By Bradley Turcotte
For the first year ever, Capital Pride is hosting a full schedule of Black History Month programming this February.
A hybrid of in-person and virtual events, the organization is spotlighting Ottawa’s 2SLGBTQ+ Black community with events centred around the theme “Queer, Trans, Black, and Proud.” The month will include youth art events led by Montreal artist Kezna Dalz and appearances by Canada’s Drag Race queens Kendall Gender and Kimora Amour.
The keynote talk by writer and educator Kim Katrin will explore Black, queer and trans liberation, professional growth and development as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and strategies to maintain ally relationships.
The pandemic hit BIPOC community members disproportionately hard in terms of job security, Jaden Slawter, Capital Pride programming coordinator, says, but a rebound is underway.
“One thing the past two years has taught us is you do have the people around you. The Black community is something I value so much,” Slawter says. “It has honestly helped me get through this entire process, especially the queer Black community and my queer Black friends. After all that has happened in the last two years in terms of the pandemic, but also with the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s important to uplift people and push those voices forward.”
When Kitchissippi Times spoke to Capital Pride in 2021, chairperson Geneviève Colverson hoped the pandemic would unite all factions within Ottawa’s 2SLGBTQ+ community.
As a Black member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, “you can feel like you are essentially lesser than others or you are not as important,” Slawter says, and February’s programming aims to amplify these marginalized voices.
Although she celebrates her “culture and other Black people’s culture as much as possible,” Dalz says there is positive motivation to read exclusively about Black culture during Black History Month.
However, Dalz says that corporations often “woke-wash”—they participate in trending social movements in a performative way to increase profits.
“When it comes from within the community, it is nice to highlight the beauty of our culture.”
Dalz, who also goes by the pseudonym “teenadult,” collaborated with author Shanice Nicole on the recently released children’s book For Black Girls. Dalz says she hopes the book helps “little Black girls to feel seen and to feel heard. I hope it brings joy.”
She also added that she sees white families buying the book and continuing the anti-racism work while their children are young.
“I think that even grown adults can receive the message that is out there and hopefully it starts a discussion.”
There were many impassioned discussions when Dalz took part in a Black Lives Matter public art installation in Montreal. While most passersby were curious and friendly, Dalz says she did encounter several white, cisgender, heterosexual men who were upset because “white men’s lives matter” too.
“People have a hard time understanding things [that don’t affect them],” Dalz says.
Overall, Dalz says there is more curiosity and openness regarding anti-racism efforts as many people have been doing the work on their own during the pandemic. Yet there is also more rage, Dalz said, because people are isolated and those with discriminatory ideologies are getting upset when they go online and see the Black Lives Matter movement flourishing.
Dalz’s Capital Pride art events ask the question “what would you like to see in your heart?”
“I have had reflections, especially since the pandemic has started and the bigger wave of the BLM movement,” Dalz says. “It is always good to see and remind yourself what is good, what makes you happy… wishing for good things, thinking about things that bring us joy, and allow ourselves to enjoy them guilt-free.”
Canadian Heritage’s theme for Black History Month 2022 is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.”
Dalz encourages Canadians to continue to celebrate Black lives and culture after February ends.
Visit capitalpride.ca to learn more.