News Story

Celebrating Black History Month

The LaSalle Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Montreal, Quebec, hosted the first Black History Month event of the Montreal Quebec Mount Royal Stake on February 22, 2020.

“I’ve wanted to do this event ever since I was 16,” replied Latter-day Saint Necola Rodney. She first got the idea to host a Black History Month event in her congregation when she was part of the local youth group. “At the time, I was greatly disappointed” that the event didn’t take shape.

Twenty years later, with the help of friends Clareena Lindsay, Lawanda Fraser and Monique Haynes, and various local businesses, her event finally came to life.

Canada’s Heritage web page reminds us that “during Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation it is today.”

Rodney wanted her event to celebrate the stories of local black Latter-day Saints with the larger community. She said, “I recognize the internal diversity of the black communities within our own congregation and wanted to celebrate that diversity in a fun and informative way.”

Originally, she planned the event as a private party, but she soon realized that the entire community could benefit from and learn more about the various black cultures within the Latter-day Saint community.

Rodney partnered with local businesses — including Mirsicas Biznis, Ebony Hair and Foot Locker — to sponsor a Youth Award, which was presented to a local black youth. Stephanie Mills was honoured for her courage and for using her voice to speak up for others in the community.

Mills said, “Black History Month is a time to celebrate the black people in the past who made changes so we can have equal rights. I am grateful for Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and more.”

The event included presentations by various black Latter-days Saints from Nova Scotia, Barbados, Trinidad, Haiti and Great Britain. One of the event organizers, Clareena Lindsay, noted, “This was my first time attending a black history event at the Church. It was so interesting to learn more about black history from different areas.”

Sondy Dupont of the LaSalle Ward bishopric gave a presentation about his homeland, Haiti. He encouraged people to “be proud to be black; be proud to be white; be proud to be somewhere in between. Be proud to be a child of God.”

Howard May, a high councillor in the Montreal Quebec Mount Royal Stake, emphasized, “This event is important because it celebrates the contributions that black people have made both to the Church and to society. These contributions often go unrecognized. I really enjoyed hearing about the early black pioneers in the Church and the work that Joseph Smith did to oppose many of the racial injustices of his time.”

Recently, the Church History Department launched online resources sharing the rich history of blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several original historic documents from black Latter-day Saint history can now be accessed online.

Event participants enjoyed other activities during the Black History Month celebration, including a demonstration on how to braid hair and the tasting of cultural foods from the Caribbean, Africa and the Philippines.

Monique Haynes, one of the event organizers, remarked how wonderful it was “that all races came together willing to learn about each other’s cultures.”

Black History Month is a time to recognize the adversity many have faced throughout history and to celebrate the many achievements of those of African descent, inspiring all to rise to their highest potential.

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