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*This date in 1978 marks the founding of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS). They are a Registered Canadian Charity dedicated to the study, preservation, and promotion of Black history and heritage in Canada.
Dr. Daniel G. Hill, and Wilson O. Brooks were Co-Founders of OBHS. The society was initiated with the formal proclamations and the national declaration of February as Black History Month in Canada and the formal proclamations and the (then) pending national declaration of August 1, 1834 as Emancipation Day. However, Stanley G. Grizzle organized the first celebration of February as Black History Month (BHM) within Toronto’s African Canadian ‘Shaw Street’ British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1950.
At the time, it was only celebrated within the Black community through the efforts of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association. No one could have imagined that it would grow to encompass the imagination of the entire country. But that it did. Through the efforts of the founders of the (OBHS) Dr. Hill, Brooks, and others, a petition was successfully introduced by the OBHS to the City of Toronto to have February as BHM formally proclaimed! In 1979, the first ever proclamation for BHM was issued by the City of Toronto, a first in Canada through the efforts of the OBHS! Later, a petition to have February proclaimed as BHM in the Province of Ontario was achieved again through the advocacy of the OBHS.
As it continued to be nurtured and supported by the OBHS, the idea to have a national BHM recognition in Canada was introduced to Jean Augustine, MP and Parliamentary Secretary by Rosemary Sadlier, (then) President of the OBHS following her success initiating it at the Provincial level. It was unanimously passed in the House of Commons on December 5, 1995, and the first national declaration of Black History Month in Canada went into effect in February 1996 marked by a national celebration with Prime Minister Jean Chretien the OBHS was the only non-governmental representation at the high-profile inaugural reception on Parliament Hill.
In 1997, to further the celebration of BHM, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Sheila Copps, created the Mathieu Da Costa Awards to a national essay and art competition. While the MDCA was annually administered by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the OBHS served on the final selection committee and participated in the Ottawa awards ceremonies. The OBHS officially launches February as Black History Month with an annual kick-off Brunch and the Official OBHS Black History Month poster among other activities and events in schools and community organizations across Canada. Among the projects of the OBHS, is the creation of a center of African Canadian history and culture. This Provincial proclamation for Feb. as BHM has just gone to second reading with unanimous support for passage in 2009 for all of Canada.