African Heritage Month 2024: Our Smiles, Our Joy, Our Resilience

African Heritage Month is an opportunity to increase attention, education and learning about the culture, achievements and contributions of people of African descent. For those of us in this part of unceded Mi’kma’ki — where African ancestors first arrived more than 400 years ago, and which continues to be home to more than 50 historic African Nova Scotian communities — this month is a chance to reflect upon these issues and focus our learning. 

It is nevertheless important to ensure that Africentric learning and unlearning in our professional community is not limited to only one month a year. Indeed, the Canadian Association of Social Workers’ new code of ethics specifically calls upon social workers to reflect upon their own intersectional positionality and to understand that, unless one is actively working to dismantle systemic racism, one may inadvertently be contributing to harm, because we all live and work within systems that were created by colonialism and white supremacy. 

Therefore, this month of February, we encourage our members to begin to dive more deeply into these topics and to commit to sustained education and advocacy in this area. We have some specific education to help our members reflect upon ways that they can improve their ability to more safely care for individuals and communities that are of African descent. 

In alignment with the annual theme that was selected by the African Nova Scotian Affairs (ANSA) — Our Smiles, Our Joy, Our Resilience as African Nova Scotians — we have a lunch and learn on the topic of Black joy on February 28.  

We are also grateful to help support the dissemination of very important research on the provision of culturally inclusive mental health services for youth of African descent in this province this month. A one-day mini-conference on February 29 centred on the Voices that Count research project will share study findings, implications for service providers, and the researchers’ future outlook. 

We also hope that our members will take advantage of other learning opportunities offered in their communities, as part of their mandatory professional development on issues of diversity and anti-oppressive social work practice. Check out local and regional events, as well as webinars from CASW and online panel discussions with the Diversity and Equity Committee at the Dalhousie School of Social Work

We continue to advocate for more understanding on the effects of racism upon social work practice, and invite all French-speaking social workers to mark their calendars now for March 21. On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as part of the Semaine de la Francophonie, Vincent Mousseau, RSW, will be speaking on the following topic: « Ma capacité à me définir est tributaire de ce que l’on veut m’assigner » : Mieux comprendre le développement identitaire des personnes Noires LGBTQ+. (Vincent offered an English-language webinar on their research in summer 2023, and the recording is on our YouTube channel.)