Message - OBHS President
Natasha Henry, OBHS President
Remembering Black Veterans and Service People on Remembrance Day
Black men have served in defence of what we now call Canada in the British Army and militias, and later the Canadian Armed Forces and Air Force going back to the War of 1812. They bravely volunteered to protect the colony and later country and the OBHS encourages everyone to more about them, share their stories, and honour their legacy.
There are several efforts to ensure the ongoing remembering of their contributions and experiences. OBHS board member Kathy Grant has dedicated her time to document and preserve the stories of Black Canadian Veterans through her Legacy Voices project and her Facebook page, Black Canadian Veterans Stories of War. As well, Kathy and Sarah Onyango led the creation of the Veteran’s Affairs Canada webpage, Black Canadians in Uniforms. They interviewed many Black veterans and those interviews are available as a rich source of their experiences. Historica Canada’s Memory Project has a page dedicated to recognizing Black Canadian veterans. The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society has been sharing some of the enlistment records of Black men in the region who served in both world wars. Anthony Sherwood’s film, Honour Before Glory, is a docudrama on the No.2 Construction Battalion, the segregated all-Black unit that served in the First World War. These men’s fight for the right to enlist was recorded by Calvin Ruck and last year, Canada Post honoured the 100th anniversary of the battalion’s activation with the Black History Month commemorative stamp.
Black veterans also launched a battle against racial discrimination on the home front as their efforts to support wars intended to defend freedom and crush oppression, did not further the struggle of Black Canadians for human rights and racial justice. Many were blatantly reminded that nothing had changed when they returned home from Europe. In 1943, Hugh Burnett, was refused a cup of coffee at a Windsor restaurant while wearing his military uniform. Burnett and other veterans remained active in agitating for anti-racial discrimination legislation that would protect full citizenship rights for Black Canadians. Their courage and warrior spirits on both battlefields should not be forgotten, as Canada is better for it. Today, Black Canadian men and women serve in a range of capacities in the Canadian military. Thank you for your service.
I encourage educators and organizations who play a role in commemorating Remembrance Day to represent the diverse contributions and experiences of the men and women who have served and who continue to serve. The OBHS pays tribute to Black veterans and service men and women, past and present.
Natasha Henry, OBHS President
Nikki Clarke - OBHS Immediate Past President
Black History is Canadian History. Black History is International History. The contributions and achievements of black peoples can be seen in arts and culture, inventions, architecture, policy making, sports, and the list goes on.
The mandate of the Ontario Black History Society is to ensure that we protect, preserve, and promote black heritage in Ontario. Since becoming the elected President November 9, 2015, it has been a very busy and rewarding time for me personally and the organization as a whole. Our goals moving forward are to create more engaging programs for the youth to carry on our legacy and to provide inclusive opportunities for French and Spanish speaking Blacks.
2017, marks Canada's 150th Birthday and as we pursue our vision, we call on talented individuals to lend a helping hand, we ask for resources, and for funding so that we can continue our mission.
I encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @obhistory to learn about our current events and programs.
Together we can make a difference.
Ensemble , nous pouvons faire une difference.
Juntos, podemos hacer una diferencia.