Base Administration celebrates Black History Month

Private Assietou Diaw of Base Administration addresses the crowd during a Black History Month presentation at the Nelles Block Dining Room, Feb. 22. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout

Private Assietou Diaw of Base Administration addresses the crowd during a Black History Month presentation at the Nelles Block Dining Room, Feb. 22. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer 

Approximately 150 military members and civilian Base Administration (BAdm) employees gathered at the Nelles Block dining hall on the afternoon of Feb. 22 for a celebration of Black History Month led by the unit’s Commanding Officer.

In his opening remarks, Commander (Cdr) Nicolas Bruzzone encouraged all in attendance to understand we are all soldiers in an ongoing fight against discrimination and racism. 

“A struggle has existed for centuries and today we are the ones that must fight to make the world a better place,” said Cdr Bruzzone. “Canada has the DNA to strive for better.”

His presentation, titled Worth Fighting For, traced the beginnings of the institution of slavery in North America, the emancipation of enslaved people and the progression of the civil rights movement in the 20th century and today. Critical moments in history discussed by Cdr Bruzzone included the abolition of slavery by Great Britain in 1834, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). 

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” said Cdr Bruzzone, referencing a famous quote by abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, which Martin Luther King Junior later echoed. 

“But Martin Luther King Jr. says that arc does not bend by itself, and people have toiled for it to bend,” said Cdr Bruzzone. 

He then emphasized the courageous efforts of civil rights leaders throughout the ongoing struggle for racial equality, including Canada’s Viola Desmond, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr. Attendees watched a video of King’s famous I Have a Dream speech he delivered at the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963. 

Private (Pvt) Assietou Diaw, a Human Resources Administrator with BAdm, discussed how Lincoln’s executive order and other legislation by politicians aimed at improving racial equality have often fallen short. Pvt Diaw says this is because political remedies are never enough to make the problem of racism go away.

“We really need to do that work ourselves and I believe everyone in this room cares about this deeply,” said Pvt Diaw. “Racism is not just an issue that affects the person on the receiving end, but this is a conversation in which everyone belongs and everyone has a say and can have a positive impact.”

Pvt Diaw is a second generation Canadian whose parents immigrated from Senegal.

Cdr Bruzzone pointed to the portraits of Base leadership that hang in the front lobby at the Chiefs and Petty Officers’ Mess. He noted all but one of the ten individuals pictured were white males and stated he hoped this situation would change soon.

“How do we get more diverse people into these picture frames?” he asked. “We are trying, the institution is trying and that is why I am so proud to be working to change this with all of you gathered here today.”

Since Canada is often seen as a world leader in the cause of democracy, social justice, racial equality and inclusion, Cdr Bruzzone concluded his presentation by getting everyone in attendance to join him in a rousing rendition of O Canada.

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