February is Black History Month. 

Members of the Fort Black Society and the City of Fort Saskatchewan gathered on Feb.1 to proclaim Black History Month in the city. The Fort Black Society has been in operation since December of 2020 and was born out of a roundtable discussion with the RCMP, according to the society's board chair and Fort Saskatchewan city councillor, Jibs Abitoye. 

"We thought this was actually a good opportunity for us to have something, and so what we did was reach out to our personal network of Black people we knew in the community and just gathered people together," she explained.

The Fort Black Society has a three-part mission to support, educate, and volunteer. In honour of Black History Month, they will be focusing primarily on the educational side of their mission with an online campaign highlighting African history and culture and the history of Black people in Canada. 

Other February initiatives include a book drive where members will collect and donate Black history and culture books to the library and local schools. A grand finale, including various performances and artwork, will occur at the month's end. 

"We're going to have a full showcase of African cultures, so you're going to see the clothing, you're going to see the art, the food, you're going to see the people, and you're going to see dance and performances." 

Abitoye told MIX 107 that Fort Saskatchewan is the only municipality in Alberta that recognizes Martin Luther King Jr Day (Jan.17) in an official capacity and is one of a handful that proclaims Black History Month.  

She highlighted the importance of having a group like the Fort Black Society, describing a time when a family moving to Fort Saskatchewan from Ottawa had concerns about fitting into the community and reached out to the group for assistance adjusting. 

"That's why groups like ours exist, for people see that you're not alone. You might look different, but you're not alone, there are other people that look like you, and we can actually provide support for you however we can." 

As a Black woman, Abitoye explained her overall experience living in Fort Saskatchewan has been positive, though noted her experience hasn't been the same as others. She moved from Nigeria in 2012 and described feeling very welcome in the community, noting there weren't as many Black people living in Fort Saskatchewan then.   

For Abitoye, she's proud of the work the city and the Fort Black Society have done to create a space where people can speak about their experiences in an open and welcoming environment. Through more awareness and education, they hope to make life better for all people in the community. 

Anyone interested in getting involved with the Fort Black Society is welcome to join. The board contains a diverse group of people, including a member of the RCMP. You can keep up to date with the Fort Black Society here