What comes to mind when you think of February? I used to think of candy hearts, chocolate, and sappy music, but this year, I’ll be thinking of the fascinating herstory of the Black community in Alberta. This month marks the second year that Alberta has recognized and proclaimed February as Black History Month. The three other provinces that will be celebrating are Ontario, BC, and Quebec. As the province with the 3rd largest Black population in Canada, Alberta has a lot of Black herstory to celebrate. We wanted to highlight the accomplishments of a few incredible locals like Virnetta Nelson Anderson and Violet King Henry.
Virnetta Nelson Anderson (1920-2006) was the first Black person elected to Calgary City Council, and served as Calgary’s Ward 3 councillor from 1974-1977. She was a mover-and-shaker in Calgary before and after her time on council. She took on various roles including President of Meals on Wheels from 1971-1974, and as a member on the boards for the United Way and the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts. She’s described as having a strong spirit, “full of wit and character,” and a love for the outdoors.
Violet King Henry (1929- 1982) was born in Calgary, and was the first Black person to get a law degree in Alberta. She was also the first Black female lawyer in Canada. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, she was a member of the Blue Stocking Club, a discussion group for women with an emphasis on history and public affairs. She worked in criminal law, citizenship and immigration, and moved to New Jersey in 1963 to work with Black community members who were seeking employment through the YMCA. She rose through the ranks at the YMCA and eventually became the first woman in an executive position at the organization in America.
The Women’s Centre will be celebrating the achievements of these, and many other, amazing Black women and members of the Black community this month, and throughout the rest of the year. Around 15% of the women who visit the Centre self-identify as visible minorities and we’re honoured to be a safe place for all women, including members of the Black community in Calgary.
Also, be sure to check out our February Social Issues Discussion. We will focus our discussion around Anti-Racism, and explore ways of addressing racism in our communities. The discussion is intended to assist you with the development of skills to deal with racism and empower you to confront and respond more effectively to situations that occur with those you may know, or complete strangers. We hope to see you there!
This post was written by Hannah, at practicum student at the Women’s Centre.