Black History is Canadian History

Black History Month comes to a conclusion today. However, the teaching and learning of Black History cannot be limited to the month of February. Black History Month is a time to celebrate the lives of people of African heritage who have built Canada, the U.S., and the world as we know it. It is also a time to focus on making sure that the history of the people of the African Diaspora is not lost in the “white-washing” that can happen when some groups tell the story of history, leaving out other groups.

To some the very notion of Black History Month is controversial. Some very prominent people, such as the esteemed African-American actor Morgan Freeman, argue against having a Black History Month. “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” Freeman asked. He has a point. Black History cannot be meaningfully limited to one month a year, nor can it be separated from American history, our Canadian history, or World history. Black History is History.

source: Amnesty International

For much too long, history has been taught only from the perspective of the dominant groups in society. In Canada that has meant that history was taught only as the story of men. Of whites, (mainly English and Scottish). Of the rich. Of the powerful.

We have taken great strides in identifying that such history is not only overwhelmingly incomplete, it is also profoundly unjust. Yet we still have much to do. Moreover, not only is that journey incomplete, in many places it is going the wrong way. The most obvious examples of this come from the United States, where a radical agenda of curriculum revision and book banning, all in the name of “patriotic education,” is in fact a naked attempt at denying the racist history of that nation, and the ways that racism is still alive in the institutions of today.

This suggests that Black History Month is still very relevant indeed.

On a person’s birthday we take the day to celebrate that person in a special way. Yet that does not mean we ignore them the other 364 days of the year. Let’s commit considering how that approach may apply to Black History Month.

Find out more:

The School Library and Your Freedom to Read

Democracy is under attack in the world, and sadly, even here in Canada. Your democratic rights and freedoms as citizens in this country are built upon concepts such as voting rights; the rule of law; the equality of all people; freedom of thought, including political and religious beliefs; the freedom of the press; balancing government of the majority with protection of the rights of the minority; and more.

This week we celebrate and explore the freedom to read, which is interconnected with many other vital concepts, including freedom of expression, the the right to choose to read what you want to read, including access to information, the freedom to seek, use and share information and literature, all of which are integral to democratic citizenship.

Stereotypically, the library is seen as a quiet place, silent even, where not much happens. Yet the library, and especially the school library, has always been a target of censorship, and as such has always been in the middle of the ongoing struggle between democracy and the forces of authoritarianism. School libraries are now battlegrounds at the center of our current polarized political and cultural climate.

The recent news has been rife with reports of book challenges, book bannings– and terrifyingly, even book burnings– in many U.S. states, school districts, and school libraries. As Canadians we cannot assume that this is only an American problem. We must be vigilant in protecting our students’ freedom to read.

Freedom of expression rights are essential to education in a free and democratic society. These are the rights of everyone in the school community, including students. Teacher-librarians are charged with ensuring that those rights are acknowledged and respected.

Diane Oberg

Some students are fortunate enough to have many places to turn to for books and other sources of information. Collections at home, public libraries, books stores, and of course, the internet(!). However, access to those things may be very limited, censored, or non-existent for some students. The school library is often the safest and most accessible place for a wide variety of books and other sources of information that are relevant and essential for students.

All Canadians who value democracy have an interest in protecting and building up the institutions that support democracy. The school library is one of those institutions.

Read more about the vital role of the Teacher Librarians and of the school library play in protecting and empowering a student’s Freedom to Read:

Freedom of Expression Rights and the School Library: Who Speaks for the Kids in Your School When the Censor Comes Calling?” by Diane Oberg (from

Pink Shirts / Anti-Bullying

Today is Pink Shirt Day, also known as Anti-Bullying Day. Wearing a Pink Shirt in support of the cause is a start.

Sure, it’s a great start if you look as good as this. Still, it is just a start.

Find out more about how Pink Shirt Day began, and even more importantly, find out what can be done in the struggle against bullying.

source: Surrey Schools / George Vanier Elementary

Do you need to talk to somebody?

Tell an adult that you trust, maybe your parents, a school counsellor or teacher. Often the best way to help is first to listen, and then to assist you in finding trained professionals to talk to.

Freedom to Read Week

Find out more. Here are some informative and thought provoking articles on the freedom to read, censorship, book banning and free access to information:

Freedom to Read Week

Do you see any common themes amongst all these books?

These are just some of the books that have been challenged, banned and removed from school libraries in the USA, just this year. The freedom to read what you want to read is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. However, just as democracy itself is under siege around the world, the freedom to read cannot be taken for granted. Anti-democratic forces are always at work to undermine your freedom to read and other democratic rights. You must stand up for those rights.

Is it a coincidence that the books seen above deal with themes such as discrimination, racism, and oppression, or have central characters that come from marginalized groups?

What do you think?

Find out more:

Black History Month: BC

February is Black History Month. Learn more about the history of British Columbia and the contributions of Black Canadians to our province. Visit the BC Black History Awareness Society to find out more!

source: BC Black History Awareness Society

Hope Meets Action: Visit the Royal BC Museum to check out this exhibition from the BC Black History Awareness Society.

source: BC Black History Awareness Society

Find out more about how the BCBHAS is celebrating Black History Month, and learn more about the work they do throughout the year to educate all British Columbians.


“The animating idea of The 1619 Project is that our national narrative is more accurately told if we begin not on July 4, 1776, but in late August of 1619, when a ship arrived in Jamestown bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric and unprecedented system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s very origin. The 1619 Project tells this new origin story, placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country. Orchestrated by the editors of The New York Times Magazine, led by MacArthur “genius” and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, this collection of essays and historical vignettes includes some of the most outstanding journalists, thinkers, and scholars of American history and culture-including Linda Villarosa, Jamelle Bouie, Jeneen Interlandi, Matthew Desmond, Wesley Morris, and Bryan Stevenson. Together, their work shows how the tendrils of 1619-of slavery and resistance to slavery-reach into every part of our contemporary culture, from voting, housing and healthcare, to the way we sing and dance, the way we tell stories, and the way we worship. Interstitial works of flash fiction and poetry bring the history to life through the imaginative interpretations of some of our greatest writers. The 1619 Project ultimately sends a very strong message: We must have a clear vision of this history if we are to understand our present dilemmas. Only by reckoning with this difficult history and trying as hard as we can to undersand its powerful influence on our present, can we prepare ourselves for a more just future” (source: TitlePeek)

Find out more:

The New York Times: 1619 Project

New York Time Magazine (Full Text PDF)

1619 in Destiny Discover

Black Strathcona

Check out this amazing site:

Subtitled “One Community, Six Decades, 10 Stories,” this interactive site invites you on a virtual tour of this neighbourhood that was a hub for Black people in Vancouver through most of the 20th Century. You can also visit the area and do an interactive walking tour.

Stratchona 1935
(source: Black Strathcona)

February is Black History Month. Join us in your School Library, in person, or online, and we celebrate and learn more about Black Canadians and other people of the African Diaspora. Remember, Black History is Canadian History. It is for all Canadians.

Speaking Truth to Power: Valentine’s Day


Although much about the historical Saint Valentine is sketchy and obscure, it is traditionally believed that in the 3rd Century, Valentine, a Christian priest, was arrested by forces of the Roman Emperor. He was martyred for his faith and his defiance of Empire. Happy Saint Valentine’s Day

Relic of St. Valentine
source: wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

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Coming Soon: Freedom to Read Week

February 20-26 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada.

While this is always an important week on the calendar, this year it seems more vital than ever that we understand and celebrate our freedom to read. South of the border books are being banned at an alarming rate. Throughout the world, the freedom of journalists continues to be threatened. As authoritarian and fascist movements rise around the globe, they attack such things as libraries, a free press, and other cornerstones of democracy and human rights.

Look for more to come on this vital topic, as we prepare for Freedom to Read Week.