In December 1995, Canada’s House of Commons, officially recognized February as Black History Month following unanimous endorsement of a motion by Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to Parliament. In 2008, Acadia alumnus, Donald Oliver (’60), 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. Black History month has been known as African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia since 1996.
Acadia was one of the North America’s earliest universities to admit and graduate persons of African descent. In 1892, Edwin Borden from Truro, NS, earned his Bachelor of Arts and in 1896, his Master of Arts. He later earned his PhD and served a long and distinguished career as a church leader, educator, and college president in the United States.
February marks the start of African Heritage Month and Acadia’s Black Students Association has organized a series of events throughout the month.
Nendel Gofwan, President of Acadia’s Black Students Association (BSA) says events this month are open to all students, community members, and general public, she stresses that the association wants to focus on promoting diversity by increasing visibility on campus.
“I know of students who aren’t aware African Heritage Month happens in February.” Gofwan says. “The plan for this month is to make African Heritage Month more visible.”
Some of the key events the BSA has planned include an open mic, spoken word night hosted by poet El Jones on February 12th, and an interactive discussion on peaceful resistance, facilitated by the association on February 14h.
“We thought this topic was relevant to our students but also to people in the community so we want to make it a very interactive discussion.” Gofwan says. “We want to promote these kinds of open discussions on campus because our purpose at the BSA is for Black students from different parts of the world who are Acadia students to feel comfortable sharing their experiences through open communication.”
While February is dedicated to African Heritage, Gofwan says the BSA’s goal is to continue to encourage diversity, inclusion and communication on campus throughout the whole year by continuously reaching out to students and taking suggestions and feedback.
“Everyone is welcome to bring ideas to the table,” she says. “I think with what we have planned this month, we’re going to attract people but we plan to reach out via email as the year goes on to encourage students to write to us with events and activities they’d like to see.”
“In the future we would like for the BSA to evolve from a club to an internal organization in the university, representing Black students but including all other students as well,” she adds. “We’re a small community here at Acadia and people often get to know each other well and this can be a really good thing in terms of inclusivity.”
Learn more about the BSA here.