Black History Month is a time to reflect on the unique challenges of some of our members and celebrate how they have and continue to resist.
Unifor activists across the country work with our sisters and brothers from marginalized communities in challenging hate and promoting access for our social, political and economic institutions. Part of creating access for marginalized communities means the union is addressing the concerns of those members and people connected to them. White supremacy has impacted every aspect of black people’s lives, from the criminal justice system to economic, housing and gender issues. More than ever, the union must be fostering open and deep conversations about how to resist and create a more just and equitable world.
During February, Unifor highlighted the work of 23 Black labour activists. We began with Arlette Magbity from Fort McMurray, Alberta of Local 707a and we emphasized the importance of being versatile in understanding and appreciating new cultures. We then highlighted the story of Keston John from Local 222 in Oshawa, Ontario who believes if united, we can change the future for the next generation by creating more opportunities for growth while educating members of their rights in the workplace. Angela Downy from Unifor Local 4606 in Halifax, Nova Scotia was featured in week three, where she shared her story of receiving the feeling that her community of Lucasville, Nova Scotia was shrinking. But through her learned skills in the union and her loving heart, Angela fought back to re-establish the boundaries and worked to made Lucasville a heritage site. And finally, in week four, Mary Boudreau from Local 468 in Winnipeg recounted how she was the first black woman elected as Vice President and how that has reminded her of the importance of building a more diverse union.
Throughout February, the national union and locals organized Black History Month events in their communities. Unifor sponsored the 12th Glenn Gould Prize Celebration. Opera singer Jessye Norman was honoured for her continued activism and her globally renowned artistic contributions. Unifor also sponsored an intimate conversation with the founder of #MeToo Tarana Burke at this year’s Toronto Black Film Fest. Finally, the national union has co-sponsored and helped organize the upcoming 21st annual African Nova Scotian Music Association Awards Show. The awards show is important for current and future musicians from the African Nova Scotian community.
While Unifor considers Black History Month a unique opportunity to highlight the ongoing challenges facing black people, including members, it’s also a reminder to keep organizing and resisting throughout the year until there is justice for all.