Inspirational and educational ideas flowed freely during a virtual celebration of Black History Month organized by OPSEU/SEFPO’s Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW). The February 20 event followed public health guidelines and was held online in support of frontline heroes.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to supporting the fight against anti- Black racism.
“As allies in the struggle, it is long past time that white people take on more of the work to fight racism. Black people have been doing the work for generations, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to do it alone” he said.
Event participants had the opportunity to witness blessings and inspirations from slam poet author Lamoi Simmonds. Her poems were beautiful odes to the struggles and survival of Black men and women in Canada and the rest of North America. She encouraged participants to own their experiences, including but not limited to struggles, love for family, love for themselves, and the hurt and tears they have shed for those whose lives were cut short.
Further highlights included powerful contributions from guest speakers.
Marium Tolson-Murtty, Professor and Strategic Planning Officer for Anti-Black Racism at the University of Windsor, reminded participants of the importance of combatting anti-Black racism in public institutions. Tolson-Murtty also spoke of the importance of being ‘committed to being committed, to be purposeful, deliberate and genuine in the fight against anti-Black racism.’
Dr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi, an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director at Ryerson University, spoke of the importance of knowing the truth surrounding the economics of slavery and racism, and to see how they relate to the impact of COVID19 and the Black community.
In addition to these speakers, two OPSEU/SEFPO members shared powerful stories of their experiences during the pandemic. They discussed the importance of staying resilient while navigating their frontline responsibilities, on top of their day-to-day lives. They balanced this resilience and responsibility while providing support to some of the most vulnerable members in the community.
Peter Thompson, Chair of the Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW), acknowledged that there were challenges to getting this year’s event off the ground.
“We are so used to doing things a certain way, that it was very difficult to picture how this event would turn out on an online platform,” said Thompson. “We overcame the challenges, and were able to present a wonderful event that inspired us all. It met the expectations of our event theme: Today’s Event, Tomorrow’s History. All of the speakers spoke about the relevance of the protests and calls for change from last year and how they have changed how we view the world today. ”
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says the event underscored the richness of the diversity of the union.
“I’m proud that our members are not letting this pandemic curb their enthusiasm for celebrating and promoting the inclusivity and justice that OPSEU/SEFPO stands for,” said Almeida. “This event is so vibrant when held in person and it’s great to see that was not lost in the virtual event.”