With a focus on Black History Month in February, Heaven Berhe is one of several USask students who has stepped up to promote a number of events to inspire others. (Photo: Chris Morin)

Black History Month: USask students lead community efforts to educate and inspire

Heaven Berhe understands the importance of education.

A fourth-year University of Saskatchewan (USask) student, Berhe is Vice-President of Academics for the African Students Association (ASA), an organization that is promoting several Black History Month events that aim to educate and inspire the USask campus community.

Berhe recalls having her own moment of inspiration when she watched a documentary about Black History Month and African-American writer and historian Dr. Carter Woodson. More than just a vivid memory, it’s a personal moment that she is hoping to share with others.

“Dr. Woodson who was one of the first people to study African history and to advocate for people to learn about themselves and to speak for themselves,” she said. “That way you don’t run into the risk of someone else interpreting your history. I found that so important because when you don’t see yourself represented, you accept that narrative.”

Studying anatomy and cell biology in the USask College of Arts and Science, Berhe is looking forward to graduating this year, and is interested in shifting her future academic focus to further aid her community.

“I’ve been interested in getting into law, specifically immigration law,” said Berhe. “I’m looking to help fill that space that’s missing for people who might not understand the transition from being a refugee to being a permanent resident.”

“The application process can be very tedious,” she continues. “Having someone who can speak that language is crucial. My parents went through this process and I helped them through this, and I’d love to help others as well.”

Throughout the week of Feb. 9-16, the ASA is holding a number of events designed to promote the theme of unity, culture and love. In addition to a movie night on Tuesday, Feb. 11, there is a discussion of African history with Dr. Simonne Horwitz (PhD) on Wednesday, Feb. 12 and an Afrobeat Zumba night on Thursday, Feb. 13.

This all leads up to an event lead by the City of Saskatoon on Saturday, Feb. 15. Taking place at the Frances Morrison Central Library, there will be opportunities to engage with educational presentations, cultural performances and dialogues centered around the importance of Black History Month in Saskatoon.

“Continuing on the theme from the events from last year, we will have speakers that will come and talk about slavery and the history, but we also want to show how we are moving forward as well,” said Berhe. “We have doctors in law and in sociology that got their degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, who will talk about their passions and how they are helping their community.”

Berhe hopes that participants in the events will be inspired to see Black History Month as an everyday opportunity to learn.

“Our history doesn’t stop for us,” she said. “I’m passionate for others to share with us. This is for everyone, it’s a beautiful history and it’s a way for all of us to move forward.”

For more on the ASA and events on Black History Month, visit their website or their Facebook page.

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