Guest speakers begin Black History Month at Bruce County Museum

People from across Canada participate in Black History Month every February, celebrating the legacy of Black people in Canada and their communities.

On Saturday, February 3rd, it was a full house as Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre (BMC&CC) started off the month with guest speakers William Felepchuk, members of the Grey-Bruce Afro-Caribbean Community, and Dr. Maureen Oyaide-Ofenor.

                 Dr. Maureen Oyaide-Ofenor speaks to a full capacity audience

This year’s 2024 February theme is ‘Black Excellence – A Heritage to Celebrate, a Future to Build’.  The theme celebrates the past and present contributions and accomplishments of Black people in Canada while reaching out to embrace new opportunities for the future.

2024 is also the 10th anniversary of the International Decade for People of African Descent. In 2014, the United Nations declared January 2015 to December 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. The Decade recognizes that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected

A virtual presentation by William Felepchuk focused on the early Black families who settled in Grey and Bruce counties and the cemeteries where many of their names are found today.

Based in Ottawa, Felepchuk, a self-professed follower of Islam and a is a

He highlighted many of the early Black settlers in Grey and Bruce and the legacies of their families.

The second speaker, Dr. Maureen Oyaide-Ofenor is an optometrist, vision therapist, children’s book author, motivational speaker and mentor to pre-optometry and medical students. She is the owner and founder of Vine Eye Care, the only optometry clinic in Walkerton.

Originally from Nigeria, she pointed out that she has five Ps she lives by:  Purpose, Practise, Plan, Perspective and Positivity.

Oyaide-Ofenor explained that, “Today’s Grey-Bruce Afro-Caribbean group is comprised of people from all around the world including, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States, and Nigeria, Jamaica, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa and Congo.

“Each is unique,” she said, “with different foods, dance, cultural practices and, of course, the many languages and dialects.”

“There are many Black people in Grey Bruce in all walks of life – family doctors, nurses, nuclear operators, engineers, in education and all facets of volunteering,” she added. “We are here and we are not going anywhere.”

Third, but not least, was speaker Sandra Harvey, a local photographer, who also told the audience of her moving to Bruce County and a new beginning. Today, in addition to her photograph business, she also produces a movie review podcast and lives in Tiverton with her family.

Speaker Sandra Harvey (R) in discussion with an audience member

With a background ancestry in East India, she also said that she was raised in Guyana in South America where her grandparents were indentured workers.  She explained that, during colonialism, workers were brought from several areas to work the sugar cane fields.  “In Guyana, there are six main peoples – Africans, Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, European and Indigenous tribes.  The culture is unique where all of the ethnic groups are heavily impacted by one another.  Many of the dishes for instance are influenced by Indian food and everyone shares the love of Caribbean music.  The culture mesh together to form a very vibrant tapestry.”

Black History Month continues until February 29th.