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And Still We Rise--A Black presence in Alberta

And Still We Rise, a Black Presence in Alberta is an exhibit on Black history in the province from the 1800s to 1970s; available to view online now at citymuseumedmonton.ca
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Etty Cameron in her Alberta classroom in the 1970s. Stories of how Blacks contributed to education and society overall are part of an exhibit at citymuseumedmonton.ca. Photo submitted.

Best wishes for the new year to our readers and followers and many thanks for your ongoing support of Alberta Prime Times. It is my hope COVID-19 and its variants will no longer be controlling factors in our lives in 2022 and beyond, and everyone will share freely in all aspects of society.

Let me introduce you to something new and interesting in the Black world: something that can be viewed from the convenience of your home.

Through an initiative of the Edmonton Heritage Council, Black people are now able to tell their stories digitally. The exhibit currently on display spans the period from the 1800s to the present and highlights lived experiences, extensive researched information and pictorial representations in support of the phrase from Maya Angelo’s poem – ‘And still I rise,’ which forms the overarching theme of the display.

It speaks to the resilience of Black people who, though often scorned and buffeted, have fiercely resisted subjugation, a precursor to annihilation. Blacks, through their indomitable spirits have persistently risen above adversities through their determination to stay focused on Maya Angelo’s challenge as a path to achieve equality and justice, thus sharing fully in all aspects of society.

This digital exhibit is a project called Edmonton City as Museum Project, (ECAMP) spearheaded by Dr. Jennifer Kelly, professor emeritus of the University of Alberta, along with curator Christina Hardie and her ECAMP team. Dr. Kelly has recruited writers like Donna Coombs-Montrose, Jeannette Austin Odina, and myself, to prepare stories on some of the more contemporary contributions to the main theme- “And Still We Rise, A Black Presence in Alberta.”

The display consists of a number of panels, meant to open up the conversation on the Black presence in Alberta and contributions to the city of Edmonton. The writers and sponsor hope the provision of available materials leads to healthy conversations around Black people and may become the genesis for inclusion in an Alberta Education curriculum which should be reflective of its population.

For many years, Blacks have not been recognized in the school curriculum. This is seen as an affront to Blacks who helped to build the country through working on the railroads and on trains as sleeping car porters. They helped break land to establish communities, and more recently, shared their expertise in schools, universities, and the larger community, as well as helping to stabilize schools in remote areas of the province. Materials in this display renounce excuses for exclusion of Black studies in the curriculum.

Almost two years ago, the Black Lives Matter movement forced the world to look at how justice and equality were meted out to Black people. The movement further challenged the world to move beyond the status quo and to embark on meaningful changes whereby all persons, of every colour, can realize their full potential.

As the pendulum swings in the direction of change, the writers hope the knowledge people gain from the exhibit will result in better understanding and treatment of Blacks. Ultimately, this may lead to mutual respect for all humanity whereby everyone in society can participate fully.

While this digital display is available to view at any time, February is Black History Month. Could this be the ideal time to start learning about Black presence in Alberta? There is much information in one place, just a click away at: https.//citymuseumedmonton.ca/blog/and-still-we-rise/

And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta, late 1800s – 1970s | Edmonton City as Museum Project ECAMP (citymuseumedmonton.ca)

Please avail yourselves of this opportunity to see my story on vivacious teachers, interviews, personal stories and more. Share your comments on how we can improve this display, ask questions or offer suggestions. This platform is meant to build on as a primary source for extolling Black presence in Alberta. Together let us rise!

Etty Cameron is a writer and retired educator who came to Alberta from the Caribbean to teach in 1967.