Rhythm and Blues was created in 2019, when Marjorie-Ann Knight and a small group of women banded together. It is a gathering place to explore the rich and diverse history of Black culture. Rhythm and Blues promotes and appreciates the Black experience by building partnerships, sharing and developing vital resources in the community. All events are free of charge to be as accessible as possible.
“Every time we came around to Black History Month, we were going to Toronto for everything, there was an odd thing here or there in Kitchener-Waterloo,” Knight said.
For Black History Month 2023, Rhythm and Blues presented a brand-new line-up of events. The organization encourages everyone to celebrate Black history and culture throughout the year. Through their Black Girl Excellence (BGX) program, they empower youth to strive for excellence by teaching them about the richness of Black history and culture.
“We did a large Black History month event in 2019. We had different artists, poets and singers. We generally like to do a panel discussion as well, bringing in conversation. We had food provided and it was a really large crowd, there was over 300 people in attendance,” Knight said.
Since its inception, Rhythm and Blues has hosted many programs and events that happen throughout the year to encourage community building and support within the Black and racialized community of Cambridge.
“I grew up in the Caribbean. But there’s a disconnect when you leave and you go, and you come to North America. That same community isn’t there anymore,” Knight said.
The Our Hair Story Empowerment and Education Hair Workshop addresses the pain and bullying that many Black students face in school over their hair and physical appearance.
On Feb. 12, three stylists ran two workshops and one seminar all about Black hair and care. This event was run in partnership with Beauty Club Outlet, Black girl Excellence and the Kinbridge Community Association.
The event organizers ensured all necessary materials and training were provided, including Black mannequins, grooming equipment and hair products. A complimentary lunch was provided, as well as door prizes, access to local braiders and other hair resources.
“Every year we try to plan a few different programs. It’s really important that we are telling the community how important it is to celebrate Black History 365, like all year long,” Brittney Emsile, another co-founder of the organization, said.
Feb. 13 is Black Love Day, and was created in 1993 by Ayo Handy-Kendi, who was popularly known as Mama Ayo. She was an author, breathologist and founder of the African American Holiday Association (AAHA).
Emsile wanted to make sure there was programming for the day. On this day, they focused on the five black love tenets: love for yourself, love for the creator, love for your family, love for the black community and love for the black race.
Alongside Knight, Krysanne McLean is a co-founder and program project coordinator. She wanted the organization to provide support for Black youth in the region. Mclean created the Black Girl Excellence program to uplift Black girls in Cambridge and support their mental health, creative expression and sense of community.
“There’s a lot of things that we’re going to be continuing to do. We have the Emancipation celebration that’s going to be really great. It will be epic this year. On a grander scale than we did last year.” Mclean said.
Weaving Our Dreams is an exciting celebration of all things Black History Month. The event will take place on Feb. 25. There will be a fun-filled afternoon of activities for the whole family. Cambridge Art Galleries will provide a textile-based Art Exhibit that feature black artists titled: To Build What We Became When We Dream.
As well, the Cambridge Guild will also be hosting yarn and weaving workshops throughout the day. Revered artist, Shaka Zulu, will be hosting drumming workshops, while Irie Mirie provides delicious Caribbean cuisine.
Rhythm and Blues have also partnered with Beauty Club outlets in Cambridge to provide necessary products and services to Black citizens. This event was to make sure Black citizens of the region felt like they could show love towards themselves and others.
The graphic below was created by attendees of the Celebrating History and Weaving our Dreams event at Idea Exchange Queen’s Square on Feb. 25, 2023 and compiled by H. Tooth.