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Celebrating Black History Month and Black-owned businesses

The 2023 focus is learning first-hand about Black history and celebrating St. Albert's Black owned businesses
Helen Agbonison of Africans and African Descendants Friendship Club of St. Albert, was a driving force in including award presentations to Black owned businesses during the city's Black History Month Proclamation taking place Feb. 4.

February is Black History Month – a time where we celebrate the achievements of Black St. Albertans that contribute to our culture and economy.

Throughout Black History Month, we acknowledge the triumphs and challenges of a race that faced an uphill battle to be recognized and respected. Through the enduring spirit of Africans & African Descendants of St. Albert, the city once again hosts the 2023 Proclamation of Black History Month on Saturday, Feb. 4 at St. Albert Place lobby. 

“I am honoured to attend the Black Business Owners Awards and to proclaim February as Black History Month in St. Albert,” said Mayor Cathy Heron who declares the annual proclamation. 

“As a city, we are committed to providing a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community. By increasing awareness of our diverse history and celebrating of outstanding members of our business community, we can both demonstrate that commitment, and build momentum towards its realization for residents, business and visitors.” 

In addition to Heron offering words of encouragement, MP Michael Cooper and MLAs Marie Renaud and Dale Nally will attend. Former councillor Ray Watkins, whose Black ancestors living in North America faced untold discrimination and barriers, will speak about his family and the importance of respecting and preserving Black culture. 

A new facet added to this year’s proclamation is a first-time award presentation to Black-owned businesses in St. Albert by Canadian Imperial Advantage (CIA). 

“It’s a non-profit established in Edmonton that supports small and Black-owned businesses. We are partnering with them for a first time during Black History Month,” said Helen Agbonison, a major voice spearheading Africans & African Descendants Friendship Club of St. Albert. 

The local friendship club reached out to CIA, an entrepreneur centre that supports underrepresented Black businesses through mentorship and in some cases assists them in securing loans up to $250,000. At the proclamation ceremony, CIA will present five Black Business Excellence Awards. 

In this first-time gesture, the categories are: Excellent Customer Service, Community Engagement, New Startup, Long Existing Business and Young Business Owner (13 to 20). 

“African Descendants of St. Albert have done a lot for the community. Owning a business is not easy. It’s a lot of commitment and we want to support them as much as we can,” said Agbonison. “If we promote them, it increases their profile and creates an opportunity to expand. And business owners get to know CIA. There is information out there to help businesses grow they may not know about.” 

At the Gazette deadline, CIA had received about 100 entries. Winners will receive plaques when names are announced Saturday, Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. at St. Albert Place, 5 St. Anne Street. Free registration at 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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