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By: Veriline Howe
Diversity VP, Racialized Workers

For me, Black History Month is a time to think of the many milestones I have witnessed in my own lifetime, and to use the moment to reflect—on how much progress we have made and how there is always more work to be done. It was about 30 years ago that Bob Marley sang his wonderful song, telling us to ‘stand up for your rights…don’t give up the fight!’

Almost at the same time, in 1979, the City of Toronto declared February Black History Month. The Ontario Government did so in 1993, and the Federal Government followed in 1995, making this the 15th anniversary of National Black History Month.

Now, we see an African-American in the White House.

We have achieved a lot, but there is so much more work to do!

Black History Month is also a time to consider the struggles that lie ahead as we strive to achieve full equality, in our society, in our workplaces and in our labour movement.

It is a time to look to our sisters and brothers in the trenches—the unorganized who work for low wages and have poor or no benefits—and renew our own commitment and our union’s commitment to reach out to these sisters and brothers.

Our history, our struggle, lives on. Every single day, in big and small ways, every one of us adds to Black History Month. Our children and our children’s children will one day learn the stories of their parents and grandparents as they relate our shared stories, and I believe this information will build to more awareness of themselves.

As CUPE Members, we can be proud of the importance our union puts on the issue of justice—economic justice, social justice and racial justice. But as CUPE Members, we also can’t lose sight of the fact that racialized members still face many inequalities. Racialized communities face poverty, racism and many other oppressions.

We must always strive towards a culture of anti-oppression in everything we do.

Canada is one of the richest countries in the world. Poverty, especially among racialized women, is a huge problem that must be addressed. Governments need to hear our voices, they need to hear CUPE’s passion and commitment to ensure racialized sisters in Canada have access to good jobs, decent schools for their kids, and good communities.

From my heart and what I hear every day in the trenches, I know we need to see real action, real inclusion, inside and outside our union. As a movement and as a union, we’ve made such progress over the years. But we must always strive to educate our members on issues of racial justice, and to organize the unorganized. Education and organization are the tools to combat oppression and racism.

When we share these struggles and our knowledge, we will continue to ensure that Black History Month will be a time of celebration for our children and our grandchildren.

Click here to read CUPE Ontario’s statement marking the beginning of Black History Month