive Canadian Premiere
Swept up into the global human trafficking epidemic, a mother must fight to find her family's freedom. CARGO tells the story of the international refugee crisis, spanning multiple perspectives and geographical borders, and the dark world of those who profit from it.
Music to listen to
Recommended by Key of A's Tarik Robinson:
"This playlist features just some of the incredible music created by Black Albertans, incorporating R&B, soul, jazz, hip hop, afrobeat, reggae and country," says Tarik Robinson. "The songs were carefully selected to highlight different aspects of the black experience, including themes of joy, struggle, perseverance and hope."
Listen to the curated playlist here:
From the Calgary Public Library:
Listen to some of the most influential and important songs and singers in popular Black music history here.
On CBC Listen:
The Key of A is an all-Alberta music show hosted by Tarik Robinson. Join Robinson on Saturdays from 5 to 6 p.m. throughout February to hear music from Black musicians and artists and celebrate Black artists in Alberta.
The Block is music of Black origin encompassing a fluid mosaic of styles. The Block is about culture and community. Repping the elements of hip hop from its roots to its far reaching influence. Listen weekdays from 7 to 9 p.m..
Frequencies is a weekly one-hour show hosted by Errol Nazareth. Audiences will be tuning in to music from around the world and here in Canada with stories that revolve around the experiences of Canadians of colour and immigrants who are maintaining and adapting their culture. In other words, finding their new frequencies. Listen Tuesdays 6 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 4 to 5 p.m..
Follow host Odario Williams as he fills your nights with music. Each weeknight Afterdark's musical journey leads off with popular contemporary hits. As the night unfolds you'll discover new sounds ranging from art-pop to avant-garde. Listen weekdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m..
Books to read
- Non-fiction books for adults
- Books for teens
- Books for school-aged kids
- Books for children
- Books for babies and toddlers
"As we celebrate all the new stories on shelves, this Black History Month, we wanted to remind families about the beautiful, groundbreaking stories of Ezra Jack Keats," says Steacy Pinney, CEO at Calgary Reads. "Keats was one of the first authors to feature black characters in his children's books, making him also one of the most controversial children's writers of his time."
First-person poems to read:
Mount Royal University is presenting a collection of the voices of Black writers in our community in recognition of how words have the power to both build and destroy identities.
From CBC Books:
In the classroom
If you're a teacher or educator looking for classroom content for Black History Month, CBC's educational portal Curio.ca has released a new Black on the Prairies teacher's guide. For the month of February, the teacher's guide is available for free.
What does it mean to be Black in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba? It is impossible to limit more than 200 years of recorded Black presence on the Prairies to a single definition. Black on the Prairies began as a multiplatform project led by CBC senior reporter Omayra Issa and CBC radio host Ify Chiwetelu. Through audio, video and online formats, Black on the Prairies explores the history and present lives of Black people on the Prairies through their triumphs and challenges, and places their contributions at the very centre of the Prairie narrative as part of the Canadian story.
Check out CBC's Being Black in Canada. It focuses on the diverse stories and experiences of Black Canadians and a breadth of content including news, documentaries, arts and other programming.
Have an event or resource to add? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.