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Black History Month

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An officer talks to two girls sitting on a stage at an event

York Regional Police proudly celebrates Black History Month

More than 350 people packed the York Regional Police Headquarters in Aurora on February 10, to celebrate Black History Month at the annual event.

The celebration, which included live performances, delicious food and remarks from keynote speaker Chief Justice Michael Tulloch, honoured the heritage and history of Black Canadians.

York Regional Police has been hosting this free event since 2009 and what started as a modest celebration has grown significantly over the years to what is now a sold-out gathering.

Superintendent Maurice James said for him, the York Regional Police Black History Month event is about celebrating the diversity of York Region.

“It’s about bringing the community together to not only celebrate the contributions of Black individuals, but also to build the relationship between the police and the community,” he said.

Future focused

During Black history month and all year long, York Regional Police celebrates and champions diversity.

A keen focus of the police service has been to better connect with members of the Black community in York Region, to ensure the policies and practices meet the needs of all constituents.

“We are committed to building trust and confidence,” York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said, adding that the work is ongoing.

“But we know that building and fostering these positive relationships is paramount to ensuring everyone feels safe and secure and that our region is both welcoming and inclusive,” he continued.

When it comes to building stronger positive relationships with the Black community, Superintendent James said it’s “all about making the future better.”

“I think we’re on the right foot already,” he said. “At events like the Black History Month event, we’re inviting the public here, the community here to see what we do, to listen to their wants and needs. So we’re on the right path.”

Superintendent James said many community partners attend the Black History Month events.

“Having that open forum for collaboration is really strengthening the partnerships,” he said.

Raising the Pan-African Flag

York Regional Police is also proud to raise the Pan-African flag at all of its locations and at Headquarters during the month of February to honour Black History Month.

The flag was created in 1920 by Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey to represent the people of the African Diaspora.

The colours of the flag are representative of the continent of Africa and the struggle for freedom.

A group of people stand next to a flag with green, red and black stripes

The Black History Month Legacy Poster

York Regional Police has also partnered with artist and Order of Canada recipient, Robert Small, since 2009 to unveil the Legacy Black History Month Poster.

Small has been creating the Black History Month Legacy posters for 30 years. Past editions of his works are showcased in homes, schools and community buildings across Canada.

Each year Small selects a handful of influential Black Canadians whose work have changed the country for the better.

“I thought about my own history as an African-Canadian growing up in Canada, and not really hearing about the stories of African-Canadians, so I started focusing on individuals that epitomized the history of African-Canadians here in Canada -- and what we’ve gone through and what we continue to try to accomplish,” said Small.

For the 30th edition of the Legacy Poster, Small said he selected Black Canadians who fit the theme: Legacies Left in the Water.

“I wanted to focus on individuals who have left a legacy -- similar to the water -- that would be around forever,” Small explained.

Among those honoured on the 2024 Legacy Poster, is York University professor and Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, Carl James.

James said Black history should be inserted into Canadian history.

“It’s not separate from, it’s not an appendage to, it’s not other,” James explained.

He said we should not just be celebrating Black history during February -- but all year long.

“For the 365 days that we talk of Canada and pay attention to the existence of Canada, and think about the social science aspect of Canadian development, we think of Canadian culture, think of the economic development of Canada, the political presence of Canada in Canada and in the world, is to insert in there the contributions and presence of Black people,” James said.

 Superintendent James echoed James’ remarks, saying Black History Month is about looking at Canadian history through a Black lens.

“Through the stories of Black people who have contributed to the economic, social and cultural fabric of Canada,” Superintendent James said.