Black History is Canadian History: Duane (D.O.) Gibson on Celebrating Black History Year-Round
I've always had an interest in Black History. It began when my mother read me a book about Jackie Robinson when I was six years old. I was a huge baseball fan, so my young brain couldn't make sense of why Jackie wasn't allowed to play in the Major leagues because he was black. A few years later, when I was in grade five, I delivered a speech on Jackie Robinson in front of my class, and then the whole school, and I saw how powerful that story was. As one of the only black kids at school, I felt like I was educating my peers on racism. I still remember the look of shock on their faces when they realized that discrimination exists.
When I began speaking at schools about Black History, I was surprised - and disappointed - that nearly every school would only focus on Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks. They are great people to learn about, but I found that this was limiting and rarely focused on Black Canadian history. I remember sharing Viola Desmond's story at schools fifteen years ago and seeing the same effect of when I heard about Jackie Robinson. My fathers' side of the family is from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and there is so much Black history in that province that I want to share with youth. That's how Black Canadian 365 was born.
My current project is called Black Canadian 365 because I think it is essential to learn about Black history every day. I remember when schools used to say: "We can't book you for March since Black History month is over." Over the last few years, I've heard, "Let's book you in March since you are so busy; Black history isn't just one month." I loved that. I've done shows on Vancouver island about Black history in December or in rural Ontario in April. It's great that more people recognize that Black history needs to be a focus throughout the year.
I think the events of last summer – George Floyd, Ahmed Arboury, Brionna Taylor – illustrate that being Black isn't something you turn off or turn on – it's every day.
I feel privileged to speak about Black history, but I also feel the weight of responsibility. I want to make sure that I'm documenting the right people and events in history.
Duane Gibson aka D.O. is a Guinness World Record setting rapper & University graduate that has been inspiring hundreds of thousands of youth since 2001. He has defied the odds as a rapper from Canada, becoming a certified international artist a successful record label executive & a socially active community ambassador.
Gibson has spoken at more than 1000 schools focusing on anti-bullying, literacy, and character education. As a rapper, his songs have hit #1 on the U.S. college charts, he’s had Snoop Dogg provide him with freestyle topics, and Drake appeared in one of his videos. Gibson has performed worldwide in places such as Taiwan, Japan, England, France, Las Vegas, and Miami. In 2014, he wrote the curriculum for the Toronto District School Board’s new Hip-Hop curriculum.
D.O.’s message to youth is that setting goals and persevering is the key to success. Growing up in communities where he was the only child of colour, D.O. learned at an early age what it is like to be different from the crowd. He confronted bullies, dealt with racism, and overcame shyness by believing in himself and following thru on his goals. D.O.’s message to youth is that “Can’t nobody hold you down!”
For more information about Duane “D.O.” Gibson’s Black Canadian 365 project please visit www.blackcanadian365.com