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Celebrating and Recognizing Black History Month

Each February the University of Toronto community joins the rest of Canada in recognizing and celebrating Black History Month. The motion to officially recognize this month was introduced in the House of Commons in 1995 by the first Black woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine. During Black History Month we celebrate and recognize the change makers of African descent in Canadian history, who shaped the fabric of Canadian society and impacted innovation in all sectors including science, engineering, medicine, public health, education, politics, and the arts.

The term anti-Black racism was introduced by Dr. Akua Benjamin to highlight the unique nature of systemic racism experienced by Black Canadians, and the history and impact of slavery and colonization on people of Black-African descent in Canada.

The University of Toronto acknowledges the existence of anti-Black racism and the importance of self-reflection, transparency, and community engagement. As a part of our efforts to address anti-Black racism, in Fall 2020 we launched the U of T institutional Anti-Black Racism Task Force to review existing University policies, processes, and practices and provide actionable recommendations. In October 2020 U of T co-convened the first National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities, where students, staff, faculty and communities came together across the country to share experiences, learn best practices, and formulate concrete actions that resolutely reject anti-Black racism and drive meaningful, enduring Black inclusion. The Fall forum’s deliberations are informing the development of the Scarborough National Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion.

I invite you to attend the 2021 Black History Symposium event Honoring the Diversity of Black Leaders and Agents of Change on February 8th organized by the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office. This year’s event will engage in critical dialogue on anti-Black racism activism and intersectionality, and the role of post-secondary environments in transforming anti-Black racism advocacy. Taking action against anti-Black racism is a collective responsibility that should continue throughout the year. This Black History Month we celebrate and honour the past, but do so with a focus on a better future.

At the University of Toronto, the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion offices at the University of Toronto Scarborough and University of Toronto Mississauga in partnership with stakeholders across the three campuses are leading ongoing initiatives that address racism. These offices all provide support, services, and education to our community.