February marks Black History Month. It’s an opportunity to recognize, celebrate and acknowledge the many significant contributions that Black people have made to our union, province and country.
The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.” It speaks to the need for institutions and organizations like OPSEU/SEFPO to recognize and entrench Black history into the work we do every day of the year.
The accomplishments, resilience and resistance of the Black community go beyond this month. Black history is every day. Black people are achieving great things and making significant contributions to our society every day.
OPSEU/SEFPO proudly represents a large diverse membership who identify as Black. These members have been at the frontline during COVID-19 and continue to lead the province through recovery during this pandemic. Black OPSEU/SEFPO members are making their mark across sectors and divisions within community agencies, the LCBO, community colleges and within the broader public service sector. They are the champions and leaders who are pressing for change to address and dismantle anti-Black racism in the labour movement and in their workplaces.
This work isn’t new to our union. We were fortunate to have had the leadership of Fred Upshaw, a labour activist and the first Black person to lead a major Canadian union. Upshaw’s presidency shaped and laid the foundation for us to do the work that we do today around anti-racism. He was a trailblazer who fought for human rights and employment equity.
Today, we continue to build on Fred’s vision. We will continue to do the work to undo the harm of colonialism and anti-Black racism in our union, the workplace and in our communities. Every day is an opportunity for us to do better and to stand in solidarity with the Black community and Black members.
We encourage members to join and support the two upcoming virtual Black History Month events hosted by the Coalition of Racialized Workers on February 12 and February 25. These events will be an opportunity for members to learn more about Canadian Black History and showcase some of the powerful Black leaders around us.
We hope you take this opportunity to meet the incredible leaders within your union; individuals who have been breaking down barriers, challenging discrimination and blazing their own trails in this chapter of our country’s Black history – today, tomorrow and every day.
Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo ‘Eddy’ Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Peter Thompson, Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW)