At the end of Black History Month, this is just the start of a bigger, longer community conversation.
This is the mission of Aurora Black Community, a Facebook group co-founded by Phiona Durrant last year to promote dialogue across Aurora and beyond.
Over the past few months, the Aurora Black Community (ABC) group has grown from a simple forum for community members to share ideas to a community building organization that has stepped up to work with various community partners, including the City to work together to remember Black History month one.
Over the course of February, the team launched new programs that have found a sweet spot for so many, including virtual cooking demonstrations, film screenings and discussions jointly organized by the Aurora Film Circuit, history and heritage discussions with the Aurora Museum & Archives, Aurora Public Library and the Aurora Cultural Center, plus a number of speakers on the Black Experience.
However, according to Ms. Durrant, February was just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s about people’s engagement, it was always about that,” says Ms. Durrant. “It’s one thing to do something, but it’s another thing when people get involved, have fun and participate. It was moving fast and it was really, really amazing. We managed to have a conversation between Rebekah Murdoch, Ron Kellman and me that makes it relaxing and inviting. “
Maybe the ABC came at just the right time.
As a community resource, they quickly set out to not only work with their own Black History Month programming but also work with the city to create something wide-ranging. Shawna White, curator of the Aurora Museum & Archives, Nelia Pacheco of the Aurora Film Circuit and Reccia Mandelcorn, manager of community collaboration at the Aurora Public Library, played a key role.
“Shawna is an amazing voice, and just wanting to be part of this conversation and help us understand it,” says Ms. Durrant. “When I thought about black history and the role of the ABC, which links culture, education, food, art and music, how could I even start without inviting the library that is at the heart of our knowledge? That was fundamental. I love working together because we don’t have to reinvent everything because you are here. It works together and it’s a beautiful piece. “
The story goes on
When creating something new, constructive feedback is always important and much of it has been given to the ABC group, which provides an opportunity to build further collaboration along the way.
“When you create a group, you really don’t know what you’re going to get, who you’re going to be exposed to, and it may be different from what you thought,” says Ms. Durrant. “What I learned from it and what made it worthwhile for me was the energy of the people, the positivity, the love. I’ve never had a negative experience, and even if it did you would accept it because that’s how we learn. It’s the energy, support and interaction that I see there. I don’t feel alone It’s one thing to be there and post, but everyone gets involved and does their part. “
The ABC organization is currently applying for not-for-profit status. Looking ahead, keep an eye on the opportunities that have arisen this month. While the group is called Aurora Black Community, Ms. Durrant says their goal is not just to be a place for the Black Community, but also a place for advocacy and bridging cultural gaps – and she doesn’t rule out changing a name to reflect this gate.
“The most important thing I say to anyone who tries is, ‘I don’t want to just talk about February. I want to talk forever. ‘If this is an everlasting conversation, I’d love to sit at the table. If we’ve talked to a school recently, it’s the same: the teachers look for ongoing conversations. So what we did and the city is amazing to work with. We have this city website for black history … and it will stay that way. It’s a constant conversation about content and we are always putting things together. The next plan is to poll the group: What are you looking for? What can you bring to the community? Based on their interaction and what they are looking for, we can have a group that can brainstorm and facilitate that conversation to see how we can implement what people are asking for. “
For more information on the ABC Group, including repeating previous Black History Month programs, please visit Aurora Black Community on Facebook. For more information on upcoming events through the end of the month, please visit aurora.ca/blackhistorymonth.
Brock Weir, reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative, The Auroran