Online interview series and drum workshop mark Black History Month in Thompson

Black History Month is being celebrated in Thompson with a pair of multi-part online events.

One of them is a seven-part series of interviews conducted by Faiza Alabi, community engagement co-ordinator at the Boys & Girls Club of Thompson and posted on their Facebook page on Mondays and Fridays.

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“I haven’t really seen anything  regarding black history month since I’ve been living here,” says Alabi, who was born in New York and then lived in Toronto before her family came to Thompson five years ago. “I thought it would be a good idea to bring some knowledge to people living in Thompson.”

Alabi tired to find a diverse group of Black Thompson residents to speak about their experiences.

“Some of them have lived in Thompson for a  a couple of months, some have lived here for a couple of years, some are new to Canada, some have lived in Canada pretty much their whole lives,” she said, noting that the youngest interview subject was 15. “A lot of them are fairly new to Thompson. No one I interviewed so far has been in Thompson for over 10 years.”

Some of the subjects are from or have roots in the Caribbean, others in Africa, but Alabi says there are similarities and differences among them all, just as there are among all people.

“One person was talking about their hair,” Alabi says. “He was talking about how his hair was different and I remember when we moved to Thompson people were surprised about my hair. Being a Thompson citizen, you end up teaching people about where you come from because not everyone knows. A lot of people have questions and it's always good to answer questions kindly and not take it personally. Just because you come from the same country even, we’re all different, we all have different experiences. No one has had the same experience living in Thompson or Canada. We’re all people and we’re all different but that does not mean there should be discrimination against anyone just because of the colour of their skin.”

Another Northern Manitoban helping educate people during Black History Month is Dr. Jospeh Atoyebi, a professor at University College of the North in The Pas, who is presenting a four-part online series on the West African talking drum family in partnership with the Mall of the Arts. The series begins Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. and concludes with a practical drumming session on Feb. 27 that is also part of Thompson’s virtual Winterfest.

“Part one is a brief history of the Yoruba and their connection to the Transatlantic slave trade to Europe and the Americas,” explains Andria Stephens of Mall of the Arts. “Part two is the talking drum as a family of drums. Part three is the drum as it mimics the Yoruba three-tone language (tell and show and reverse). The fourth will be a practical drumming session so playing some basic rhythms with the attendees. Attendees can grab empty ice cream buckets or coffee cans or whatever’s recyclable around their house that can make noise and drum along.”

Interested participants can sign up for the free workshop through the Mall of the Arts website or Facebook page. There is also the option to just take part in the practical drumming session on Feb. 27.

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