A story about women
making a difference
Resistance is a powerful word that can be associated with others like defiance or refusal
By Mona Andrei
February 9, 2023
This year Black Resistance is the theme for Black History Month and the term is nothing but empowering. It evokes feelings of protection and nurturing for people who have suffered oppression because of the colour of their skin. As I write this, news stories flash across my brain, reminding me that we still have work to do in the advancement of human dignity and equality. Although these news stories sadden me (perhaps ‘disgust’ is a better word), I am hopeful.
Signs of progress are all around us.
A great example is Dr. Alexandra Bastiany who was recently recognized as Canada’s first Black woman Interventional Cardiologist. Dr. Bastiany attained her medical degree here at the University of Montreal and completed her fellowship in Interventional Cardiology at the University of Alberta. Today she works at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
“I’ve studied and worked with people who do not understand my reality as a Black woman,” admits Dr. Bastiany. “Even in my relationships with patients, it’s sometimes difficult for them to understand – and even realize – that there are microaggressions happening even today.”
Dr. Bastiany’s use of the word “microaggressions” is a powerful reminder that even though Black History Month is about celebrating the achievements of Black people, the world still shows signs of discrimination by people who may not even be aware of their subtle behaviour towards others.
Another indication of the exclusion that many Black people endure can be found in toys. Specifically, dolls. At one time – and not that long ago – dolls on the market were all white and mostly blond and blue-eyed.
“When I was young, I played with dolls that didn’t look like me and I tried to identify with beauty standards unlike my own natural features as a Black child,” says Clara Lewis. “This impacts a child’s way of seeing the world, and even creates limiting beliefs.”
In response to her childhood experience, Ms. Lewis founded Brown Diva Dolls, a Montreal-based, Black woman-owned company that is redefining the doll industry by creating beautiful and inclusive dolls that celebrate diversity.
What do these two stories have in common?
In celebration of Dr. Alexandra Bastiany’s achievement, Brown Diva Dolls has added a doll to their collection to honour her.
“Our Dr. Alexandra Bastiany doll not only celebrates the achievement of a Black woman,” states Ms. Lewis, “but also sends the message that children of all backgrounds can accomplish whatever they can imagine, and that career opportunities are for everyone – regardless of the colour of their skin and their facial features.”
The reveal of the Dr. Alexandra Bastiany doll during Black History Month honours and supports the achievements of a Black woman. At the same time, it celebrates the fact (pronounced: FACT) that opportunities and dreams coming true are accessible to everyone.
As you can see, the word Resistance as the theme for this year’s Black History Month is truly fitting. And perhaps the cousins to this word – defiance and refusal – are also fitting as we defy past injustices and refuse to allow history to repeat itself.
As I end this piece, I’m reminded of the time my youngest daughter asked me how many races there are around the world. “Oh, geez,” I answered thoughtfully. “There must be hundreds. Maybe even thousands.”
“No, mommy,” my daughter replied. “There’s only one. The human race.”
Mona Andrei is an award-winning humour blogger, columnist, and author. In her most recent book, SUPERWOMAN: A Funny and Reflective Look at Single Motherhood, she shares her challenges and triumphs as a single mother as well as those of other single mothers. You can connect with Mona on Twitter.