Honouring those who have been traditionally left out of our history; OPSEU celebrates Black History Month

Smokey Thomas addresses Head Office staff

Every February, people across the country celebrate the achievements and contributions of Canadians of African and Caribbean descent during Black History Month events.

On February 27, staff at OPSEU’s head office at 100 Lesmill Road in Toronto were joined by regional office staff across the province via video link. The celebration featured music, food, speeches, and important historical visuals including poster displays of role models from black communities nation-wide. The film Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story was the main attraction.

The lunch-hour gala was planned and hosted by OPSEU’s Racialized Employees’ Committee.

“I am proud of the work the committee does on behalf of OPSEU’s staff.  We are committed to continuing our work in developing an employment equity, diversity, and inclusion program” said OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, who also took the time to honour former OPSEU President Fred Upshaw, the first racialized president to lead a trade union in Canada.

“Not only was he (Upshaw) a great person, he was a friend of mine, and a mentor to many within OPSEU and the greater union landscape,” Thomas said. “His leadership laid the foundation for the powerful, outward-looking, progressive union we are today.”

Thomas was happy to see so many staff in attendance and thanked the two staff unions (ASU and SSU) for their contributions.

ASU President Pat Honsberger spoke about the importance of Black History Month and noted the important contributions of black men and women throughout Canadian history such as those of Viola Desmond, Carrie Best, Maxine Tynes, Oscar Peterson, and Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, to name just a few.

“I would invite you to take the opportunity to look up any one of these important Canadians and read about their significant contributions to our country,” Honsberger said. “Learn of their struggles and how they faced them, and fought discrimination and racism along the way of their journeys in order to pave the way for others to follow.”

Black History Month is a time to honour those who have traditionally been left out of our history.  OPSEU was proud to mark this important time with celebration, history, and food and even prouder to be an employer that leads the way in employment equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. But our larger goal is to weave the achievements of all racialized people into our consciousness every day.  A month is great. Every day is better.