ACU’s Black History Committee—and why it matters

February is Black History Month, observed nationally in Canada since 1996. At ACU, it’s a great reminder to celebrate the strength and resilience of the Black community, recognize the ongoing struggle for equal rights and opportunities, and work toward a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

ACU formed the Black History Committee in 2019 and, thanks to popular demand, has since expanded to include events, resources and support—not just during Black History Month (BHM), but throughout the year.

Caleb Ogundele, Marketing Analytics Specialist at ACU

“Black History Month is important to acknowledge and celebrate because it helps us in this current age and time to reflect, recognize and celebrate the significant contributions and achievements made by the Black community,” says Caleb Ogundele, Marketing Analytics Specialist with ACU. “BHM also serves as a time to reflect on the ongoing struggle for racial equality and social justice, and to educate future generations about the history and experiences of Black people,” he continues.

By acknowledging and celebrating BHM at ACU, Caleb says it helps raise awareness of the significant impact that people of African and Caribbean descent have had on the world, and of their cultural contributions, including art, music, science, literature and more.

Celebrating Black History Month at ACU

Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot, Manager of Financial Access Programs at ACU, is one of the founding members of ACU’s Black History Committee. Her stepson is Black, and when she noticed many schools and businesses in Manitoba weren’t doing much to acknowledge and celebrate BHM, she and some colleagues decided to lead by example and bring the awareness and celebrations to ACU.

Potluck event held by ACU's Black History Committee

Starting in 2019, they came up with a program of events that included hosting guest speakers and putting on a potluck.

Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot, Manager of Financial Access Programs at ACU

“Diversity and inclusion is such a core value of ACU, but by doing this, we could live it. I identify as a minority, so it was nice to see other people feel safe and empowered in their culture,” says Mani.

So many people showed up to that first potluck, and they filled three tables with food—everything from jerk chicken and jollof rice to rum cake.

Potluck event held by ACU's Black History Committee

The event was such a success, ACU has held it each year since, including a pivot to virtual gatherings during the height of the pandemic. This year, in-person events are back, and the committee has doubled in size.

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Learn about other steps ACU is taking towards equality, including reconciliation

Why BHM matters to team ACU

This year’s events include a speaker panel featuring Black and allied ACU employees, who will gather for a lively discussion about what BHM means to them. New this year is a lunch-and-learn catered by a Winnipeg Black-owned retail business, with a viewing of Journey to Justice, a documentary that pays tribute to Canada’s unsung heroes in the fight for Black civil rights.

The potluck is also back by popular demand, but this year it will incorporate several mini-events. Through the purchase of meals, funds will be raised and donated to local nonprofits, including Black History Manitoba. There will also be a fashion show, digital artwork showcase and live music.

This year, the potluck is also being supported by ACU’s Indigenous Leadership Circle, a group of dedicated leaders who work together to provide ACU employees with knowledge, awareness and resources to support Indigenous communities and ACU on its Reconciliation journey.

How to take part in BHM

ACU’s Black History Committee doesn’t want the celebrations to stop at the end of February. The idea is to provide resources and support throughout the year, and to create a safe, inclusive space for all employees, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Here are some ways ACU members can make Black History Month meaningful, according to David Dada, Personal Financial Advisor with ACU:

  • Educate yourself: Take the time to learn about the history and experiences of Black people. Read books, watch documentaries and attend events that celebrate and educate about Black history and culture.
  • Engage in community events: Participate in community events, such as cultural festivals, concerts and exhibitions that celebrate Black history and culture.
Elizabeth Lawal, owner of Akin’s International Foods
Elizabeth Lawal, owner of Akin’s International Foods. Learn how Elizabeth has grown an impressive range of business ventures, including an employment agency and rental properties, with plans to open a West African restaurant down the street from her grocery store. LEARN MORE
  • Support Black-owned businesses: Make a conscious effort to support Black-owned businesses, artists and entrepreneurs during Black History Month and beyond.
  • Make donations: Consider donating to organizations that support Black communities and work toward equality and justice for all.
  • Have conversations: Engage in conversations with friends, family and coworkers about Black history, culture and experiences to increase understanding and promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Get involved in activism: Take an active role in advocating for racial equality and justice by participating in local and national activism efforts.
Black History Month

“By participating in these activities, you can make Black History Month a meaningful and impactful celebration of the rich history and cultural heritage of people of African and Caribbean descent,” says David.

Find out more about ACU’s values, including diversity and inclusion efforts.

About Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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