Black History Month kicks off at Town Hall


Powerful soul music filled the room at Oakville’s Town Hall as the crowd of 100 people came together to celebrate Black History Month on Feb. 3.

The performances took the crowd back into the 1800s during slavery and showed everyone how people would use music as a way to escape the pain and bring love and happiness to one another. Singer Diana Braithwaite’s voice filled the hall and took the breath of many audience members.

Veronica Tyrrell, president of the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (CCAH), put on the annual kickoff event to bring the community together for a night of remembrance and celebration. It’s been celebrated every year since parliament declared Black History Month in 1995.

“We hope that this brings the community closer,” said Tyrrell. “We have come a long way. It’s important for our youth to understand their roots.”

The Oakville Museum put together an exhibit of posters to raise awareness of Oakville’s unique role in Black History and one of the town’s most remembered African-Canadian gentleman who settled in Oakville. A freeborn African-American, Branson Johnson arrived in the town in 1855 along with his family.

Sheridan College student posters

Sheridan College student posters

Not only does the Oakville Museum contribute to this event, but Sheridan College also has students who put together posters showcasing important people and events in black history.

“The students were proud to be a part of this event for the second year and be a part of this important cultural event,” said acting associate dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Sean McNabney.

The kickoff event focused on celebrating that we’re all the same while teaching our adolescents about the importance of black history and how far we’ve come as a society.

“It’s the 20th anniversary of black history and we’ve made strides, but not enough,” said McNabney. “It’s important for the youth to know and understand who their forefathers are.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton talked to the audience about the importance of bringing the community together, regardless of race. Michelle Johnson of York University gave everyone a lesson in soul music and blues/jazz duo Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley performed “All About the Blues”.

“It’s important to connect with history and having everyone aware of it, it makes our community rich,” said Christian Knudsen, professor at Sheridan College.

Closing the event was Beyond Sound, an African Ngoma dance and song ensemble, which performed a few of their songs for the crowd to get up and dance to.