“And Still I Rise”: Celebrating Black History Month

UFCW Canada activists recently joined fellow trade unionists and community allies at the Ontario Federation of Labour to celebrate Black History Month by participating in a special evening that featured the acclamied exhibit “And Still I Rise: A History of African Canadian Workers in Ontario”

And Still I Riseis a travelling exhibit that invites visitors to learn more about the historic and present day lives and experiences of Black Canadians by investigating a number of themes, including immigration, work roles and the labour movement, the agitation of civil rights, and the contributions of African Canadians to the arts and sport. The project was created by a working group of community activists, assisted by the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre (WAHC).

“The stories are just amazing,” says Janice Gairy, Labour Co-chair of the exhibit and President of the Ontario Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. “Our history wasn’t documented so we needed to have something that was physical, that talked about our history, and our contributions to Canada and Ontario as workers.”

Approximately 100 trade unionists and friends of the labour movement attended the event to visit the exhibit and listen to a variety of speakers who focused on the remarkable achievements and contributions of the African Canadian community.

In addition to Sister Gairy, a number of other leading activists, including Carmen Henry, also attended the event, as did historian Adrienne Shadd and acclaimed writer Lawrence Hill, the author of the award-winning novel The Book of Negroes.

“We were proud to sponsor the exhibit and show how the Black community has contributed to the rich history of Ontario’s labour movement,” said OFL President Sid Ryan in welcoming the exhibit and its visitors. “Today is an opportunity to thank the Black community for all of the contributions they’ve made to the labour movement.”

For more on the history of African Canadian workers in Ontario, visit the And Still I Rise virtual museum.


Vol. XI No. 11 • March 14, 2011