What is Black History Month?

At a time when political discord, racial injustice, and a rampant global pandemic are in full effect, it
is especially important to celebrate and uplift figures who have fought to pave the way for Black Canadians. Black History Month aims to celebrate and uplift the Black community and the individuals who have in many cases, risked their lives for the sake of achieving basic human rights.

Taking place annually from February 1 - March 1, Canadians celebrate achievements and contributions of notable Black heroes who have fought to uplift and empower the voices of the Black community. While Black History Month is celebrated in many places across the globe, here in Canada people of African descent have been a huge part of shaping our history.

A graphic of Black History Month in British Columbia.

Tracing all the way back to the early 1600s, Mathieu Da Costa was the first recorded free Black person to arrive in Canada. As a navigator and interpreter he first immigrated to Portugal before arriving in Canada. Little did he know, his travels would put forth a vast motion for the future generations of Black Canadians to achieve freedom, acceptance, and equality. To honour these individuals we’ve made a list of notable Black Canadians:

  • Josiah Hensen (1789-1883) - Born into slavery, Josiah led the movement for Black American’s escaping enslavement into Canada.
  • Portia White (1911-1968) - A contralto singer who became the first Black Canadian concert singer to achieve international fame.
  • Viola Desmond (1914-1965) - Civil Rights activist and founder ofthe Desmond School of Beauty Culture.
  • Lincoln Alexander (1922-2012) - Became the first Black member of parliament.
  • Rosemary Brown (1930-2003) - Political commentator and activist, co-founder of the Vancouver Status of Women Council.
  • Harry Jerome (1940-1982) -A Canadian track and field sprinter who won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and set seven world records throughout his career.
  • Annamie Paul (1972) - Canadian politician, activist, lawyer and leader of the Green Party of Canada since October, 2020. First Black Canadian and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of a major federal party in Canada.
  • Andre Degrasse (1994-) - Canadian sprinter who won a silver and bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

While there are countless individuals who have helped uplift the Black community in Canada, it wasn’t until 1926 when Black History Month became acknowledged in the United States under Carter G. Woodson, aka the “Father of Black History”, and propelled a programme globally to do the same - including Canada.

Burb x High Street Cannabis Collaboration

We wanted to take charge and celebrate Black History Month in an impactful way - to shed light on the Black community while making a positive impact. We’ve teamed up with High Street, a Vancouver-based cannabis brand which is BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) owned. Inspired
by Aurora James and the 15% pledge, High Street aims to dedicate 15% of their purchasing power to supporting black-owned businesses.

We sat down with High Street and the Born All Day Collective in a video and chatted about Black History Month, BHM initiatives, and how we can move towards better supporting the Black community. Check it out below!

Black History Month Initiatives

As a way to honour and respect the Black community here in Vancouver, Burb pledges to donate 15% of all High Street Co Pre-Roll sales to Louder Together and The Forgiveness Project for the month of February. Louder Together is an organization that supports and amplifies the voices of BIPOC in the Cannabis industry.The Forgiveness Project is a non-profit community outreach program, based in Toronto, working with youth and young adults around themes of forgiveness, restorative justice and conflict management.

A photo of a hoodie designed to commemorate Black History Month, including notable Black figures on the back of the hoodie.

We are also teaming up with Black artist and Burb Graphic Designer, Shyeem Ambrose, to design a hoodie in recognition of Black History Month. This hoodie commemorates the “Father of Black History,” aka Carter G. Woodson, who founded the Association of the Study of African American Life and History. Woodson wanted to commemorate the achievements of Black individuals, some of whom are featured on the back of our hoodie. The graphics on the sleeve each individually indicate a different meaning in Africa - wisdom, creativity, unity, greatness, and leadership while the colour yellow represents riches plundered under occupation, and green the fertility of land. Hoodie drops at the end of the month on shopburb.com.

We are reminded that while this month is valuable, it is equally important to continue to fight for the rights of the Black community every day. #BlackLivesMatter

By Nadia Bortolazzo
Nadia is an MA graduate and a Digital Content Specialist at Burb. Her writing is guided by her interest in challenging and expanding the ideologies surrounding cannabis culture.
Instagram: @nadiabortolazzo.