Black History Month lessons have lasting impact

Student groups at Trinity College School worked to celebrate and educate throughout February in honour of Black History Month. The roots of Black History Month stem from African American historian Carter G. Woodson, who, in 1926, proposed what became a week of recognition of the contributions of African Americans. This was later expanded to a month of commemoration, and in 1995 Black History Month was officially recognized by Canada’s House of Commons through the efforts of the Hon. Jean Augustine, the first African Canadian woman elected to Parliament.

The theme of this year’s Black History Month in Canada is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day,” a reminder that the lessons taken from this month must be remembered, and turned into action, throughout the year.

At TCS, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) introduced Black History Month in morning announcements on January 31st. This Senior School group, led by Grade 12 students Taige Emtage, Kamsy Onyekere and Bolu Abiola, organized a series of events over the course of the month, starting with a Black History Month “Themed Thursday” where students were asked to wear the colours of the Pan-African flag. The BSA explained the significance of the colours of the flag, which was created by Marcus Garvey: red – the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and was shed for liberation; black – for the people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag; green – the abundant and vibrant natural wealth of Africa, the Motherland; and yellow – representing the abundance of natural resources, such as gold, found in Africa.

The BSA worked with the TCS culinary services team to present a week of African and Caribbean foods, including culturally significant dishes such as Jamaican patties, pepper pot, jerk chicken, jollof rice, Nigerian sweet popcorn and festival bread. The group hosted a “Family Feud” style game and played Black music in the Cirne Commons. And the month wrapped up with the BSA’s second annual Black Alumni Career Night. The purpose of this event is to inspire Black students at TCS with the amazing work that Black alumni are currently doing, and their pathways to success. The virtual panel consisted of eight alumni, at various stages of their careers and post-secondary studies, and the presentation was filled with advice and thoughtful discussions on post-secondary pursuits, navigating university and careers as a Black person, the importance of building connections, seeking mentorship, the importance of a support system, and following your dreams despite pushback from outside sources. Thank you to the alumni who shared their insights and experiences with our students.

The BSA also contributed to Black History Month in the Junior School, as the three student leaders spoke during a virtual assembly with the Grade 5 to 8 students about how the BSA was formed, and shared advice for Black students in the Junior School as well as for allies. The Junior School has its own student group, Allies Against Racism (AAR), but Grade 5 student Oshio Obomighie was so inspired by the BSA presentation that he gathered his classmates together to create a group specifically for their class, called “Help Stop Discrimination,” and began looking at steps they could take to support a community of inclusion and belonging.

The AAR hosted a dress down day to allow Junior School students and staff the chance to wear the “Hate Has No Home Here” clothing and wristbands the group created to raise funds for Canadian charities devoted to inclusion and belonging, such as Nia Centre for the Arts (which supports and promotes Black artists) and Indspire (which invests in educational initiatives for Indigenous people). The group also produced slideshows on a range of topics surrounding Black history, culture and excellence. This included spotlights on individuals like Lawrence Hill as well as historic events such as the destruction of Africville. Grade 8 leaders Hannah Obomighie, Sam Nadurata and Molly Steeves encouraged the Junior School faculty to plan and implement a lesson about Black history, culture and excellence in each subject area (rather than just social studies). For example in a Grade 5 algebra lesson, students learned about “Hidden Figures” Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson and their contributions to the NASA program.

Thank you to the students who led the way in honouring Black History Month at TCS. Your efforts to educate and inspire students and staff will continue to resonate well beyond this month.

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