Celebrating Black Joy: African Heritage Month

Acadia's History

Black students have been an important part of the Acadia University community since the 19th century.

Acadia was one of North America's earliest universities to admit and graduate persons of African descent. Groundbreaking students include Lalia Halfkenny, who graduated from the Acadia Ladies Seminary in 1889 and became the first Black woman to graduate from an institute of higher education in Maritimes. Edwin Borden graduated from Acadia in 1892 with a Bachelor of Arts, and again with a Master of Arts in 1896. He is a believed to be one of the earliest persons of African descent to graduate from any college or university in Canada, and one of the first Black varsity athletes in Canada.

In 2008, Acadia alumnus, Donald Oliver (BA '60, DCL '07), the first Black man appointed to Canada’s Senate, introduced the Motion to Recognize the Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month, receiving unanimous support from his Senate colleagues.

Enjoy this special edition of the "The Times of African Nova Scotians," compiled by the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to excellence in Africentric education. This edition features many alumni and friends of Acadia University.

President's Message

Dr. Peter Ricketts with Acadia's Chaplain, Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

February is Black History Month across Canada and African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia. At Acadia, we are celebrating Black Joy! The theme recognizes and honours Black people's achievements at Acadia and worldwide.

Programming will start this Sunday with a Chapel Service and run through the entire month. I hope you will have the opportunity to participate in one of the many learning opportunities and celebrations planned! My sincere thanks to those of you who worked so hard to make these events happen.

Only by learning and working together can we create the inclusive and welcoming learning, living, and working environment that we all deserve.

For its part, through the work of the President's Anti-Racism Taskforce, Acadia is taking concrete steps to value the knowledge, strength, and contributions of Black students, faculty, and staff through a more comprehensive definition of institutional excellence.

Acadia is also committed to the Scarborough Charter and the National Dialogues and Action to address anti-Black racism and promote Black inclusion. And we are signatories to the Dimensions Charter, which addresses systemic barriers in research faced by women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority and racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities.

In addition to these institution-wide initiatives and the work they entail, we must also take the time to celebrate! After all, we can all use more joy on these cold winter days!



Dr. Peter Ricketts
President and Vice-Chancellor

Featured News

Black Student Success Navigator Janique Ellis Panza ('21)

Black history is our history
Véronique Russell ('16) celebrates resilient, empowered members of Acadia’s Black community as part of African Heritage Month with this series of new interviews.

Acadia releases new anti-racism report, begins work to create campus-wide change
The release of the Report of the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force (PART) and the official response by the President Ricketts are landmark documents in addressing racism on our campus that will inform meaningful action in the short- and long-term.

Canadian universities and colleges to sign charter fighting anti-Black racism, promoting inclusion
In November, Acadia became one of more than 40 universities and colleges across Canada to sign the Scarborough Charter, which vows to redress anti-Black racism and foster Black inclusion in higher education.

Acadia announces new Black Student Success Navigator
In August, Acadia appointed Janique Ellis Panza ('21) as its new Black Student Success Navigator to develop and implement programs and services to support the academic and personal success of students of African descent.

Reading List

The Honorable Donald Oliver (BA '60, DCL '07)

#BlackInSchool — Habiba Cooper Diallo
#BlackInSchool is Habiba Cooper Diallo’s high school journal, in which she documents, processes, and resists the systemic racism, microaggressions, stereotypes, and outright racism she experienced in Canada’s education system. Join the author for a reading and discussion on February 4. (Update: this event has been cancelled)

Schooling the System — Dr. Funké Aladejebi
Dr. Aladejebi offers powerful examination of black women teachers and their contributions to anti-racist education in Canada. Join the author for a live hybrid event at the KC Irving Centre auditorium or online. (Update: this event has been cancelled)

A Matter of Equality — Donald Oliver
Acadia alumnus The Honorable Donald Oliver (BA '60, DCL '07) shares insights from his remarkable life and groundbreaking service in the Canadian Senate. Join us for a virtual event with Dr. Oliver on February 28.

Vaughan Memorial Library's Anti-Racism Reading List
The team at Acadia's Vaughan Memorial Library assembled this reading list in 2020. It includes perspectives on the Black experience in Canada, the legacy of slavery, and contemporary politics.

Celebrating across Nova Scotia and Canada

Nova Scotia

On January 26, 2022, Nova Scotia held a virtual provincial proclamation launch and poster unveiling ceremony for African Heritage Month. This year's them is Through Our Eyes: The Voices of African Nova Scotians. It recognizes the legacies of people of African descent through first voice, lived realities, and experiences.

The theme highlights that when we listen to others’ perspectives, interpretations, and views on the world, particularly those from marginalized communities, we will gain a more meaningful understanding of how to make our world a better place.

Learn more and watch the video event.

Black History Month in Canada

During Black History Month, people in Canada celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous nation it is today. The theme for Black History Month 2022 is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.

Black History in Canada

Black people and their communities have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator and interpreter, whose presence in Canada dates back to the early 1600s.

Black history in Canada has not always been celebrated or highlighted. There is little mention that some of the Loyalists who came here after the American Revolution and settled in the Maritimes were people of African descent, or of the many sacrifices made in wartime by soldiers of African descent as far back as the War of 1812.

Canadians are not always aware of the fact that Black people were once enslaved in the territory that is now Canada or how those who fought enslavement helped to lay the foundation of the diverse and inclusive society in Canada.

Black History Month is about honouring the enormous contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of society. It is about celebrating resilience, innovation, and determination to work towards a more inclusive and diverse Canada—a Canada in which everyone has every opportunity to flourish.

Recognizing Black History Month in Canada

In 1978, the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) was established. Its founders, including Dr. Daniel G. Hill and Wilson O. Brooks, presented a petition to the City of Toronto to have February formally proclaimed as Black History Month. In 1979, the first-ever Canadian proclamation was issued by Toronto.

The first Black History Month in Nova Scotia was observed in 1988 and later renamed African Heritage Month in 1996.

Learn more on the Canadian Heritage website.