February is African Heritage Month, and this year’s theme (in Nova Scotia) is Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share, Act. It is a theme that calls us on to ensure an understanding of the past while building a better future. It calls on us to celebrate and reflect on the contributions made by people of African descent in the development of Nova Scotia and Canada. And it reinforces the need for continued listening, learning and action on racial issues, toward a better society for all.

This February, I encourage you to join in African Heritage Month activities, many of which are taking place online. In particular, I invite you to join in MSVU’s African Heritage Month Opening Ceremony, organized by the Black Student Support Office, led by Randy Headley.

Guest speakers will include:

  • Dr. Susan Brigham, Professor in the Faculty of Education at MSVU
  • Sylvia Drummond-Parris, CEO of the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute
  • Valentine Nkengbeza, President of the Association of Cameroonians in NS 

The ceremony will be held on February 2, 2021 from 2 to 3 p.m. (AT) via Microsoft Teams. Check your MSVU email for the link. If you don’t have an MSVU email, please contact Randy.Headley@msvu.ca.

The Black Student Support Office will host other events throughout the month. Updates will be available here:

Instagram: @MSVUBlackStudentSupport
Facebook: @MSVUBlackStudentSupportGroup

I also encourage you to attend the launch of the new Black and Indigenous Speaker Series being hosted by the MSVU Research Office.

The inaugural event will take place online (via Microsoft Teams) on Thursday, February 11, 2021 from noon to 1 p.m. (AT) and feature Dr. OmiSoore H. Dryden. Dr. Dryden, a Black queer femme, is the James R Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Faculty of Medicine, and Associate Professor, Community Health & Epidemiology at Dalhousie University. Dr. Dryden engages in interdisciplinary scholarship and research that focuses on Black LGBTQI people and HIV vulnerability within Black diasporic communities in Canada; systemic/structural issues that affect health and well-being, including experiences with blood donation in Canada; medical education; and Black health curricular content development. Register to attend by emailing speakerseries@msvu.ca. A link to join the event will then be sent to you prior to the event. This speaker series is open to the public.

This week, we launched MSVU’s new Strategic Plan – our roadmap for the next seven years. Titled Strength Through Community, the plan makes clear our university’s commitment to working with community partners to build stronger societies. The plan puts particular emphasis on collaboration with African Nova Scotian and African Canadian communities and removing barriers toward full participation in the university experience by Black students and scholars.

Many at MSVU have long been engaged in efforts to foster a community of support and I’m deeply grateful for their work. In particular, the Students of African Descent Advisory Committee guides our efforts in support of students of African descent. It is made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, community representatives and representatives of senior administration, and works collaboratively across the University community to empower and engage Black students of African descent. As we work to implement our new Strategic Plan, we will benefit greatly from the continued guidance of this committee.

I hope you will join me at the above noted events in the weeks ahead.

Dr. Mary Bluechardt
President and Vice-Chancellor
Mount Saint Vincent University