The United Nations has designated 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent and February, of course, is Black History Month.
In making its announcement, the UN challenges governments and the international community to “redouble efforts to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that affect African descendents in all parts of the world”. As a progressive union, OPSEU accepts and embraces that challenge.
We have a proud history in the ongoing struggle against all forms of discrimination. I know our members will support the International Year because we know, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said, that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism.
OPSEU’s stand on human rights also means that we support the declaration that the transatlantic transportation and enslavement of African peoples and the four hundred years enslavement of millions of Africans is a crime against humanity.
This Maafa or Holocaust of Enslavement lasted from the 16th to the 19th centuries and left a legacy of systemic anti-Black racism. Africans and people of African descent continue to suffer the consequences – more likely to be marginalized, face discrimination, experience employment insecurity and exclusion from positions of authority and decision making. It is deeply regrettable that our labour movement is far from immune from these facts.
So in this International Year for People of African Descent, I pledge that OPSEU’s leadership will renews its commitment to strengthen our union’s anti-racism agenda. We will also celebrate and promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage and culture of Africans and the Diaspora. Delegates to Convention 2011, our hundredth anniversary, will see some of this effort in action. And our Social Mapping Project will continue to assist OPSEU in our commitment to diversity.
I join with everyone in OPSEU to celebrate Black History Month throughout February, particularly in this International Year of People Year of African Descent. Over the past 100 years, our world has been made more just and our union has been made stronger in every respect by the contributions made by members of our black communities.
I urge everyone to take a few moments to learn from OPSEU’s Workers of Colour Caucus about Black History Month.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union