What We Can Learn from Black History All Year Round

What We Can Learn from Black History All Year Round

 It is officially February, which to many means Black History Month. A month in which we highlight the contributions people of colour have made to society.

BHM was first introduced to me in grade six by my teacher. I was excited to see people like me being praised and celebrated. Every day that month, I came home proud I had learned one more thing. But does this time make you wonder, “But if they are African American/Canadian, how did they get from Africa to the Americas?”. I did too. So, I have spent some time reading and researching over the past five years. I’ve read many books by black authors about life in specific periods. But why did I have to do this on my own? As we grow, we should begin learning from BHM and not just about it.

We should start wondering how we can learn more about black history, implement black history in our schools, and make it something we learn year-round rather than in the shortest month of the year, hoping that this wondering will lead to these things happening. We should consider how far people of colour have come since they “stepped” off the boats into America, Canada, and England. How much we have fought to have our voices heard and live a free life.

A’ja Wilson is a star basketball player in the WNBA. She played college basketball at the University of South Carolina. After her time on the team, she made such an impact on and off the court that they made a statue of her on campus. On this same campus, her grandmother had to walk around on her way home from the grocery store. She and her family are examples of the true growth and history of people of colour. But let’s not stop there.

After February, let’s continue to wonder and learn about black history. An easy way to continue to learn is to read books but find ones that interest you. For example if you like more informative readings there is Policing Black Lives. If you prefer books that are more story based the ones suggested below are great. I enjoy reading stories so I found using that to teach me was more enjoyable.

The books which helped me the most were:

  • The Book of Negros
  • The Help
  • Brother
  • The Color Purple 

 To continue to learn about Black History not only in the month of February, find outlets that interest you the most whether its reading, videos, or discussions to name a few. Just by making a conscious effort to continue your learning beyond the month of February, you not only are gaining important knowledge and information you did not have before but you contributing to making learning about Black History a continuous thing and not just an annual thing. 

Written by our Champion Brynn Jenkins.

Brynn holding up a Toronto Rugby Jersey

Above Brynn is pictured holding up her Toronto Rugby Jersey, while below is a stellar action shot.

Action shot of Brynn kicking.

 Photo by Jeff Chan.

Rediscovering my Passion For Competitive Sports

Rediscovering my Passion For Competitive Sports

                As World Pride month has come to an end, and as Montreal Pride rapidly approaches, I am left reflecting on my own queer journey in Canada and as an athlete. I am fortunate to be Canadian – a country that is widely considered to be one of the most accepting and progressive nations with regards to LGBTQ+ issues, and one where I am afforded the same legal rights and protections as my heterosexual peers. I am glad to be Canadian, and I am especially glad to be an openly gay athlete in Canada. Although it is getting better, the sports world has not always been the most welcoming environment for queer folks. This is a reality that I certainly faced as a young man. Growing up, I have always had passion for sports, starting my athletic journey at the age of 4 with recreational soccer. Although I didn’t play soccer for long, I did enjoy several other sports throughout my life, including dance, volleyball, rowing, and, like a proud Northern-Ontario boy, curling. Each of these sports had a different culture, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. But, growing up, one element remained true throughout every sport I did: I kept my sexual orientation hidden. I did this mostly out of fear of how others would react to me. I wanted so desperately to fit in and be a part of my team that I didn’t want to jeopardize my belonging by coming out as gay. This, without a doubt, held me back in my athletic development. A part of me was always focused on making sure I said the “right” thing, or acted the “right” way, all to avoid accidentally outing myself. Obviously, this takes a lot of mental energy – energy that I wish I could have dedicated to improving as an athlete.

                Having made a conscious decision to end my competitive sporting career after high-school, I turned my attention to recreational sports. I was fortunate that the University of Guelph had a big intramural sports program. That way, I could stay in touch with my athletic side while making new friends. As I met more and more people through the intramural program, I inevitably met other LGBTQ+ athletes, some of which had been out in high school while playing competitive sports. This was a bit of a revelation to me, as I realized that being LGBTQ+ and being an athlete are not mutually exclusive! This discovery kick-started my own coming out process, which happened shortly after the end of my undergrad at 21 years old.

After my move to Montreal in 2021 I decided to try a new sport: rugby. This time, however, I decided to join a dedicated LGBTQ+ sport team: Armada Montreal RFC. As the only dedicated inclusive rugby club in the Province of Quebec, the team offers sport programming for all adult who wish to play rugby in an inclusive environment. This was the first time that I had heard of a dedicated inclusive sports team, and I couldn’t wait to try it. This would also be the first time that I would play competitive sports after my coming out, and what a revelation it was. I found myself being able to dedicate 100% of my mental and physical energy to being an athlete, without having to worry about accidentally outing myself and how that might impact my relationship with my teammates. It is now my second season with Armada Montreal RFC and, needless to say, I have fallen in love with the sport. But beyond that, I have fallen in love with the rugby community, as a whole. I have discovered a true brotherhood, with a culture that exemplifies mutual-respect, athleticism, support, and, most of all, fun. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the inclusivity of the rugby community. I have found myself to be accepted and respected by the entire community, regardless of their sexual orientation. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the amount of LGBTQ+ representation throughout the sport, especially at the highest levels.

Over the years, the LGBTQ+ community has continued to become more and more accepted, world-wide. This has also led to more and more athletes publicly coming out, like Campbell Johnstone in rugby, Paola Egonu in volleyball, and Quinn in soccer. As I sit here writing this blog post, I am astounded by the immense impact that role models and community can have on young minds: LGBTQ+ and heterosexual alike. After all, it was my own peer-group that helped me accept and be proud of who I am, and it is my current sporting community that has helped me rediscover my passion for competitive sports as a queer adult. I have no doubt that, with more and more professional athletes coming out, young LGBTQ+ athletes will feel more and more comfortable coming out to their peers and feel safe playing sports. Although we still have work to do, I am comforted by the work that is currently being done and cannot wait to see what the future holds for LGBTQ+ athletes.

 Photo of the Blog post writer Eric Boucher

Photo of Eric playing with his club the Armada Montreal RFC.

Pride 2023: Allyship is not just for show, it's an annual way of life.

Pride 2023: Allyship is not just for show, it's an annual way of life.

As the world seems to be taking a very strange turn away from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and other marginalised people in the last few months, Pride 2023 has been a real eye opener into the meaning of allyship and the importance of Pride month.
This year most brands threw on the good ole Rainbow flag everywhere but some dropped it at the first sign of pressure or opposition from the anti-2SLGBTQ mob. However, Rugby Canada, Rugby Ontario, the Toronto Arrows and Gilbert Canada, reinforced their position of “Rugby For All!”. This year, there was a genuine amplification of queer players and queer teams positioning the ways that diversity contributes to the sport. This wasn’t just one off either, there has been a concerted effort by the rugby community in Canada to be engaged with 2SLGBTQ+ stakeholders to bridge the gaps they see when critiqued as opposed to the “Rainbow Washing” we’ve seen and felt in 2023.
There wasn’t a sudden rush to do it because of Pride Month, it was simply part of the modus oprandi of building the game plan that is implemented year round. That’s the special sauce really, leading the charge with equity and inclusion for all while celebrating diversity along the way. 
Pride month for me and the Rainbow Griffins was a reminder that the 2SLGBTQ+ community here in Canada has advocates and allies who will stand with us in the sport and on a whole. We are supported by organisations who will apologise if they get something wrong, and engage us to find ways to do better. Who will wear the Rainbow with pride and defend inclusivity because it is the right thing to do and not the commercial thing to do. It was an affirmation, not a capitalisation - and that gives me great hope for the future of the sport. 
As we reflect on the meaning and mission of Pride, a celebration of queer identity and history, the protest of injustices faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and the demand for equality, we can acknowledge that there is still more work to be done, especially on the global stage, but I can safely say that rugby in Canada is living the mission and leading the way. 
The best part is that this engagement goes beyond Pride month, this blog is proof of that. Also, as someone who sits on the intersectionality of queer, black, and immigrant, it is refreshing to see governing bodies and commercial enterprises in the sport truly engage all marginalised groups to build the sport.

About The Author
Ian Royer has been involved in Canadian rugby for over 5 years and is the co-founder of the Rainbow Griffins Rugby Football Club, which is Canada’s first 2SLGBTQ+ club to cater to juniors 13+ and seniors. He is also the current secretary of the Rugby Ontario Board, an assistant coach and aspiring referee. Outside of rugby he is a communications practitioner. You can find out more about the Rainbow Griffins on their website or on instagram @rainbowgriffinsrfc 
Pride 2023 Parade with: Myles Spencer, CEO - Rugby Ontario, Tim Matthews, General Manager - Toronto Arrows and Ian Royer, Co-Founder - Rainbow Griffins RFC
Pride 2023 Parade with: Myles Spencer, CEO - Rugby Ontario, Tim Matthews, General Manager - Toronto Arrows and Ian Royer, Co-Founder - Rainbow Griffins RFC
Pride Toronto 2023 Parade with Geoff, Claudio Pagliaroli, and David Cameron.
Pride Toronto 2023 Parade with Geoff, Claudio Pagliaroli, and David Cameron.
The Rainbow Griffins post the 2023 Pride Parade. Photo Credit: Paige Stewart @pajfish
The Rainbow Griffins post the 2023 Pride Parade. Photo Credit: Paige Stewart @pajfish
Rainbow Griffins 2023 Pride Picnic. Photo Credit Mathieu Taillardas @mattlxb
Rainbow Griffins 2023 Pride Picnic. Photo Credit Mathieu Taillardas @mattlxb



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