Black History Month 2021 and the future we stand for

Joy Loewen


In any typical year, I mark Black History Month by watching (or re-watching) Black films and/or reading works by Black authors.

The 2020 social justice movement, combined with COVID restrictions and a recent cold spell here in Winnipeg, provided the perfect backdrop to embrace that annual tradition but also prompted in me a deeper commitment to action.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve flipped between Barack Obama’s Promised Land and Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black while starting each day listening to affirmations to accept and embrace my “beautiful Black mind.” Filling my head and heart with these messages and stories gives me strength and courage to approach each day’s challenges with hope and joy.

While listening to a podcast interview with famed poet laureate Amanda Gorman I began to consider the history to be consumed and appreciated in future years. In the interview, Gorman challenges us to “Think of the history you stand on and the future you stand for.”

The future I stand for is one where equity and tolerance reign and racism has been destroyed.

A tall order to act upon …

I realize it’s now my turn to grab the baton of social justice and run the race like so many before to “build the beloved community” Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned.

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Good Trouble, Dawn Porter’s feature documentary film about civil rights activist and US Congressman John Lewis, is a motivating force. Lewis, in his beautiful and powerful invocation says “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’”

By serving storytellers through training and mentorships – particularly storytellers whose voices are underrepresented – we create more stories to help bridge the gaps in our understanding and move the ‘justice for all’ dial.

Black History Month 2021 comes during a moment of transformational change. The barriers we boldly address and the systems we seek to change will certainly help us in the present and bring us “… to the place which our fathers sighed” (Lift Every Voice and Sing).

Individually and collectively, my NSI colleagues and I are wildly passionate about building a nation of storytellers who create a more equitable and harmonious society by sharing their stories.

We honour the NSI alumni and projects that have been developed and produced by Black creators. We are privileged to support industry initiatives which promise to train a new generation of Black media industry professionals (see more on this below).

My heart is full when I think of the generations who will see and read the stories being made now. It’s a powerful call to action in this current tidal wave of change.

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