PEI

Government should do more for Black History Month, says P.E.I. woman

A community activist in Charlottetown says the provincial government needs to do more to promote and celebrate Black History Month across Prince Edward Island.

$5K not enough to celebrate P.E.I.'s 'rich black current culture,' says Stephanie Douglas

Stephanie Douglas says she has written letters and made phone calls urging government to do more to celebrate P.E.I.'s black culture. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

A community activist in Charlottetown says the provincial government needs to do more to promote and celebrate Black History Month across Prince Edward Island.

The province says every year, it supports schools, public libraries and museums to organize events and activities for Black History Month. This year, for the first time, the province has given $5,000 to the Black Cultural Society to host events and educational activities throughout the month of February in libraries, schools and museums.

But Stephanie Douglas says it's not enough.

"I want the government to have a comprehensive web page ... talking about the rich history from slavery on, about the heritage of P.E.I., of black Islanders, and the new growing diversity of new Canadians who are from Nigeria and Ghana and all sorts of other places," she said.

Douglas would like to see more funding, as well. She'd also like the government to put out requests for proposals every September inviting individuals and organizations across the province to put on Black History Month events in their communities.

Douglas said she has written letters and made phone calls to the government expressing her concerns.

'Rich black history'

"P.E.I. has a rich black history," she said, adding that it's important to honour that past, as well as the present. 

"We have black policemen here… black doctors, we have black nurses. We have a rich black current culture."

According to a news release from the province, most events will be hosted in Charlottetown, with activities and events taking place at the Startup Zone, Upstreet Craft Brewing, and the Confederation Centre Public Library.

Douglas she'd like to see more Black History Month events hosted outside the capital, though the province says there will be book displays at public libraries across the Island, including ones in Montague, Souris, and O'Leary.

'Educating and engaging Islanders'

"A key direction from our Culture Action Plan is to support diversity activities that focus on education and heritage," Education, Early Learning and Culture Minister Jordan Brown said in the release.

Scott Parsons, president of the Black Cultural Society, says $5,000 is 'very small amount compared to what some other festivals get.' (Angela Walker/CBC)

"The Black Cultural Society has demonstrated excellent leadership in educating and engaging Islanders, not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year since forming in 2016."

Scott Parsons, the president of the Black Cultural Society, said it's "very nice" to receive funding from the government for Black History Month events this year, but said he also shares Douglas's concerns. 

"It's a very small amount compared to what some other festivals get, but we have to start somewhere," he said.

'Trying to grow the society'

"We're just trying to grow the society into something that is really supportive of a P.E.I. black history, and of course of present day contemporary black culture on P.E.I. — especially with the changing demographics and population here," Parsons said.

Douglas said she'd like to see the government make improvements to Black History Month as soon as possible.

"This is about the future. It's about making sure that P.E.I. still has that community that takes care of each other, that includes each other, that welcomes each other, that acknowledges each other so that, as a community, we're stronger, because those people then feel like they're valuable," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katerina Georgieva is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Windsor. She has also worked for CBC in Toronto, Charlottetown, and Winnipeg.

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