What's on for Black History Month in Hamilton, Niagara and Brantford

Here is a list of events to mark Black History Month 2023 in Hamilton, Niagara and Brantford.

Black History Month is celebrated every February to honour Black Canadians

Hamilton Black History Council and other Black-led organizations have partnered with the city to launch Black History Month and honour 16 key figures in Hamilton's Black history.
Hamilton Black History Council and other Black-led organizations have partnered with the city to launch Black History Month and honour 16 key figures in Hamilton's Black history. (Hamilton Public Library)

February is Black History Month — a time where the many contributions of Black Canadians to Canada's history and culture are celebrated.

Hamilton and Niagara are home to many Black communities and Black-led organizations, such as the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association of Hamilton, a group that serves all African-Canadians, Caribbean nationals and newcomers in the area.

To celebrate Black History Month this year, the Hamilton Black History Council and other organizations partnered with the city to launch the month of acitivities and honour 16 key figures in Hamilton's Black history

It's the first time the city is partnering with local Black-led organizations on a Black History Month initiative.

A poster in front of a group of people.
Hamilton Black History Council and other Black-led organizations partnered with the City of Hamilton to launch Black History Month and honour 16 key figures in Hamilton's Black history. (Eva Salinas/CBC)

Meanwhile, many other events and initiatives are taking place throughout the month. Here are some to check out.

Film screenings and marketplace at Mohawk

  • Multiple dates: Social Inc. will be hosting Black History Month film screenings throughout the month of February. One of the film's being screened is Ruby Bridges. According to the organizers, "This film presents the real-life tale of young Ruby Bridges [Chaz Monet], one of the first African-American children to attend an integrated school in the Deep South. At only age six, Ruby is selected to attend an all-white school in New Orleans, causing an uproar in the racially divided region. Among the people who try to help Ruby adjust to the tense situation are teacher Barbara Henry [Penelope Ann Miller] and Dr. Robert Coles [Kevin Pollak], a child psychiatrist." The screening will be held on Feb. 6 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 15: Local Black-owned business owners will be showcasing their products and services and help support the entrepreneurial community from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at Mohawk College, Fennell Campus, C-Wing Hallway.

Mohawk College's full schedule of Black History Month activities is available here.

Art exhibit and talks at Hamilton Public Library

Hamilton Public Library has gathered a collection of books, music, educational activities, author events and more, to celebrate Black History Month.

Some events planned by HPL include:

  • Feb. 16: Art exhibit reception — here's an opportunity to meet artist stylo starr at a reception in celebration of their work. stylo starr, IN THE STARRS, begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 17: Two concerts scheduled. The first, a celebration of the legacy of the Hamilton-born blues master, Jackie Washington Day, begins at 12 p.m. and will feature Garnetta Cromwell & Band: Guitar, Bass, Drums, Voice. The second concert begins at 2 p.m. and will feature Mohawk College: Various Instruments, Vocals.

The full list of HPL events is available here.

Reverend John C Holland Awards

  • Feb. 18: The 27th annual Reverend John C Holland Awards take place at Liuna Station, 360 James St. N., with special guest Michel Chikwanine, a former child soldier in Congo, now a motivational speaker. The awards celebrate "excellence in our Black community" and are presented by the Hamilton Black History Council. 

Hamilton speaker series

  • Feb. 21: At Ancaster Old Town Hall, 310 Wilson Street East, Deborah Brown-Simon, Julia Horton and  Richard Douglass-Chin will discuss Black presence in Hamilton and Ancaster, dating back to at least the 1830s. The discussion will focus on Griffin House, Black people in Ancaster, Black presence on Concession Street in Hamilton, Black businesses in downtown Hamilton, Black relationships with Sir Alan MacNab, and Black organizing in the area. Attendance is free but space is limited and pre-registration is required. The event runs from 7 p.m to 8 p.m.

Celebrating Black resistance

Share your art, stories and what BHM means to you

  • Feb. 26: Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area (SACHA), Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion and Disability Justice Network of Ontario invite you to showcase what "Our Stories and Our Histories" means to you. Black community members are invited to share their artwork, poems, favourite books, photos, and anything else that embodies the theme. Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. at 423 King St. E.

Stories of Diaspora at Mohawk College

  • Feb. 27: Mohawk College is hosting an event for Black History Month called 'Stories of Diaspora: Unlocking and Empowering Our Youth.' The event will feature civil rights activist and public speaker Minijean Brown-Trickey, former child soldier, performer and activist Emmanuel Jal, and Ugandan dance troupe  Suubi Fusion. The event takes place at the MacIntyre Performing Arts Centre in Mohawk College, running from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Celebrating Black scholars

  • Feb. 27: Black, Indigenous and racialized students, staff and faculty are invited to a facilitated discussion with two Black scholars at McMaster University. Dr. Selina Mudavanhu and Dr. Nathan Andrews will discuss their journey in academia and what they are looking forward to doing at McMaster. The discussion is happening on Feb. 27 at 11:30 a.m. at LRW-1003 and will be moderated by prof. Juliet Daniel.

Workshops for the Francophone community

The Centre Francophone Hamilton (CFH) is offering a series of activities and workshops this month "dedicated to the transmission of African arts so that the community of Hamilton can share around African cultures."

CFH says the activities are accessible for all ages, and they hope that participants will develop new knowledge, talent and ideas through their experiences. 

"We want to explore with you the visual arts, music, stories and transitional ways of life of several countries in Africa. With our partners, we will create the conditions to offer an experience of culture that knows no borders, that is shared with everyone," CFH said on its website.

It said that with each workshop, "participants will create works that will be exhibited at the 10th Black History Month Gala."

Workshop topics include:

  • Collage and creation around the loincloth.
  • Hairstyle, history and hair care.
  • African pottery workshops.
  • African tales and their illustration.
  • African and urban dance.

Dates, descriptions, locations and prices of each workshop are available here.School board asks to share what Black Joy means

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is also inviting Black students, staff, families, and community members to visit Engage HWDSB and share what Black Joy means to them. 

"Each February, we participate in Black History Month events and engage in learning opportunities that honour the legacy of Black Canadians. But this month is more than recognizing the accomplishments of the past; it's also about recognizing the talents and brilliance of today and celebrating the promise and potential of tomorrow," HWDSB director of education Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini said.

"This month, I invite members of the Black communities across HWDSB to share stories and experiences about what Black Joy means to you. All HWDSB students, staff, and families are also invited to share examples of Black Excellence and Brilliance in our schools and in the City of Hamilton."

Black History Month events in Brantford

Brantford-based Unite Against Hate has released two GEDSB-approved educational modules for primary and junior grades to learn about Brantford's Black history. Both are free for PDF downloads.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond joined CBC News in October 2017. He previously worked with The Associated Press, Caribbean Media Corporation and Inter Press Service. You can reach him at: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.

With files from Michael To, Cara Nickerson