Feb. 1, 2024

UCalgary salutes Black heritage and academic excellence

Celebrate Black History Month with educational programming
A minimalist drawing of a variety of Black people gathered together in front of a bright multicoloured background.
This year's theme is Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate, A Future to Build.

Every February, the University of Calgary is proud to celebrate Black History Month (BHM). Officially declared in Canada in 1996, BHM is a commitment to continue celebrating Black Canadians, recognizing their significant contributions to society, and create opportunities for learning and unlearning about the Black experiences and contributions to Canada. The UCalgary community will be celebrating this month with a variety of programming that honours Black heritage and communities in Alberta and across Canada. 

Following this year’s theme, set by the Government of Canada, Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate, A Future to Build, UCalgary will celebrate how the stories of Black Calgarians are woven into Calgary’s history and recognizing how their endeavours have helped to elevate, improve, and build the city. More than just reflecting on the past, UCalgary will look toward how it can support a more inclusive future for its Black community members. 

This year, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OEDI) will also hold the first Violet King Engaged Scholar Award, jointly funded by the Students’ Union, Quality Money program and OEDI. The award celebrates the achievements of Black, Indigenous and racialized scholars who demonstrate community leadership despite financial and other barriers they face. 

Black History Month first emerged in 1926 from an event created by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an American historian and author whose dedication to celebrating the heritage and contributions of people of African descent. Expanding on this annual celebration, it was formally established as Black History month in 1976 by the U.S. government. Three years after BHM began, the City of Toronto adopted it and in 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized it as well. The motion to recognize the month was introduced by Dr. Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected as a Canadian member of parliament. 

For many years, UCalgary has been committed to celebrating and building a strong relationship with Black scholars and community partners. In October 2020, UCalgary reaffirmed this commitment by joining more than 40 Canadian universities, colleges and partner institutions in signing the national Scarborough Charter, which details concrete actions post-secondary institutions can take to combat anti-Black racism while fostering meaningful Black inclusion. 

The Scarborough Charter allows UCalgary to remain transparent in its commitment to create and equitable and inclusive community in which Black students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and staff can flourish. 

One such remarkable scholar was Violet King, for whom the Violet King Engaged Scholar Award is named. In 1953, King became the first Black person to graduate with a law degree in Alberta and, a year later, she became the first Black woman lawyer in Canada. 

To learn more about trailblazers like King, visit UCalgary’s Black Albertans You Should Know page, written and curated by Dr. Malinda S. Smith, vice-provost (EDI) and associate vice-president research (EDI), and the Royal Alberta Museum BHM Resource page.

Black History Month 2024 events

UCalgary will celebrate Black excellence throughout February and into early March with a variety of educational programming including a lunch and learn series hosted by the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA); a candid conversation with the Hon. David St. Pierre, LLB’94, justice of the Provincial Court of British Columbia; and a lecture by Dr. Charmaine Nelson, PhD, provost professor of art history and director of the Slavery North Initiative, University of Massachusetts. 

All events are open to the public and encourage a deep engagement with the integral role Black Canadians have played in Canada’s history and how Black communities in Alberta and elsewhere continue to improve the present and future for all Canadians.

For more information about UCalgary’s BHM programming, visit the 2024 BHM event page

Lunch and learn: A Conversation with Bennett Jones LLP

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 6 
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Murray Fraser Hall, Room 3360

This session is presented by the BLSA

Join representatives of the Bennett Jones law firm and the BLSA for an engaging conversation about business development, as well as the diversity challenges and experiences encountered in the workplace. This event is open to all students.

Register for more details about the event; information about special panellists who will be sharing their insights will be released closer to the event.

 Register for this event


Black History Month movies and short films 

Date: Thursday, Feb .8
Time: 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1 p.m.
Location: That Empty Space (lower level, MacEwan Student Centre) 

The Students’ Union is hosting a day of inspiring feature-length films and National Film Board (NFB) short films in honour of Black History Month. The selections include;

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Black students taking space and creating structures for successful advancement through education 

Date: Thursday, Feb. 8
Time: 12-1.45 p.m.
Location: Virtual

This session is presented by the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre (ACLRC)

Black people in North America have faced historical inequities in schooling that account for their under-representation in particular educational paths — most notably, the STEM fields. As such, society misses out on the potential educational, social, economic and scientific contributions that could emerge from Black minds. In this panel presentation, speakers will discuss the ways in which Black students worked to realize their aspirational goals with the support of educational sponsors.

Please register by Monday, Feb. 5, 5 p.m. 

Email to register


Lunch and learn: A conversation with Torys LLP 

Date: Thursday, Feb. 8 
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Murray Fraser Hall, Room 3330

This session is presented by the BLSA

Representatives of Torys LLP and the BLSA will host a second conversation on diversity in the workplace and business development. Once again, the event is open to all students, with question-and-answer opportunities.  

Register for more details about the event; information about special panellists who will be sharing their insights will be released closer to the event.

Register for this event


Lunch and learn: A conversation with CABL 

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 13  
Time: 12 p.m. 
Location: Murray Fraser Hall, Room 3360

This session is presented by the BLSA

Join Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and the BLSA for a discussion about how our internal and underlying biases can impact our workplace environments and everyday lives. 

As with the other BHM-hosted lunch and learns, this event is open to all students, providing them with the opportunity to ask questions. Register for more details about the event, including information about special panellists. 

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Violet King Engaged Scholar awards ceremony 

Date: Thursday, Feb. 15 
Time: 12-1:30 p.m.
Location: Virtual 

The first-ever Violet King Engaged Scholar Award is a commitment to supporting outstanding Black, racialized and Indigenous students who have demonstrated both contributions to their community and leadership despite financial and other barriers. Six exemplary students were selected based on their contributions to their communities and for their work in dismantling barriers for others. 

Jo-Anne Henry, Violet King’s daughter, will deliver a keynote speech. The ceremony will be hosted by Malinda Smith, and the recipients will be announced by Chancellor Jon Cornish. A blessing will be offered by Elder Colleen Sitting Eagle. 

Register for this event


Determination and Discovery: Celebrating Black history and voices in STEMM

Date: Thursday, Feb. 29
Time: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Location: MacEwan Hall Ballroom

Hosted by the UCalgary Faculty of Science and the United States Consulate

Come celebrate the brilliance and help untangle the challenges of racialized communities in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine (STEMM). Determination and Discovery will feature a keynote from Dr. Terrell Morton, a talk by Dr. Ti’Era Worsley, panels and dialogues about Black experiences in STEMM, a screening of Woman in Motion, a networking session, and a buffet lunch. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome to drop in and out as their class schedules allow. 

This event is open to racialized communities as well as allies from across campus and beyond.

Register for this event


A candid conversation with Justice David St. Pierre 

Date: Thursday, Feb. 29 
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Location: Virtual

This session is presented by the BLSA

Join David St. Pierre and the BLSA for a candid conversation. St. Pierre, a UCalgary alum, will explore his approach to judicial decision-making and how it aligns with the pursuit of racial equity, as well as the challenges and successes in promoting fairness within the legal system. 

This will be a forward-looking discussion on the future of racial justice within the legal system, exploring potential reforms and improvements. 

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Slavery, Mobility and the Creolized Counter-Knowledge of Resistance 

Date: Thursday, Feb. 29 
Time: 6-8 p.m.
Location: Craigie Hall, Room 119

Charmaine Nelson explores a pivotal historical moment through the lens of an intriguing fugitive slave advertisement from the Quebec Gazette dated May 3, 1767. 

Presented by UCalgary’s African Studies program in collaboration the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Department of Art & Art History, and the Faculty of Arts’ Dean’s Office. The African Studies Speaker Series is a part of a Quality Money project from the UCalgary Students’ Union.

Register for this event


The Dark Fantastic, five years later: How do we close the imagination gap 

Date: Thursday, March 7 
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Location: Taylor Institute Forum 

The Dark Fantastic, a Werklund International Lecture, is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as a young adult (YA) novelist, fan-fiction writer and scholar of education, Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, PhD, from the University of Michigan, traces the journeys of four Black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the TV series The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC TV’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against minoritized peoples in our own world.

The session is presented by the Werklund School of Education.

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Remembering Alberta's Sleeping Car Porters 

Date: Thursday, March 7 
Time: 7:30-9.30 p.m.   
Location: THE GRAND, 608 1 St S.W. 

The Canadian history of sleeping car porters — once ubiquitous as a part of passenger-rail travel — has been amplified recently, including as the subject of the Giller Prize-winning novel, The Sleeping Car Porter by UCalgary alum and creative writing prof Suzette Mayr, BA’90. Yet the local history of porters in Calgary and across the prairies, and the links between their unionization efforts and the development of anti-discrimination organizations in Alberta, is not widely known. 

Join us at The GRAND for an evening of memory and music to celebrate Alberta porters within local, national and international history.

The evening will feature presentations by Mayr along with Cheryl Foggo and Dr. Saje Mathieu, PhD. There will be musical performances by Miranda Martini and Dallas Hayes-Sparks, and a special guest appearance from Judy Williams Graham, a porter descendant.

This event is free to attend.

Register for this event

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