By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February is Black History Month and thanks a change in pandemic protocols, the doors of Chatham-Kent’s important Black history sites are set to reopen.
According to Buxton Museum curator Shannon Prince, the Buxton Historical site is once again hosting live tours.
“We are so pleased we can welcome people back in,” Prince said.
Face-to-face tours will again be offered, but by appointment only.
Although COVID-19 has shuttered the doors on and off throughout the pandemic, Prince said the online connectivity has allowed visitors to reach out and learn about the site virtually.
Prince said Buxton has teamed up with the Driftscape tourism app that allows for virtual tours, highlighting aspects of the site and surrounding area.
“It’s an excellent app,” Prince noted, adding it allows Buxton to have a bigger audience.
“Even though we’ve been open and shut, we’ve been still reaching people. We’ve still been busy, despite being shut down.”
Prince said the importance of Black History Month cannot be overstated.
“We thank you for sharing Black history with us as a reminder that Black history is our history,” she said. “We love to celebrate the trailblazing Black men and women who built Chatham-Kent. Without them, the community wouldn’t be what is today.”
A month’s worth of activities are planned for the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, The Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society and Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Historic Site.
The municipality’s tourism department is squarely behind Black History Month, actively promoting all virtual and in-person activities association with the month.
“We are honoured to share the important part in Canadian history that Chatham-Kent played as we commemorate Black History Month,” said Shannon Paiva, supervisor of Tourism Development and Community Attraction and Promotion for the municipality.
It has always astonished me how Black people could be brutalized and told they were not welcome — while they, as a people, had been violently forced to the U.S. from their African home as slaves. Meanwhile, in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the narrator notes that, like the South, the Civil War era northern states also hated Black people but happened to hate slavery more.
After 3.5 decades of local, national and international news consumption, I have found that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When they take note of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin subconsciously perceiving themselves as beings without value. (I’ve observed this in particular with indigenous-nation people living with substance abuse/addiction related to residential school trauma, including the indigenous children’s unmarked graves in Canada.) … And there has been little or no reparations or real refuge for the abovementioned peoples.