The Western Development Museum (WDM) is hosting events all throughout February, in honour of Black History Month.
Four short films will be screened at the Saskatchewan Theatre in the WDM between February 1 and 28; Two of the films are from the National Film Board.
Karla Rasmussen is the WDM’s Education and Public Programs Coordinator.
“The two films from [the National Film Board] are Black Soul, which is an animated short and it looks at the heart of black culture with a trip through history, through the eyes of a young boy as he traces his roots of the story that his grandmother shares with him.”
Rasmussen says the film is also great for visitors of all ages.
“The other one that we have from the National Film Board is called The Road Taken. This is a documentary that was made in 1996. It takes us back through history and presents the experiences of the Black [Canadian] sleeping-car porters who worked on Canadian Railways from about the early 1900s up until the 1960s.”
The other two films are from the CBC Black on the Prairies series.
“One is a short [film] called Arrival, and it’s a poetic celebration of 200 years of Black communities building a life on the prairies. So, it is more centric to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, which is nice because that’s where we are.”
The second film from the CBC is called Reclaiming Public Space.
“This one’s interesting, it’s a little bit of a different story. A photographer took pictures of six Somali Canadian women and girls that she gathered together for a portrait series. And this was in response to a wave of attacks against Black-Muslim women in Edmonton, a year or so ago.”
The WDM is also hosting their 'Virtual Coffee Club', which is a free virtual program that runs once a month over Zoom.
“In February, the addition of our Virtual Coffee Club is going to speak specifically about the Black railway porters in Saskatchewan. This is going to be at 10 am on Tuesday, February 14. This particular presentation is based on a couple of blog posts that one of our staff members wrote, and she is going to be [a co] presenter of this program.”
Kaiti Hannah of the WDM, along with members of the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum will present a number of slides during the program.
“What they’re going to be learning about is about 80 years of history during the completion of railways across Canada, kind of that 1880s to 1960s time frame, and we’re going to look at those Black railway porters. Their job was to clean the train cars, make beds, soak fires, shining shoes, wake passengers up, so, they really did a lot of the daily work.”
These railway porters were almost exclusively Black men.
“They were taken for granted in many ways. They received low pay and worked very long hours, and this presentation will shed some light on this history. It’s important to talk about, [since] museums have a lot of really great information that we think of with happy memories, but we also want to look at the darker side of history as well.”
The WDM is also hosting a craft activity from last year's Black History Month, where people can create and decorate a square of a quilt, and even use different African patterns to do so.
Click here to register for the upcoming Virtual Coffee Club session.