Celebrating black history in P.E.I.

Dave Stewart & Wayne Thibodeau comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 1, 2016

Kendi Tarichia and Scott Parsons are members of the newly formed Black Culture Society of P.E.I., a not-for-profit group that is open to everyone interested in black culture. They’ve put together a list of events that will take place in Charlottetown during Black History Month in February.


Kendi Tarichia was a young teenager just looking to fit in when she left Kenya and moved to Charlottetown.

It wasn't easy for her because there simply weren't very many black youth around.

Then she decided to attend Island Baraka Day, an event to recognize and honour the contribution of the first Africans to arrive in the province, those who were brought to P.E.I. as slaves more than two centuries ago.

Organizers wanted it to represent the Afro-Islander population. Activities included traditional African dance, food, crafts and presentations and displays on various topics.

"When the Baraka festival happened, there would be lots of people there, people interested in learning and meeting other people. You saw a reflection of yourself in the community,'' said Tarichia, now 27.

Organizers with the Black Islanders Co-operative, which put together Island Baraka Day, were looking to pass the torch so a group, including Tarichia, got together and formed the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I., a not-for-profit located in Charlottetown.

These are changing times in P.E.I. with the number of immigrants growing all the time.

With that in mind, the society created Black History Month in February. In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, Jean Augustine. The motion was carried unanimously by the House of Commons.

In February 2008, Senator Donald Oliver, the first black man appointed to the Senate, introduced a motion to have the Senate officially recognize February as Black History Month. It received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008. 

There will be a writing competition, Baraka family arts and crafts event, music, a roots reggae dance at Jax Dance Club on Prince Street in Charlottetown and a workshop on Transcending Race and Discrimination on P.E.I.

The local chapter of the Council of Canadians has also teamed up with Cinema Politica to organize a screening of "500 Years Later'' about the affects of slavery globally on Feb. 17 at Murphy's Community Centre.

Scott Parsons, a member of the society, said it's a sign that things are changing in P.E.I.

"There is a whole new demographic of people here from other places in the world,'' Parsons said. "Some of these people have children who were born here in P.E.I. and are going to school here. They are the new generation of black Islanders.''

Tarichia said the response from the community in terms of help is important and that means a lot to her.

"I think it's exceptionally important (to celebrate African culture). When we were doing Baraka back then it was more to raise awareness, but Charlottetown has changed so much. It has become so much more diverse.

"It felt like, suddenly, we have a bigger group of culture to celebrate, different black cultures to celebrate. We felt it was even more important to celebrate black culture in P.E.I. and to represent black culture to see how we could move forward with black culture. I felt it was important, not just on a personal level, but a community level.''