Honouring excellence

- February 17, 2006

Dalhousie's honorary Doctor of Laws recipient Dr. Joyce Ross (top-left) and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy Dr. Françoise Baylis (bottom-left) are featured in the Official Black History Month Poster by artist Robert Small.

Each year the Official Black History Month Poster features prominent black Canadians who have contributed deeply to the fabric of Canadian society. This year the poster, which is displayed across the country, has an important Dalhousie connection. Among the four Canadians featured are Dr. Joyce Ross, founding Executive Director of the East Preston Day Care Centre who has received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Dal, and Dr. Françoise Baylis, Dalhousie's Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy.

Dr. Baylis, a professor in the departments of Bioethics and Philosophy was approached by Rob Small, the artist behind each year's poster as a leading example of an inspiring black Canadian, and says she is honoured to be a part of this important project. "I am very proud to have been selected as one of the four Canadians featured on this poster," she says. "My mom's cousin, Senator Ann Cools, was featured in an earlier edition. This is the first time that one family has had two family members profiled."

Baylis was moved by Small's reasons for producing the posters. "As a young student there was a poster in his school that profiled 'the good and the bad' of black people — big lips, good at sports, etc. He was appalled at this and the negative stereotypes conveyed to young people. With his posters he aims to provide youth with positive images of successful black people. I agreed to be part of this year's poster because I believe in this goal."

Small painted his portrait of Baylis from a photograph taken expressly for the project.

Video: Dr. Françoise Baylis shares her thoughts on being featured in the Official Black History Month Poster

He says he began designing the posters as a way to feature the achievements of historical people in African-Canadian history having only grown up with knowledge of African-American history. "I thought by promoting the achievements of African-Canadians it would help develop a sense of pride within African-Canadian youth and Canadian society in general," he says. "What motivates me is knowing that I am making society aware of the ongoing contributions of African-Canadians. Specifically young adults, so that they can feel inspired to accomplish their dreams and goals as the people I have profiled — such as Dr. Baylis´ have."

Baylis, a leader in health care ethics, and one of Dalhousie's internationally best known faculty members, says taking part in the poster project was a very personal action. "For me this is very much about honoring my mother and her struggles around race in Canada.  

In the article I wrote for Developing World Bioethics, (called Black As Me: Narrative Identity) I explain how she was denied employment in Montreal in the early 1960s because she was a negro. I use this term here because in court my mother was required identify herself in this way."

African Heritage at Dalhousie

Dalhousie celebrates Black History Month as we continue to honour the achievements of world class leaders like Dr. Baylis. The poster, featuring Dr. Baylis, Dr. Ross, as well as writer Austin Clarke, and Toronto Deputy Police Chief Keith Forde can be seen around the campus and across Canada.


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