U of T’s Black History Month Luncheon to mark 22 years of celebrating Black excellence

The luncheon is one of many events taking place across U of T’s three campuses during Black History Month

The 22nd edition of the Black History Month Luncheon, to be held at Hart House on Feb. 28, will feature former governor general Michaëlle Jean, top row, middle, as the keynote speaker (photo of Michaëlle Jean by Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty, others by Johnny Guatto and Mariam Matti)

Over the past two decades, the University of Toronto’s annual Black History Month Luncheon has grown in popularity and significance across U of T’s three campuses – and beyond.

Glen Boothe, the luncheon’s co-founder, attributes the event’s ongoing success to a “diversity for all” approach that stems from an inspiring mix of Black culture, history and, of course, delicious food.

“It gets bigger every year, and it’s heartening to see because that’s an indication that the message is resonating with more people,” says Boothe, who works for U of T’s division of advancement.

Michaëlle Jean (photo by Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

This year’s luncheon – the 22nd edition of the event – will be held inside the Great Hall at Hart House on Feb. 28 and will feature keynote speaker Michaëlle Jean, the former governor general of Canada. She will be joined by spoken-word poet – and Ontario’s first poet laureate – Randell Adjei.

Boothe encourages those who cannot attend in-person to organize a viewing party and watch the livestream of the luncheon, which will be emailed to individuals who register for the event.

The luncheon will also have a separate program – and livestream – for students from high schools across Greater Toronto. They will be joined by Dalton Higgins, an author and journalist, Esie Mensah, a choreographer who has worked with Drake and Rihanna, Aiza, a singer and songwriter, Brandon Gonez, the CEO of Gonez Media, and Stacey McKenzie, a model and motivational speaker.

“We like to showcase the idea of Black excellence, especially to the high school students, to say to them, ‘This is what you can aspire to,’” Boothe says.

In 2022, U of T established the Black History Month Luncheon Award and committed to matching donations up to a total of $50,000. The award supports a Black undergraduate student in financial need. Air Canada is one of the sponsors of the event and has donated airline tickets for a raffle. The lunch is also sponsored by Coca-Cola and TD Bank.

Randell Adjei (photo by Jeremychanphotography/Getty Images)

The luncheon is one of many events across U of T’s three campuses that mark Black History Month.

From workshops to events highlighting Black authors, U of T Mississauga has a full program of Black History Month events, including a dinner and a welcome ceremony on Feb. 2 in the Kaneff Centre rotunda.

At U of T Scarborough, a tri-campus event called Our Stories on Feb. 7 will elevate the voices of international students with a focus on Black History Month – one of several events happening on the campus in February.

On the St. George campus, there’s a wide array of Black History Month events and programming offered by faculties, departments and other campus organizations. Details can be found at the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office, Hart House and U of T Libraries, among others. They include a series of free events – organized by libraries at U of T, Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto Public Library and York University – to improve coverage of Black histories on Wikipedia and Wikidata, and a student-run Black hackathon organized by the U of T chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

As for the luncheon, Booth says he is thankful for the ongoing support.

“Initially this was an event within our community and now I feel everybody’s support and excitement.”