The University of Saskatchewan now welcomes students from more than 100 countries around the world, creating a vibrant multicultural student body that is more global than ever before. The ASA has taken the lead in celebrating black history and heritage by hosting a variety of inclusive events in the month of February that are open to students from all cultures and backgrounds.
“I think it’s important to celebrate Black History Month because we do have a diverse student body on campus,” said ASA president Ewurabena Sackey-Forson. “It’s important to recognize your past, and to move forward. It creates community and it brings that sense of being proud in who you are and where you come from. And that is also what the ASA is all about. Just knowing who you are and celebrating it.”
After hosting a pair of movie nights, including attending the premiere of the new Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther, the ASA is continuing Black History Month celebrations with a social event in the International Student and Study Abroad Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 21 (4:30 pm), featuring traditional African food, music and games. The ASA will also host a friendly soccer match on Saturday, Feb. 24 (1 pm) in the Education Building gymnasium.
Black History Month has been observed in Canada since 1995, recognizing black history and celebrating excellence in February every year. Sackey-Forson said the ASA encourages learning about the history of heroic black individuals like Harriet Tubman, who risked her life to help people escape slavery in the south and bring them to Canada through the Underground Railroad.
In Saskatchewan, that history includes Dr. Alfred Shadd, who began practising medicine here in 1898, and is regarded as the first known Saskatchewan resident of African descent. In 1910, Mattie and Joseph Mayes helped establish the province’s first black pioneer settlement when they led a dozen African-American families from Oklahoma to just north of Maidstone, 200 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. Their great grandchildren grew up in North Battleford and include Dr. Charlotte Williams, a U of S graduate and the first black president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, former National Football League star Rueben Mayes and former record-setting national team bobsledder Lesa Mayes-Stringer, who competed internationally for Canada.
“Black History Month is not solely about the history of slavery and we need to celebrate our great history going back centuries,” said Sackey-Forson, who is now working on her second degree in the College of Nursing after earning a Bachelor of Science in physiology and pharmacology at the U of S. “We have so much to celebrate and it is important to recognize who you are, where you came from, and where you are going.”
To that end, Sackey-Forson said the ASA is also looking forward to two major multicultural events coming up in March. The ASA is one of the dozens of student groups ratified by the U of S Students’ Union that will help host the annual Global Village event at Louis on March 15, a student-led celebration of diversity and international initiatives at the U of S. The ASA will also host the association’s year-end Formal Gala on March 17, which will be open to all students, staff and faculty as well as community members.
“We are going to have speakers come and talk about their successes and the struggles that they have had and how they have overcome them, academically and socially,” said Sackey-Forson. “We are looking for prominent people to come and inspire the students and business owners to help build mentorships and partnerships.”