Black History Month: Perspectives from Ornella Muigg

Ornella Muigg is a Youth and Family counsellor with Wood’s Homes’ Lighthouse program. Her perspectives on Black History Month give us good food-for-thought on how Black people are represented within Wood’s Homes, and what needs to come next to amplify their voices. 

Ornella says that to understand her culture, you need to know its history – a history that started far before colonization. It’s the precolonial perspective that paints the truest picture of who African people are.  

In the Africa that existed before European colonization, there were no “countries.” Instead, kingdoms and empires made up the vast continent. The size of each kingdom was dependent on how strong its army was, and how many other kingdoms it had conquered. Because of this, the borders were always changing. This allowed for African people to speak the same or similar dialects, which helped build a widespread sense of community.  

Eventually, with the borders drawn as they are through colonization, African people have been divided, and don’t speak the same language as their neighbors; this makes connection, community building, and supporting one another very difficult. As a result, Ornella invites us to understand how diverse Black people’s cultures are, and remember that to celebrate their history, we first need to enhance our knowledge. 

Ornella says representation within our Wood’s Homes community is important in creating space and opportunity for belonging and truth seeking about how systemic racism impacts the lives of racialized people. Talking about how, as an organization, we can value being responsive, leaning into the difficult, and learning something new is key in our cultural development. Hearing the voices of racialized people every month – not just during Black History month – is what will help us to see a path forward together.  

From Ornella’s perspective, an important Black woman to know about is Gladys Mae West, who was a brilliant mathematician. Her contribution to mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth was integral in the development of satellite geodesy models, which were later incorporated into Global Positioning System (GPS). Ornella chose to highlight Ms. West because she overcame significant difficulties and contributed to something that transformed travelling and navigation. She says Ms. West is not a hero because she fought against slavery, but because she accomplished something that changed the lives of people forever.