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A Message from the Chair: Opening Our Hearts …

Black History Month has begun.  It’s reach embraces the resiliency of yesterday and it’s promise shapes the legacy of tomorrow. It is a history that long precedes us, while the impacts continue to succeed us.

The history I learned in school growing up in Sherwood Park, Alberta in the 1970s obscured much more than it revealed.  Yes, I learned about slavery in the US, the underground railway – and about how much of the world map was colored “pink” and described as “The Commonwealth.”.  I learned that individuals could be cruel towards those with darker skin – but did not learn then about how much of the economy and relative prosperity we still enjoy was built by the intentional enslavement of Black bodies for 100s of years – be it then, on plantations – or now, within the prison complex.

Medical school taught me what drugs to prescribe to Black people with high blood pressure.  But it did not teach me about the histories of unethical experimentation, cruel neglect of pain, the punishing impact on the body and its physiology of being Black in a society which rewards and desires Whiteness.  It did not teach me that being White or Black is a social invention which shapes us all in dramatically different ways.

Black History Month has many things to teach us – including stories which rewrite and repopulate our imaginations about how the world was – and is.  Yes, the histories of racism and oppression need to be shared and understood and articulated in whatever detail is required for us to rethink what we take for granted.   Hearing the sober truth of forgotten history is one way I can contribute to “amends” for inheriting the spoils of history whose playing field tilted in my direction.

This month also offers the chance for more specific histories – stories of people and families and communities who have prevailed.  People who have made a difference. Who continue showing up and who speak up to inspire change and action. People who courageously imagine a better future for all of our children – and do all they can to call that vision into being.

Listening to these stories and voices isn’t just February’s work.  But this month’s many offerings – planned by the DFM, the Faculty, the University, the wider community – creates many opportunities for each of us to offer a small repair to our community’s shared fabric.  Do what you can to listen and learn, be inspired and sit with humility in any spaces which feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar.    Also know that this month can be exhausting for those across the Black community – the generosity and energy required to share these stories and contribute to the collective’s learning can only be honored by our respectful attention and gratitude– and our commitment to shouldering the lion’s share of the actions required to move forward.

Special thanks to Nirosha Balakumar, Dr. Tejal Patel and our department’s Black History Month Planning Group for all your work in creating diverse opportunities for engagement and education throughout Black History Month.  I share your commitment to ensuring these conversations, learnings and investments continue throughout the year.  The weekly newsletter will highlight events throughout the month.  I am also reposting and sharing the offerings emailed from the Faculty of Health Sciences earlier today.

(Repost from FHS Faculty Affairs)

In our commitment to celebrating Black Excellence, addressing the injustices faced and amplifying the voices and narratives across the Black community, the Faculty of Health Sciences, in collaboration with members from Department of Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Medicine, HEI and Schools of Nursing & Rehabilitation Science have put together an array of events to celebrate Black Excellence during the month of February. The theme of Black History Month in Canada this year is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day”. As such, we recognize that these dialogues are not just limited to the month of February and will continue to work to sustain these across the Faculty going forward.

Attached and below you will find a full listing of events, details and registration information celebrating Black Excellence. Should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out Nirosha Balakumar, EDI & Anti-Racism Partner with the Department of Family Medicine for more information.

Upcoming Events

So Often Against Us: Blacks, The Law, and Canada’s Migration History – February 2, 2022 at 9:00 a.m.

  • Hosted by the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences
  • Speaker: Dr. Paul Banahene Adjei, Associate Professor & Interim Dean, School of Social Work, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Fireside Chat with Dr. Lawrence Hill – February 10, 2022 at 5:30 p.m.

  • Join Dr. Lawrence Hill, internationally renowned author, as he discussed race, identity and belonging in the context of his writing.
  • Opening remarks by Susan Tighe, Provost & Vice-President (Academic)
  • Registration Required *Registration Information Attached

iRISE Conference 2022: Reaching New Heights – February 19, 2022 at 9:00 a.m.

  • Hosted by the Black Aspiring Physicians of McMaster
  • Keynote Speakers: Dr. Sean Wharton & Malone Mukwende
  • Registration Required

Looking Back and Moving Forward, A Discussion on Black Health – February 22, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

  • Hosted by the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC)
  • Join for an online discussion on the experiences and history of Black health care in Canada, the current landscape and what the future looks like.

Emerging Psychosis, Cannabis Use, and Young People of Black African and Caribbean Descent: Knowledge Translation – February 23, 2022 at 9:00 a.m.

  • Hosted by the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences
  • Speaker: Dr. Suzanne Archie, Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University

Experiences, Challenges & Opportunities: The Journeys of Black Healthcare Professionals – February 28, 2022 at 5:30 p.m.

  • Hosted jointly by the Black BHSc Association and the Department of Family Medicine
  • Join for a virtual panel discussion to explore equitable admission programs at McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences

We encourage you to access the following resources for more events celebrating Black excellence:

Thank you to all the sponsors and contributing members for their support in celebrating Black excellence during the month of February and beyond. Special thank you to Dr. Tejal Patel and Nirosha Balakumar from the Department of Family Medicine for leading the development of these initiatives.

“By being an example, you have the ability to encourage others to take risks, show initiative, and take on leadership roles” – Ontario MPP (Scarborough – Guildwood) Mitzie Hunter

McMaster University Department of Family MedicineMichael G. DeGroote School of Medicine