Calgary Central Library to host events, performances for Black History Month

The Calgary Central Library is hosting events all February for Black History Month – with the historian in residence, Bashir Mohamed leading the way. Taylor Braat spoke with Mohamed, who researches Alberta’s Black history, about his work in activism, and how its changed over the last few years.

The Calgary Central Library is hosting numerous events all of February for Black History Month, but they won’t only be related to books.

Events, performances, and education will be displayed, and the library’s Black History Month Historian, Bashir Mohamed, is leading the way.

Among many things, Mohamed is a researcher and journalist covering Black history in Alberta, with aims to remove gaps in Alberta’s published Black history and to draw a line to where racism stems from.

“It connects the history – the first step of acknowledging our present is acknowledging where we came from,” Mohamed told CityNews.

“There’s a desire to minimize by saying, ‘oh, you know, this is a one-off incident’ or ‘these problems are not connected to anything deeper.’ By acknowledging this history, by critically engaging with it, we don’t see it in a vacuum, we see it in an appropriate context, and it makes it easier for us to address the problems that stem from those legacies.”

His work in advocacy began in 2016 when he was called the ‘N-word while cycling in Edmonton. He was known to be radical while he was with Black Lives Matter Edmonton. He says that all changed in May 2020.

“So here’s the weird thing, people like apologized to me — journalists and academics, people I never interacted with. But for some reason, had very strong opinions about the work we were doing,” Mohamed said.

“In a few weeks, it went from us talking about carding being very controversial, to city councillors going to Black Lives Matter protests.”

During the month, there will be performances by hip-hop artist Bubba B the MC, The Caili O’Doherty Quintet, and an in-person event with Patricia Irvine.

Irvine is Ted King’s niece, whom Mohamed says was “a civil rights figure that a lot of people don’t know about but should know about.”

According to a report from Mohamed, King, a Calgarian, was the president of the Alberta Association of the Advancement of Coloured People in 1959, where he headed a grievances committee meant to address complaints of racial discrimination.

Steven Dohlman, with the events and program partnerships at the Calgary Central Library, says it’s key to provide a place to learn about Black history.

“It’s a very important month for us to reflect and learn and to grow as a community, but also an opportunity to celebrate the richness of Black history month, all the culture, performances and activities,” Dohlman said.

Mohamed says acknowledging Black History Month can be unique for everyone. For some, a celebration; for parents, a teaching moment.

“If it’s someone in a leadership position, I think its an important time for that person to reflect on the institution that that person represents and whether or not it’s fully welcoming,” he said.

For more information about Mohamed and Black History Month at the Calgary Central Library, people can visit the website.

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