Coming to appreciate and celebrate Black History Month

By Fergie Galeromeloe, aspiring ACIA

Black History Month is still a new concept to me. I only started celebrating it when I moved to Canada three years ago. I was born and raised in Botswana, and people in Africa plainly do not celebrate Black History Month, as we don’t feel much association with that legacy. It was only after moving to North America, when I learned about historical Black figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and their contributions to North American history, that I came to appreciate the celebration. I found it very fascinating, in fact!

The concept of dedicating a month to celebrate the accomplishments of Black North Americans throughout history inspired me to want to learn more and gain a deeper understanding of the lives and cultures of Black people in North America, especially in Canada. I currently help mentor a few young Black men in Toronto, and this experience has allowed me to learn about their lives, cultures and – most importantly – what it means to be a Black Canadian.

During the month of February, other youth mentors and I conduct workshops where the young men we mentor learn about the history of hip-hop in North America. We believe that this knowledge of the genre can be used to teach social justice through historic events as well as to challenge the status quo. It also serves as a very fun way to learn about different aspects of Black history and culture.

I believe that it is also very important to celebrate Black history within the actuarial world and to recognize outstanding Black figures in the field, such as Robert J. Randall Sr., who was the first ever fully certified Black actuary, and more recently, John Robinson (who I find very inspirational) and Roosevelt Mosley, the first Black presidents of the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society respectively.

The Black community is underrepresented within the actuarial community in North America, making up less than 4% of all actuaries in the United States. This also holds true in Canada, which is why I find it especially important to highlight the achievements of Black actuaries during this special occasion.

When I first began my undergraduate studies, I felt like I didn’t belong in the actuarial program – there were very few Black students in that program that year (around five in total). That’s why I felt so overjoyed when I found the Toronto branch of the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA).

Through IABA, I’m able to interact with and learn from actuaries with whom I share a culture and life experiences. I’m very pleased to see the amount of support that IABA receives from other large actuarial institutes, such as the CIA. The support of the CIA and other actuarial organizations is a great indicator that everyone recognizes the potential, success and achievements of Black actuaries.

From my new perspective, Black History Month shows that we in the Black community are very capable of achieving greatness and overcoming adversity – it shows that we are way more than what society has perceived us to be. Beyond celebrating history, Black History Month serves as a way to celebrate the fruitful future of our community.

This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not represent an official statement of the CIA.

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