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2024 Changemakers Series highlights Black Canadian contributions to Canadian Society

By Kimberly Taylor, April 15 2024—

The 2024 Changemakers Series features profiles and portraits of Black Canadians who have contributed to Canadian society. The website features a list of names of these remarkable individuals based on a weekly theme for the month of February. In an interview with the Gauntlet, Dr. Patrina Duhaney explained that the Anti-Black Racism Task Force within the Faculty of Social Work created the Changemakers Series to raise awareness about Black experiences in Canada with the first iteration running in 2021.

“The Anti-Black Racism Task Force was established in 2020 in response to and solidarity to ongoing calls to address racial injustice and following George Floyd’s murder. We’ve been actively engaged in bringing more awareness to Black people’s experience, histories, cultures, and so forth,” Duhaney explained.

“We wanted to find creative ways to engage with our university community as well as our online audience. We realized that people engage with information in different ways. We found that when we first set up the changemakers series it actually increased the number of people who were accessing our site and social media platforms online.”

“The Changemakers Series looks at Black individuals across Canada, in some instances, we will also highlight Black individuals in the US who have made a significant mark on Canadian society, and who have really changed the ways we understand Black experiences and Black contributions. This actually started in 2021, so this is our fourth year doing this.”

Duhaney highlighted that for many people living in Canada, there is very little awareness of the contributions of Black Canadians and Black experiences in the country and that this website was created to build that knowledge.

“It’s really important to share knowledge. You’d be amazed there’s just very little knowledge. Although the knowledge has grown since the Black Lives Matter movement learning about Black people’s histories, their contributions and how they have effectively influenced Canadian society,” it’s not something that’s talked about every single day,” said Duhaney.“As a matter of fact, it’s not something that’s even taught as often in schools as it should it be. And so, because of the limited knowledge and really understanding Black individuals’ histories within Canada, but specifically in Alberta, there is an ongoing need to have these series where people are exposed to this knowledge.” 

“They can look at it, read it, review it on their own time at their own pace. It’s just another way that we are engaging with people and asking them to really pay attention to how Black people are making our society an even better place,” she continued. 

Duhaney emphasized that one of the goals of the Changemakers Series is for individuals to not only engage with the information but also to share that information in conversation with others, in their teaching and in their spheres of influence.

“I invite them to review and look at the Changemakers Series, but this is intended to be a conversation starter. I would encourage readers to explore more. Read more about these individuals. I would also encourage them to share their knowledge with other people,” she said.

“Be intentional. Find different ways of integrating Black knowledges and ways of knowing and being into conversations that may have with others or even sharing their experiences and what they have learned. But pay attention to the words of encouragement and advice from these Changemakers for us to actually have a better society where Black people feel that they are not discriminated against and they can actually flourish.”

Duhaney shared that the Changemakers Series involves the work of students, administrators, coordinators, committee members and others, including the artist for the portraits: Ginette Crichlow. While the Anti-Black Racism Task Force is within the Faculty of Social Work, it engages with the entire university and broader community. In addition to the Changemakers Series, the Anti-Black Racism Task Force has also organized many events during Black History month, as well as during other times of the year.

“The Anti-Black Racism Task Force falls under the Social Work umbrella, it’s within the Faculty of Social Work, but the work that we do extends beyond Social Work. We engage with the entire university as well as broader communities around the university,” Duhaney said.

The Changemakers Series and the efforts of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force aim to be a call to action that extends beyond Black History Month in February.

“Essentially, it’s not just about reading something. The call to action is: do something about it. Do something with that knowledge that you have acquired. Share it with someone else. Try to do your part to make a Black person’s life even better given the ongoing struggles that they’ve had,” she said.

“I know often times these conversations come up around Black History Month, but what I want to emphasize is thinking about Black people’s contributions and histories beyond  February. More information about the Anti-Black Racism Task Force can be found on their website. 

To learn more, visit the office of EDI’s website.

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