Black History Month Ottawa Offers Something for Everyone
Going Out

Black History Month Ottawa Offers Something for Everyone

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

We can always count on Black History Ottawa to bring the community together in the spirit of civil rights advocate and minister Martin Luther King Jr., whose message of hope and equality is celebrated on the third Monday of January. Here in Ottawa, the organization DreamKeepers brought community leaders of all stripes together at City Hall this past Monday for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. awards — this year, their theme “North Star Nation” recognized the work done by Toronto lawyer and former MPP Margaret Best and Indigenous leader Albert Dumont, and featured a keynote address by Kalenda Eaton, an expert on the literature of the African diaspora in North America.

And what a great way to gear up for Black History Month! Saturday, January 28 marks the launch of Black History Month Ottawa. Taking place at Library and Archives Canada (395 Wellington St. W.), the event will both honour the ingenuity of early Black trailblazers and acknowledge the important work being done today. Mayor Jim Watson will be there, Rev. Anthony Bailey will give the keynote address, and Canada Post will unveil the 2017 Black History Month stamp.

Mayor Jim Watson at the proclamation of Black History Month Ottawa 2016
Mayor Jim Watson presents the proclamation of Black History Month Ottawa 2016

For more about the development of Black History Month, and a bit about the country’s relationship with Black history in the U.S., check out this Citizen and Immigration Canada site.

In Canada’s capital, there is something for everyone who is looking to celebrate Black History Month. Many events are free — check the full listings at Black History Month Ottawa for more information. Here, a sampling of stuff happening locally for BHM.

Roxanne . Photo by Miv Fournier
Roxanne Goodman, a local jazz vocalist and choir director, performs on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Forth Avenue Baptist Church. Photo by Miv Fournier

For an immersive experience, stop in to Fourth Avenue Baptist Church (109A Fourth Ave.) on Saturday, February 25. During the day, works by Ottawa Black historian Thomas Barber will be on display; his family were among the first Black people to settle in Ottawa, a fact that was celebrated this past year when a section of Clarence Street was renamed Barber Street. Sample food from Africa, West Indies, and North and South America while taking in this unique element of our local history. At 7:30, local musicians Roxanne Goodman, John Dapaah (shown in banner image), and others offer a musical journey that tours Africa to West Indies, America to Canada.

Looking for something a bit more edgy? The Northern Griots Network (NGN) – in partnership with House of PainT, The Ottawa Black Arts Kollective, and The Origin Arts & Community Centre – is hosting a jam-packed lineup of events at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts (310 St. Patrick St.) on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18. It starts with an art exhibit, includes a panel discussion entitled “Afrofuturism and the NeoGriot”, and closes with a concert of live music and spoken word.

Northern Griots
Northern Griots Network, an organization that supports African Canadian spoken word artists, is partnering with the local arts community to host a two-day event at St. Brigid’s called Visualize.


For dancers — and those who just love moving to those Afro-Caribbean beats — the School Of Afro-Caribbean Dance is hosting “Kallaloo” on Saturday, February 25 at the Hintonburg Community Centre (1064 Wellington St.). The day will celebrate Afro-Caribbean dance and culture with workshops and an Afrocentric marketplace.

Armchair travellers and history buffs alike will be inspired by Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess, a film that tells the story — and traces the impact of — Queen Nanny, a sprititual leader who became a leader for Jamaican Maroons in the 18th century. On Thursday, February 23 the film, which visits her homeland of Ghana as well as Jamaica, Canada, and the U.S., will be screen at Ben Franklin Place (101 Centrepointe Dr.). Check out the trailer (below) for a glimpse of this powerful work.

And what about the kids? It’s never too early to start talking to your kids about the kind of world we want to live in. On Sunday, February 12 at the Nepean Centrepointe Branch (101 Centrepointe Dr.), readers from the black community will share children’s stories written by black authors from the diaspora.