The election of U.S. President Barack Obama has added special significance to Black History Month in Ottawa.
Following the election, “people in this community felt a sense of hope and uplifting,” said Ketcia Dorsainville, secretary of Black History Ottawa. “A lot of young people feel a sense of hope.
“Someone who looks like them and that they can relate to has been elected to the highest job” in the U.S., said Dorsainville. Because of that, young people “feel a sense of possibility, that they can do anything.”
“It’s a unique time in Canadian and U.S. history,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, who declared February Black History Month in Ottawa at the Library and Archives of Canada yesterday. “I think it’s a special time that will resonate for decades, if not centuries to come.”
The opening ceremonies included speeches, performances and the launch of postage stamps honouring Abraham Shadd, the first black man to hold political office in Canada, and Rosemary Brown, the first black woman to be elected to a provincial legislature.
The theme of this year’s celebration, The Courage to Make a Difference, doesn’t just focus on the contributions of well-known people like Harriet Tubman, Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Nelson Mandela, but community leaders, said Dorsainville.
“History is something everyone can have an interest in,” she said. “What we did before sheds light on what’s going on today, and gives us new ideas for tomorrow. And that’s something everyone can benefit from.”
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