02/03/2014 12:53 EST | Updated 04/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Why Black History Month Matters

Black History Month began Saturday. Officially celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, Black History Month -- which takes place in February in Canada -- is a time to pay homage to members of black communities who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life.

In Quebec, for 23 years, Black History Month has been organizing activities that give Quebeckers the chance to discover the richness and diversity of Black communities. Its origins are noble. It was born in 1976 in the United States out of a desire to highlight the richness of never-told African-American stories, and in so doing, forge a more positive image of those communities. Black History Month has since been able to remain relevant over the years.

Black history is rich and vast; it doesn't simply belong to blacks, but has universal significance. Be it in the sciences, in politics or in human rights, all of humanity has benefited from the contributions of black communities. Nonetheless, these contributions, as impressive as they may be, remain under-represented, both in our children's school curricula and in our daily lives.

Conversely, stereotypes and prejudices against blacks continue to be reinforced in the media. Thus, Black History Month is an opportunity to counter this unidimensional vision of our societies and to offer a competing vision that more accurately reflects a reality where individuals of different origins see themselves represented and feel respected. In this manner, this celebration of difference becomes a celebration of belonging for us all, on equal footing, as members of the human race.

In 2007, Black History Month was recognized by the National Assembly of Quebec. This celebration is a vehicle for expression and is nothing more than an excuse to foster dialogue that will last well beyond the month itself.

There is still work to be done to get our society to embrace the concept of equality and to recognize the contributions of all of its communities and of individuals who have laid the building blocks of today's Quebec.

On the January 27th of this year on Montreal radio, we heard that the black community had no heroes, but only zeros. While the world may be growing better at embracing and celebrating difference, such words remind us not only of the importance of Black History Month, but also of the responsibilities that we all have to educate ourselves on these issues and to dare to aspire to a society that will shine through its diversity.

Eventually, the growing influences of our successes will snowball and will hush such waning voices.

We invite you, as do our laureates, to share the name of your heroes and heroines of Black history through Twitter or Facebook (with an image) by using the following hashtags:

#HerosBHM #MHN2014

Happy Black History Month!

Carla Beauvais

Coordinator Black History Month Montreal

Black History Month 2014 - Inspiration