Black History Month: In Conversation With Najma Eno

In honour of Black History Month, S/ is highlighting inspiring Canadians across the creative realm on the significance of this month and what it means to them. Next up is Najma Eno, a Toronto-based freelance writer, model, and community engagement coordinator, who shares that Black History Month is a result of the altruistic bravery of trailblazers who have historically fought for equality and acceptance.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

“For me, BHM doesn’t differ from the rest of the year in that it’s about learning from and living out the long legacy of resistance, brilliance, and unrivalled swagger that Black people have always embodied. Blackness is a treasure of which our world, as it is currently organized, is completely undeserving. Not only should BHM be about celebrating Blackness, but further it should be about transforming the world to make it worthy of Blackness.”

How is the 2021 commemoration of Black History differ after last year’s widespread efforts to raise awareness, amplify, and protect Black lives?

“I hope that after last year’s widespread uprisings against systemic oppression that non-Black people will choose to commemorate BHM by making material improvements to Black peoples’ lives. Hire Black people. Create opportunities for Black people. Pay Black people. Black folks have been and continue to be disproportionately harmed by the violence of capitalism. Do your part in amending this.”

Who is a Black figure that has inspired you to tap into your creative potential?

“It’s hard to choose just one because the Black community is so full of creative genius. From the heartbreaking words in every Toni Morrison novel to the braids my sister so effortlessly puts into my hair, Black creativity is the poetry of my life. I am just as moved by the words of James Baldwin as by the intricate henna designs of the East African aunties of my childhood.”

Are there any moments in Black history that have had a profound impact on you?

“All of Black history has had a profound impact on me. I am the product of centuries of resistance, rebellion, and rejoice. I owe every triumph and every delight in my life to a long line of Black people who came before me. If I had to name a few I would say that I have been deeply impacted by the work of the Black Panther Party, Ida B. Wells, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Aimé Césaire, and Audre Lorde (I highly recommend reading up on all of these). But in truth I am impacted by any and every Black person who resisted or resists the forces of white supremacy and capitalism in any small way in their lifetime.

Tell us more about yourself, what do you do for work?

“I am a community engagement coordinator, writer, and model. I’m also a student in the health care field. I’m currently working on a project with a dear friend of mine that will connect queer newcomers to Toronto (who are often fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries) to queer residents of Toronto. The project will center on storytelling. We hope to create connections and community with people whose experiences of queerness are vastly different.

I recently completed a project that involved designing a new model of community engagement for academics working in poor and racialized communities. Academia is a space that often enacts harmful extractive practices (often in poor and racialized communities) by engaging in research that ultimately ends up benefitting the researcher more than the researched. This project sought to begin remedying this.

I also do some fun fundraisers for queer and trans youth affected by substance use challenges. I also write for S/ where I choose to always highlight Black creatives. In short, everything I do has Blackness and queerness at its centre.”

See the resources and organizations below to help support the community:

Photography by  William Ukoh.