The City of Timmins kicked off Black History month with a proclamation in council chambers on Monday.
Members of the African Community in Timmins (ACIT) received the proclamation from Mayor Michelle Boileau and Coun. Kristin Murray.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to learn about Black history and for us to celebrate who we are as Black people,” said Murray.
The theme for this year is Ours to Tell and the focus for the community is that people hear from them and their experiences.
“It’s like we’re coming to light in the city,” said Ifeoma Kasimanwuna. “When you’re visible, people are able to see who you are, what you represent, and the stories they hear are from you directly.”
ACIT recently received its not-for-profit status. The group is looking forward to hosting events during February to share stories with everyone in Timmins.
“There was no rallying centre, and there are a lot of Africans settling in Timmins and they needed people to support them, to help them settle and to help their cause,” said Everard Kasimanwuna, president of ACIT. “The idea is just to help them settle in, to help them get used to the weather, to help with language barriers.”
The recognition of Black History Month by the city is an important step, said Boileau, but there is always more work in inclusivity and diversity to be done.
“It gives us an opportunity to provide some awareness to the wider community that these things are going on, not just nationally, and they’re taking place right here in Timmins,” she said.
Events going on throughout February include a potluck at the Timmins Museum: NEC on Feb. 11 and ACIT is hosting a lecture at Northern College about Black history in Timmins on Feb. 18.
Tickets for the lecture are free and available on Eventbrite.
Events like the proclamation can make Timmins more appealing to newcomers, says Kasimanwuna, because being able to see a community already in place can be a comfort to people looking to settle here.
“Bringing people together is our way of fostering unity and getting to know the Black community and what we can offer,” said Suleyman Demi, who is involved with ACIT. “At the end of the day, we all want to contribute to the community of Timmins.”
The city is also working toward celebrating the diverse communities within Timmins.
“We do need to be taking proactive measures to try to attract people to the area, and I’ve heard firsthand how important it is to see yourself in a community,” said Boileau. “People are looking at Timmins and trying to decide whether they want to come here, they can find their community here.”
Black History month has been celebrated in Canada for the last 28 years and highlights the stories and history of Black communities and individuals that have been historically overlooked.
"Our stories, our struggles, our ambition is ours to tell," said Kasimanwuna. "Nobody can tell your story better than you."