Alberta officially recognizes Black History Month

Alberta has become the fourth province in Canada to proclaim February as Black History Month. Established by the federal government, Canada has celebrated Black History month since 1996.
Premier Rachel Notley joins Deborah Dobbins of Shiloh Baptist Church, Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda, Martella Montague of the National Black Coalition of Canada, and NDP MLA David Shepherd at a ceremony Tuesday to proclaim Black History Month. (CBC)

Alberta has become the fourth province in Canada to proclaim February as Black History Month.

Established by the federal government in 1996, the month-long celebration recognizes the contributions of people of African and Caribbean descent.

"Our historical presence is well-established but not well-known," said Deborah Dobbins, a third-generation Albertan whose family was among the first wave of black settlers to arrive in Alberta.

"The declaration, as proclaimed by the Alberta government, makes our people finally visible, acknowledged and considered worthy of annual celebration," Dobbins told a gathering at the legislature to mark the occasion.

The director of the Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots in Edmonton, Dobbins said her grandparents and other family members made the trek in the early 1900s from Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas and Missouri.

"Our people cleared the land, built homes, worked to contribute economic stability and continued  growth, and fought alongside others to defend our Canadian home," she said.

The timing of the proclamation was an opportunity to drive home a point of Alberta being a welcoming place for newcomers from all over the world.

Shook us to our Canadian core

"Our diversity is our strength," said Premier Rachel Notley, who acknowledged that events of the past few days are a reminder of the lingering existence of "prejudice and injustice."

"We're reminded of this Sunday night in the starkest possible way with the horrific  attack of a mosque in Quebec. That attack shook us to our Canadian core, and in doing so it also brought us all together."

Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda, who came to Canada in 1988 as a refugee from Nicaragua, said he understood the importance of being recognized and feeling welcome in your new home country.

"Especially these days, when people are feeling a little bit threatened, it's important to come back to our history and really connect to our past and say, 'Yes, there were some difficult moments, but look at what we've accomplished as a people together.' "

The first official event to recognize Black History Month in Alberta will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the legislature rotunda. The public event will feature performances by several musicians and a spoken word artist.