This article first appeared on VICE Québec.
For some, Black History Month is a commercial and insignificant event. For others, it is the official symbol of black pride. As part of our Black Ideas series, we asked Lost, Wasiu, Izzy-S, Marilou Craft, Bonbon Kojak, Chloé Savoie-Bernard, and many others about Black History Month and its meaning to them.
Here are their answers.
Chloé-Savoie Bernard, Author
"I remember when I was little, I took the bus and I saw signs for the Black History Month celebrations. I did not quite understand what it meant, but by the time I was four or five, I was happy that there was a month for us. As long as we are not in a fair and equal representation, Black History Month will have its relevance. "
Bonbon Kojak, DJ
"You have to take advantage of this month of February, even if there are still people who are disturbed by it. It allows us, as a community, not to lose hope in this fair world. Our ancestors lived in horror, our parents lived in horror and in fear—all we can do is dream. That's the resistance. "
Marilou Craft, Author and Theater Teacher
"Every year, from the moment the celebrations begin, there is always a white person who comes in to say, 'When is the month for white history?' I think what needs to be understood is that these celebrations are related to the feeling of pride. When you're part of a dominant group, pride can be perceived as arrogant and unnecessary, while for a continually under-represented group that never really has a place in society, it's essential to be proud of to exist. Unfortunately, if there was not that month, there would be no time to celebrate our culture. It's just essential to me. "
Stella Stone, Drag Queen
"I have the impression that it has become a little commercial, all these theater pieces, these books, these shows that come out in February... It's exciting from a media point of view, but me, as a black person, I wear that skin, that identity and all that comes with it, 365 days a year. "
"Black month? [laughs] For me, I do not even understand why we need a month in particular to remember all the things that black culture has brought to our civilizations. I think that throughout the year we should understand what black people have lived, and still live for today. Slavery is behind us, but racism is still there. We need more than just a month to stop it. "
Schelby Jean-Baptiste, Actress
"I think Black History Month is important for future generations, who are not represented in textbooks and who are not naturally inclined to go down in history. I recently did a photo series entitled SisterHood as a Form of Resistance, which highlights the work of black actresses in Quebec and the issues we face. In my opinion, it is important to take advantage of this month to undertake initiatives that showcase the work of our community, but it would be nice if the interest extends beyond the 28 days of February. "
"It's a damn good question because part of me says: It's just the story, so why are we down? It's just a part of the story. So we just learn and appreciate history. But another part of me says: because of under-representation or because we're not talking about the whole story, we have to spend a month talking about black history. But I think I'm leaning more for this. let's get to a point where we tell the truth. We know what happened, we talk about it. I'm not accusing you of things that happened 500 years ago. I'm just saying, here's what happened and teach it all. We should talk about these things every time we talk about history, and not reduce that to a month with 28 days, sometimes 29 days. "
"It's always good to talk about it. Because it allows me to sit here today and talk about facts that have to change. But Black History Month is like anything: It's supposed to be every day. It is not because today it is Black History Month that we give them attention, we respect them and then the next day, the month is over, and we treat them still like shit. "
Djamilla Touré, Model
"I think that already, it is necessary, but, clearly, would have to go off this month. Black History Month is also here to remind us of our greatest battles, our greatest successes, our greatest acquisitions, and most of all, to remember all that has been brought as a contribution to today's mass culture."