When it is February, it is Black History Month

Honour it by reading books or by watching some good documentaries about black history, and or by attending some of the events planned for Black History Month in our greater Niagara region

A Brief One from Doug Draper, NAL

Posted February 5th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Wilma Morrison has possibly done more than anyone else in Niagara to archive black history in the region. She has received the Order of Ontario and numerous other awards for her many years of volunteer work.

As many bad actors committing bad acts we have weathered in Niagara over the past number of years, it is important to remind ourselves that, among our ranks, we have good people doing, or at least trying to do  good things in this region too.

If you follow Niagara At Large on a fairly regular basis, and I hope you do, I hope that you also know that, along with watchdogging bad actors, I also like to use this site as a platform for paying tribute to some of those good people too.

And when we turn the pages of the calendar to February and to Black History Month, one of the very first of the good people who come to my mind each year is Wilma Morrison, a Niagara Falls, Ontario.

I first met this great lady more than a decade ago while I was still working for one of the mainstream newspapers in Niagara and we wanted to do a story on her many decades of work in keeping black history alive in our region, and amassing a wealth of it in what has come to be known as the Norval Johnson Heritage Library.

Often referred to as Canada’s Rosa Parks, after the legendary civil rights activists in the U.S., Viola Desmond was arrested in the 1940s for refusing to give up her seat in the then ‘white-only’ section of a theater in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. In 2016, she was the first Canadian woman chosen to appear on the country’s paper currency, in this case Canada’s $10 bill.

For her all her tireless years of volunteering her time to heritage preservation and to founding the Niagara Black History Association, she has received numerous awards, including the Order of Ontario in 2011.

I last covered Wilma Morrison when she was speaking to a community group in Niagara during Black History Month in 2010, and these were among the words she shared –

“I think that if we take the time to learn more about each other and what each other has worked to contribute to the community, it will bring us closer together,” she said, as she went on to question a proposal put forward at the time, by members of the black community in Toronto, to establish black-oriented schools.

“When I hear about this recent proposal, I am thinking; ‘Why did Martin Luther King (who fought against segregation) die?’ It is a step backwards.”

“It would be nice if we all went to school together and learned about each other. … I think if we live among each other, it would help make for a better community.”

It is a message from this great member of our Niagara community that is probably even more important in the times we live in today.

I have not seen Wilma Morrison for a while but I certainly hope she is doing well this Black History Month. (Every time I hear a great jazz album called ‘Canadiana Suite’ by the Oscar Peterson Trio, an album she once recommended to me, I think of her again.)

(If you want to, before you continue with the read, click on the video immediately below to learn about some of our other Black Canadian heroes.)

At the beginning of this month of February, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement that said, in part; “This is a time to learn more about the important role that people of African descent have played in our history. Time and again, Black Canadians have demonstrated courage, resilience, and leadership when faced with adversity.”

Yet, “too many (Black Canadians) continue to face systemic racism and discrimination,” Trudeau said, adding that his government “committed to standing up for human rights and fighting racism in all its forms, here at home and around the world.”

“This month,” Trudeau concluded in his statement to us, “let us celebrate the contributions of Black Canadians, and learn more about their past and present experiences.”

Here are a few posters for events in our area, following by some links for other information on Black History Month –

To check out a story posted in Niagara At Large in 2011 on Wilma Morrison receiving the Order of Ontario, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2011/01/29/niagara%E2%80%99s-wilma-morrison-receives-order-of-ontario-for-her-life-long-work-preserving-region%E2%80%99s-black-history/

For more on Wilma Morrison, click on – https://niagarafalls.ca/living/arts-and-culture/wall-of-fame/2007-wilma-l.-morrison.acwof

For more information on events sheculed at the  St. Catharines Musuem for Black History Month, click on –  https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/experiencein/MuseumEvents.asp

If you have not yet seen the 2019 film on Harriet Tubman, a resident of St. Catharines for a few short years and a heroine of the Underground Railway that led American slaves to freedom in the 1800s, it is well worth seeking out.

To watch a trailer for the film Harriet, click on the screen below –

For this Black History Month, CBC is once again offering its Being Black in Canada Series that you can connect with by clicking on – https://www.cbc.ca/news/cbc-topic/Collections/Being%20black%20in%20Canada

On Buffalo WNED Public Television, a series of programs have been scheduled for this Black History Month. To find out more about those, click on – https://www.wned.org/television/program-highlights/black-history-month/

Finally, for more on the Norval Library Heritage Collection on Black History in Niagara, click on – https://www.visitniagaracanada.com/do/norval-johnson-heritage-centre-collection/

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For More News And Commentary From Niagara At Large – An independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara Region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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