Whenever Pulcherie Mboussi’s children volunteer to teach their fellow students about Africa, it brings a smile to her face.
Going to school in Victoria, her two daughters offered to bring in clothing from Mboussi’s home country of Cameroon to the classroom, or elected to teach their fellow students about African culture. It was in those moments when Mboussi felt she successfully kept her culture alive in her Canadian home.
“They (my daughters) have a lot of pride in African culture,” said Mboussi.
“We have a rich culture and I’m so proud to share it with people.”
Now, Mboussi is raising awareness of her African culture on a larger scale as part of Black History Month, which recently kicked off.
Black History Month is celebrated across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. to remember people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
According to Mboussi, who founded Black History Month in Victoria four years ago, it’s not a time to think about the injustices to her people, but a time of reflection.
“It’s to recognize the implication of black people in the society. What they’re doing in society, where are they and just trying to have the spotlight on them,” said Mboussi, who immigrated to Canada 25 years ago.
“It’s good to have something like Black History Month to make people think, a reflection on society.”
As part of Black History Month, the Victoria African and Caribbean Cultural Society is honouring four locals for their work in the community.
One of those people is Keith Nadasen, who runs the Vancouver Island Mixed Martial Arts Training Centre.
For the past several years, the 47-year-old Greater Victoria resident has turned his efforts to improving the lives of youth locally. His willingness to give back to his community is something he learned from his late father, Willie.
Willie grew up in Durban, South Africa and faced apartheid in 1968. According to Nadasen, his father was one of three people who attempted to prevent the Olympics from going to Rome in 1960 because the event didn’t allow black or coloured athletes to compete.
He gave back to his community in other ways as well. Willie also started one of the first life guard clubs in South Africa, patrolling the beaches of Durban, during a time in which the city saw a number of drownings and shark attacks.
When Nadasen was born, his father decided he didn’t want to raise his child in a dangerous environment and shortly after immigrated his family to Victoria.
Growing up in a Canadian household, Nadasen and his family watched hockey and embraced their new culture, however, they never forgot where they came from.
“We were brought up as Canadians but sometimes it was like ‘don’t forget about your South African heritage’,” Nadasen said.
It was his father’s pride in his history and commitment to community that Nadasen has tried to mirror through mixed martial arts. The award, said Nadasen, is a reminder of his strong South African heritage and his commitment to his community.
Locally, Black History Month celebrations include a screening and panel discussion of The Colour of Beauty, a short film that examines racism in the fashion industry, at Ecole Victor-Brodeur on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Victoria Police Department is also celebrating Black History Month with a “black constable” in a period recreation uniform from the summer of 1858, which will be on display at City Hall.