Since 2015 The Church of the Resurrection in Hamilton has worked to produce programs and events to honour Black History Month. A committee has worked year to year to create opportunities for learning and initiative to help deal with systemic and unconscious overt or covert racism. Over the years through events, activities, and resources the team has tried to meet the goal of exposing and combatting racism in ways which promote understanding and action. In those years there have been learnings and so we have modified our work to meet the changes with the times. For example our recent focus has shifted to Emancipation Day in August because more and more events are occurring in the month of February which follow or duplicate some of our own activities. We are adapting as awareness is changing and hopefully growing in the larger community. We are learning too how our individual stories can impact our experience of racism and how important it is to take the time to listen to each other as we share our day to day experiences.
Our plan is to continue to grow and adapt ourselves to meet the challenge of racism in our world. By Grace we are given the chance to open our minds and hearts and so influence the attitudes of others. We are thankful for the work which has begun and continues to grow in our journey to love our neighbour as ourselves and to promote and end to racism in our world.
What follows is a brief history of our story to date.
Church of the Resurrection is situated on the West Mountain in Hamilton at the corner of the Rolston neighbourhood. The neighbourhood is highly diverse and includes a significant Black Community. This diversity is reflected in the members of the parish, who are from several Caribbean Islands, Africa, Guyana and second-generation Canadians. Our aim in celebrating Black History is to engage our diverse congregation and local community in meaningful ways, to increase their awareness of Black Canadians, their experiences and contributions and make our Vision statement that we intend to be: “A joyful, growing, and loving community of faith where you have a place” a reality for all.
In the fall 2015 a small group of parishioners was recruited to work with the clergy to plan and lead our celebration of Black History in February 2016. Our celebratory plans should include opportunities for members of the parish and the local community to hear about the experiences of Black people and events that are often not taught in school.
Each of the following events was expected to have educational and or entertainment components: Movie Nights; Brief (two page) weekly summaries of the work, (also referred to as Blue Pages), of Black Canadians and other individuals who made significant contributions to arts, sciences, sports and advocacy for human rights; “Living Black History” A celebration with special display, music, keynote speaker, and; Church service with guest speaker.
Thanks to the availability of vast library of Canada’s National Film Board productions we were able to view and select Black History related productions and made “Movie Night” a feature of our celebration. The opportunity to view the movie on a large screen followed by small group discussions, was well received by attendees from the neighbourhood and parishioners who enjoyed popcorn, pizza and the social interactions. Movie Night became a feature on our annual Black History celebration up to 2020. We continue to receive inquiries about the resumption of Movie Nights and hopefully we will be able to do so in 2024.
The Blue Pages biographical summaries were popular take away item for parishioners and visitors.
With the guidance and support from The Ontario Black History Society staff, we were able to attract a well know journalist, broadcaster and human rights advocate JoJo Chintoh to be the keynote speaker at our Main Celebratory Event on February 27, 2016. We also benefited from their generosity in sharing contact information for other prominent Black History advocates, and the affordable prices for their Black History promotional material.
The successful celebration of Black History month in February 2016 and the feedback we received from the wider community motivated and influenced the decision to incorporate Black History education and celebration as an ongoing part of our communal life in a meaningful and inclusive way. A committee with broader representation from our congregation was recruited and given the responsibility to plan and implement a sustainable program of education and events annually.
Since its inception, The committee: Organized Day Trips to Oakville Black History Museum and Sheffield Park Black History Cultural Centre; Designed Afrocentric Themed Displays for Main Events during Black History Month; Hosted The Toronto Children’s Concert and Performing Arts Company Concert Choir, Dejhan Hamilton, local Solo Steel Pan Musician and local All Star Jazz Band concerts; Offered Diversity and Equity Training Workshop; Organized Movie Nights; Received Grant Funding and donations to establish Black History Library; Incorporated Emancipation Day Celebration in its Living Black History Endeavours. We are hopeful that Church of the Resurrection’s Living Black History Programs and their results will motivate others to deal with racial biases and discrimination with joyful coexistence endeavours.