“Black history is Canadian history.”
So said Adele Halliday, team leader of transformational ministries for the United Church of Canada, who was the guest speaker at Sydenham Street United Church’s annual Black History Month service on Sunday.
Just as her Caribbean grandmother told her the stories of her family’s journey, so must the next generation of black Canadians recount the successes and struggles of their ancestors, Halliday said.
“Telling our stories keeps us focused on who we are and where we are going,” she said. “But we cannot celebrate the successes of the present without naming the struggles of the past.”
Halliday said it is heartening to see black history commemorated, but “there are struggles now, too.”
She linked the Christian promise of salvation with the hope that the black community will endure and thrive through the power of hope and storytelling.
“The past informs our today and shapes our tomorrow,” she said.
Rev. Barry Pridham got attendees on their feet to clap and sing along with hymns and traditional Afro-American spirituals like “Hush! Hush!” and “Over My Head.”
Projected images from Unspoken, an Underground Railway story by Henry Cole, accompanied by an African drum solo, inspired a different kind of reflection.
Pridham said that while multiculturalism has become an essential part of Canadian identity, “subtle discrimination” still exists against minority communities in the form of rudeness, ignorance and isolation.
“The church believes we need to go further (than multiculturalism),” Pridham said. “We need to become intercultural.”
Black History Month continues with a panel discussion of black history, racism and culture at 7 p.m. on Feb. 13 at Nipissing University’s Brantford campus.
The month-long commemoration of the black experience in Canada concludes with a film festival at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 and a party on Feb. 23 from 7 to 10 p.m. Both events take place at Sydenham Street United Church.