African Heritage Month 2023: Seas of Struggle

February is a month that is designated across an increasingly large part of the world to be one that focuses upon learning about those of African heritage. The provincial theme developed by the Nova Scotia African Heritage Month Information Network for 2023 is Seas of Struggle – African Peoples from Shore to Shore: a call to reflect upon the struggles that African people have experienced from the shores of Africa to the shores of Nova Scotia, and the role of the Atlantic in those experiences.

This month provides an opportunity to celebrate the culture, legacy, achievements and contributions of individuals of African descent, in the past and in the present. Occasions of celebration or tribute can help to facilitate conversations that might not otherwise take place, and encourage more people to learn and get involved; this month’s observances across the province are intended to help us ensure that these important conversations are held at least annually. But they should not occur only during the month of February, any more than we should expect a friendship would last if we only were nice to our friend on their birthday; relationships require ongoing attention and intention to maintain them.

It is in this spirit that the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers celebrates the growing numbers of people who are recognizing these contributions and taking time out of their schedules to (un)learn and join the important work of dismantling the systemic racism that continues to be evident in every part of society, and all of our systems.

We are grateful for the work that the Canadian Association of Social Workers is leading to revise our professional code of ethics and ensure that anti-racism is central to everything that we do, as part of our own work of seeking to make amends for our complicity in the ways that social work has participated in causing harm to BIPOC communities, and indeed, all equity-seeking communities. Even the term equity-seeking community reflects how much more work needs to happen to dismantle the intersectional forms of hatred and bias that are foundational to colonization and capitalism.

There are many ways that we encourage social workers to embrace the (un)learning that is needed to help us move to a more just and equitable society. It is in light of this that we recently revised our professional development requirements to require all social workers to engage in training specifically focused on the ways in which racism and the intersectionality of prejudice and oppression affect our work.

We are offering a number of exciting educational offerings this month that we encourage our members to attend:

Because it is vitally important that these conversations take place, not only in February, but year-round, we want to take this opportunity now to encourage our members to learn more about an important conference that will be held in October at Dalhousie, on the topic of Slavery, Reparations and Education. We also encourage social workers to read this wonderful interview with Senator Dr. Wanda Bernard Thomas, RSW, who advocates for us all to recognize the intergenerational harms of slavery and racism, and the need for reparations and system reform.

May this month of February bring us closer to the time when we can begin to see justice and equity for all peoples.