In honour of Black History Month in Canada, both of our guest speakers for February discussed the history of Ottawa's Black community — one that is growing both in numbers and influence in our culturally-diverse city, and of the challenge of confronting prejudice and exclusion in the past.
June Girvan is an award-winning educator, activist and community leader who came to Ottawa from Jamaica almost 70 years ago. June is the president of Black History Ottawa (a non-profit organization dedicated to carrying out research in the history, culture, traditions and achievements of Canadians of African descent) and founder of J’nikara Dinqinesh Education Centre.
In June’s presentation, she shared her personal journey. In June’s own words we heard of the struggles and successes that she and others have seen in their lifetimes..
June also spoke extensively of the challenge for people of African descent to now come to terms with streets signs and tributes in their neighbourhoods, that honour the names of those who held their ancestors as slaves.
We need to better understand and reconcile the co-incidence between the street names of Ottawa, inherited slaveholder family names of Black children, and the names of those who appear in the British Slave legacies database.
June urged that we consider the impact of the of these names in ensuring that Ottawa "is experienced as a safe, friendly community by children of all human colours of the sun".
You can find the conversation with June in the video section of the HSO website.