February is Black History Month, a month dedicated to honouring the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. We got in touch with Gabrielle Grant, a Guider with a unit in a predominantly Black community in Nova Scotia, to ask how they celebrate Black History Month. Her answer was beautiful and highlighted a great learning for us all – Black history is something their unit celebrates throughout the year and not just in February. We were able to find out a little bit more about the unit’s unique history, how girls celebrate their culture and heritage, and how this helps the girls discover themselves and be everything they want to be.
Can you tell us a little bit about your unit?
Our unit is the East Preston Multibranch unit. We meet in a community centre in East Preston in Nova Scotia. My co-Guider, Miss Brenda Brooks, started the unit over 35 years ago, and I grew up in this unit starting as a Spark. Right now, our unit consists of mainly Sparks and Brownies, with a Ranger assistant, but we have had all branches in the past. The girls in our unit love to go on outings, play active games and sell Girl Guide cookies. Last year they got to go on a STEM trip to the galaxy dome, and they loved it.
Your unit celebrates the culture of the girls in your unit throughout the year – why and how do you do that?
We bring people from our community to our unit as guest speakers. This way the girls get to see role models and women who they can identify with and who reflect their experiences. We do different activities with the girls that connect them with their African ancestry, such as basket weaving. One of our elders, who is a craftswoman, came to teach the girls in our unit how to weave a basket, which is a traditional trade that our elders still practice today.
Growing up in this unit, I always knew that our toadstool was different than that of other units. I explained to the girls that our toadstool is a basket which was woven by another Elder in our community, and we still use that same toadstool today.
“With the negative stereotypes the girls are exposed to about themselves because they are girls and because they are Black, they benefit greatly from Guiding.”
How does this type of programming benefit the girls?
The girls love learning new skills, especially ones that highlight their culture. I have found that these activities help the girls feel a sense of pride in their community and raise their confidence. I remember during one of our unit meetings, I asked the girls to sing a song while I got the materials ready for another activity, and they started to sing “Lift every voice and sing” which is recognized as the Black national anthem. I didn’t think they knew this song, so they surprised me with their knowledge of our community’s history; this is how their pride in themselves and our community comes through.
With the negative stereotypes the girls are exposed to about themselves because they are girls and because they are Black, they benefit greatly from Guiding. Being part of Girl Guides gives us an opportunity to engage in activities like this and help the girls explore who they are and celebrate them.
We learned so much from the East Preston Multibranch unit about celebrating Black history in Guiding and we invite you to take the opportunity Black History Month provides to learn more about these histories and heritages throughout the year.
How does your unit celebrate the culture of its girl members? We want to hear your stories! Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org