February is Black History Month – a time dedicated to honouring the legacy and contributions of Black Canadians and communities, both past and present. 

A deeper understanding of Black history helps us appreciate the immense contributions Black people have made to Canada and the global community and provides insight into how best to address the systemic and persistent inequities Black communities have historically faced. Black history is Canadian history. Although it is important to acknowledge the month of February as Black History Month, our commitment to taking action against anti-Black racism and building a society where Black futures are free of oppression and systemic discrimination, must continue all year long.  

The Black History Month theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness. COVID-19 continues to disproportionally impact racialized communities and has emphasized the existing social, economic, and health inequities in our City and beyond. Efforts to recover from the pandemic will require a reinvented approach, one that situates concerns of equity as central to the rebuilding process. 

In keeping with the theme of Black Health and Wellness, the City of Kitchener will be launching the RISE fund this month, a new community grant program for Black, Indigenous and racialized groups in Kitchener. This new grant is part of the city’s investment in decreasing inequities and increasing opportunities and wellbeing for racialized communities. It was developed though the Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as a tangible deliverable of the City’s equity and anti-racism strategy. With $150,000 available over the first three years, the RISE fund will provide ongoing financial support for  Black, Indigenous and other racialized community-led programs, projects and events. 

Kitchener City Council is committed to providing continued support for long-needed changes now underway within our organization through the work of our Equity team. We understand that we have only begun the difficult, but necessary, work to disrupt systemic biases, which have denied generations of Black people access to economic, social, and cultural well-being and justice. We acknowledge we can do better and are committed to ensuring that Black and other racialized citizens in Kitchener have equitable access to the systems, supports and opportunities they need to grow, succeed, and thrive in our community. 

Although we’re unable to gather together in large numbers due to the pandemic, I encourage Kitchener residents to not only celebrate but to actively listen, learn and engage with Black History by exploring the culture, heritage and history of Black Canadians. There are some great virtual events organized by local organizations such as the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region and Bring on the Sunshine that are a great way to get involved and celebrate.

Please join me, and all of Kitchener City Council, in honouring, celebrating, and engaging with the perseverance, strength and rich cultural history of African, Caribbean and Black members of our community.    


Mayor Berry Vrbanovic
City of Kitchener