‘Building connectivity’: Black History Month to be celebrated in Tillsonburg

Tillsonburg’s Black History Month celebration on Sunday, Feb. 25 aims to build from the past and inspire the future.

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“It’s building connectivity in the community,” said Olive Williams, co-organizer with her husband Courtney. “Since coming here, I’ve met so many people and they are so welcoming, warm and kind to us. So we want to give back to the community.”

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The Feb. 25 celebration is a time for socializing, she said, neighbors networking with neighbors, and learning more about local businesses.

“A lot of people are moving into the region,” said Williams, who originally hails from Jamaica. “It’s raising awareness of us being here, what we’re here to offer. It’s about building a network and blending with the community, so that they can see what we’re bringing. We’re bringing our culture, our food, our talents…”

This year’s cultural theme will involve more countries, including Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados. The event, which runs from 1-5 pm, has been moved from the Lion’s Den to the larger Lion’s Auditorium at the Tillsonburg Community Center, 45 Hardy Avenue, in anticipation of even greater support this year.

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“The first one went great, it was amazing,” said Williams, who was assisted by friends in the planning. “It was well supported, for the first time, and this year I believe it’s going to be even better because there’s a lot more people involved… working along with me, helping me plan it.”

About 50-60 people attended the inaugural event, and Williams hopes 200-plus come out this year for the Black history displays and presentations, music and entertainment, arts and crafts for children, and a taste of Afro-Caribbean food.

“Everything is free,” said Williams, who is asking people to bring a food item that can be donated to the local food bank.

“For the presentations, historians will be talking about the history of Blacks in Oxford County and this region. I have Pastor Sandie Thomas from London, who is the first Black person to open a Black library in London, and I have Heather Rennalls, who is a historian here in Oxford County.”

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Both guest speakers will have displays, along with last year’s guest speakers – Megan Lockhart, from Oxford County Archives, and Matthew Lloyd, curator of the Norwich and District Museum and Archives.

“And I’ll be singing,” said Williams. “I am putting together a combined choir from one of the local churches and also people from the community. What we want to display is that we are one people. We are presenting the Black culture and history, but we also want all people to participate and feel part of it, because we are all part of the same community.”

There will be prizes, snacks and refreshments. Local businesses will have an opportunity to promote their services.

There will also be reggae music, a saxophonist, and possibly a Trinidad steel band, said Williams.

“We’re expecting a great time. A great, fun time.”

For more information contact Olive Williams at 647-401-0948.

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