Western Education celebrates Black History Month

February 28, 2019

A sample of some of the items that were showcased during the Black Art and Entertainment event (photo: Gabrielle Cohen).

As a celebration of Black History Month, Black Art and Entertainment was showcased at the Faculty of Education for the very first time.

Visitors were given the opportunity to engage in visual art, music, spoken word, open mic and a surprise movie screening in the Community Room. Catering from a close-by Jamaican restaurant was an all-time favourite, coupled with other home-made delicacies throughout the day.

First-year Master of Arts student in the School and Child Psychology Program, Gabrielle Cohen, organized the celebration with the helping hand of close friend and event planner, Kenefia Wheatle.

“I found it important to gather as a people,” said Cohen. “In London, it was a bit of a culture shock to me because it was the first time I moved away from home. I felt really lonely and wondered if others felt the same way.”

While there are student clubs on campus, such as the Black Students Association, Caribbean Students Organization and African Students Association, Cohen said membership in those clubs is usually geared towards undergraduate students. She wanted to provide a lighthouse for the diaspora in the graduate community and an avenue for students to get together and learn about each other.

What’s more, Cohen stressed culture in defining a person’s identity, and how important it’s to continue to celebrate during university as students are building their career and figuring out their next steps once they’ve completed school.

“The celebration of one’s culture is very nostalgic because it’s all about your identity and a sense of belonging,” said Cohen.

The Education Graduate Students Association (EGSA) also supported the event in conjunction with the Graduate Office, which provided financial support.

“Black Art and Entertainment represents two of the EGSA's most important goals: to foster leadership opportunities for graduate students and community building activities that include everyone in the faculty,” said EGSA Coordinator, Mary Ott. “Gabrielle developed an amazing program, weaving food, art, music and culture into a day of celebration and education that was open to students, faculty and staff.”

Two community organizations also benefitted from the event. Attendees were asked to bring donations that would help LifeSpin – an organization that assists low-income families in London – and the Fred Victor Shelter, which supports the homeless in Toronto. The successful celebration is expected to be held again in 2020.