Reflections on Black History Month by Professor Rashid Sumaila

As February draws to a close, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation embraces an essential month honouring collective memory; an entire month to celebrate true history, that which is written but also unwritten. A month that is unique, multilayered, and textured with the richness of experience of the African diaspora. Throughout history, Black individuals have shaped culture, science, politics, and the arts, leaving an indelible mark on our world.

As we close this year’s Black History Month, we pay tribute to the remarkable contributions of Black community members of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. In this publication, we would like to share an inspiring quote from one of our newest members, reflecting their perspectives on Black history, identity, and progress, Dr. Rashid Sumaila (2023 Fellow).


A Journey Across Tides

“As February unfolds, I find myself both participant and witness—a thread woven into a grander design. The ocean becomes my canvas. Born on African soil, I embarked upon a voyage that spanned decades, continents, and disciplines. Each crest and trough etched resilience into my spirit.

They call me a “Global Champion of the oceans.” But it is not merely about accolades or citations; it is about stewardship. The oceans transcend race, ethnicity, and ideology. Despite the tempests of discrimination, black resilience prevails. It is a testament to our shared humanity, a melody that harmonizes across continents.”


Dr. Rashid Sumaila is a University Killam Professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. His research focuses on bioeconomics, marine ecosystem valuation and the analysis of global issues such as fisheries subsidies, marine protected areas, illegal fishing, climate change, marine plastic pollution, and oil spills. Simply put, the whole world is Sumaila’s workplace as he has experience working in 6 continents. Sumaila is one of the most internationally recognized interdisciplinary ocean and fisheries economists, and one of the world’s most innovative researchers on the future of the oceans, integrating the social, economic and fisheries sciences to build novel pathways towards sustainable ocean and fisheries.

His work has challenged today’s approaches to marine governance, generating exciting new ways of thinking about our relationship to the marine biosphere, such as protecting the high seas as a ‘fish bank’ for the world and using ‘intergenerational discount rates’ for natural resource projects. 

He has won a number of awards and recognitions: 

  • 2021 SSHRC Impact Award in the Partnership Category
  • Named a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada. 
  • The 2017 Volvo Environment Prize.

Dr. Sumaila’s perspective on Black History Month is one of profound connection and purpose. He recognizes that the oceans transcend boundaries of race, ethnicity, and ideology. Amidst the storms of discrimination, black resilience prevails—a testament to our shared humanity. His words resonate universally, connecting continents and weaving through the fabric of our shared existence.

Profile picture for user rashid.sumaila

Rashid Sumaila

  • Fellow 2023
Dr. Rashid Sumaila is a University Killam Professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs…