Black History Month is a time for us to celebrate Black Canadians who, throughout history, have contributed immensely to Canada in different fields, and those who continue to do so today. In honour of Black History Month, we’d love to introduce you to the 91st Toronto Guiding Unit.
Every week, these girls get together at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre in West Toronto, a hub of activities and a buzzing gathering place for those who call the area home. The neighbourhood is a vibrant community with approximately 36,000 residents, most of whom are newcomers to Canada, and the majority of whom are Black. One of the ways Guiding is striving to become more accessible to all girls in Canada is by partnering with community organizations to bring Guiding to neighbourhoods that have previously not had units. In turn, we gain the opportunity to learn from the girls and the community about how collaboration and partnership can strengthen what Guiding has to offer. For example, we have learned that some of our approaches to programming need to be tailored to take into consideration the realities of racialized girls.
Sean Morrison, who leads many of the centre’s recreational activities, saw the positive impact that Guiding could have on the girls who regularly go the centre’s different programs. When asked about the partnership with Girl Guides, he said, “Cooperation is essential in moving any idea forward. An individual can construct the idea, but cooperation is the only thing that can move that idea forward.”
For Black girls like those in Lawrence Heights, there can be a lot of negative stereotypes thrown their way – both because they are Black, and because they are girls. The Girl Guide unit’s Guiders understand the importance of intentionally creating the kind of space where these girls can celebrate their identity, culture and history.
Black History Month is exactly the kind of important celebration of culture and history that these Guiders want to ensure the girls have a space to contribute to. When the Guiders asked: “Does anyone know what happens in February?”, most of the girls immediately knew that it was Black History Month. When asked how they wanted to celebrate with their unit, the girls suggested different field trips to places like a fun indoor playground. The Guiders admit they were a bit surprised at this answer, but they wanted to ensure they honoured the girls’ voices and girl-driven practices. As Black girls, this is how they wanted to celebrate their culture and history. So, for this unit celebrating Black History Month means celebrating yourself and doing what makes you feel awesome.
How does your unit celebrate Black History Month? If you’re looking for ideas, try these:
- Look up and learn about Black Canadian women who have been a part of and contributed to Guiding such as Wanda Robson, Rosey Ugo Edeh, and Frances Atwell.
- Introduce books written by Black authors about Black history and culture.
- Visit Black history organizations in your region.