When Pulcherie Mboussi, founder of the African Arts and Cultural Community Contributor Society (AACCCS) and ISSAMBA Centre in Victoria, began to prepare for Black History Month 2021, she knew the events and celebrations would have to look different because of COVID-19.
The AACCCS is presenting its 8th annual Black History Month celebrations with virtual panels, food and performances by artists from all over the world.
In the past, the society’s celebrations have taken place in person. Without missing a beat, Mboussi prepared to shift online with virtual events held on Zoom and Facebook Live to help Vancouver Island celebrate Black History and African heritage.
Originally from Cameroon, Mboussi immigrated to Canada about 30 years ago and began advocating for the preservation of African and Caribbean cultures. She is passionate about her heritage and possesses a wealth of knowledge of Black history – joking she has a “street PhD” in the subject.
In 2010, she moved to Victoria and began developing the AACCCS, established in 2012, to highlight the diversity of African cultures through activities and events. The ISSAMBA Centre opened on Fifth Street opened in 2020 as the first and only African cultural centre on the Island.
The AACCCS kicked off the month with a Feb. 1 panel of speakers from across Canada and continues with online events featuring authors, entrepreneurs and musicians.
“We have gone through a lot in the last year” between COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter rallies, so the goal is to “listen and learn,” Mboussi said. She added that Black Canadian identity is complex so celebrating Black history must include learning about African and Caribbean heritage.
The AACCCS also shares daily posts about Black Canadians and videos from local leaders – including Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, VicPD Chief Del Manak and Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes – discussing their commitments to anti-racism and the well-being of Black community members.
Due to the pandemic, the annual closing celebration was replaced with a virtual concert on Feb. 27 featuring artists Mamadou Diabate, Alpha Yaya Diallo and Turunesh.
All events are free and open to everybody to encourage cross-cultural learning. Learn more about ongoing events at issambacentre.ca/events or find them on Facebook.