Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Viola Desmond and Rosa Parks are some of the role models of black excellence and some of the names we think of when Black History Month surfaces once a year. As Leaside gives full recognition to the many African Canadians and Americans around North America, we commemorate these leaders and challengers for their worldwide anti-discrimination movements and also taking the initiative to shed some light on challenges that black Canadians face today in society.
The main contributor in guiding the activities connected to Black History Month was the BE Club (Black Excellence Club) led by Ms. Johnson, child and youth worker at Leaside. Our first contribution was made through announcements about some of the greatest trail blazers within the black community. Through the morning announcements, Leaside would take two minutes to recognize the impact and achievements of many members of the Black community. Some of the people who were recognized over the month were Richard Greener, the first black student at Harvard University, and Rosemary Brown, the first black woman elected to a Canadian provincial legislature.
Further steps were taken from the early start of the month, and the BE club was officially created. The club’s main goal was to shine a light on the black excellence that walks through the hallways of Leaside. As the club read the announcements, they attended a workshop to speak on the hurdles that members of the black community and Leaside high school had faced. Many topics were spoken about. For instance, segregation in the past and common stereotypes that are unfortunately used as judgment tools were discussed. But one topic that was spoken about the most was microaggressions and racism. Videos were watched to help students understand the severity of racism and discrimination. Documentaries that told stories and legacies were viewed and addressed. All located in the small computer room of the Leaside Library, powerful words were spoken that only strengthened the connection and friendship between the members of the black community.
Ms. Simmons, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Ivkovic led workshops addressing historical and contemporary issues in the Black community. Students and teachers attended the seminar meetings, black or non-black, to be educated on the personal experiences of the black community. Ms. Simmons, the music teacher and music band coordinator, identified a key focal point for this concept: “It’s important for folks in power, especially white and non-Black folks, to listen to the voices of marginalized people, in order to help make a change.” The lunch discussion was a great chance for us to listen and learn from the lived experiences of Black students at Leaside.
And to end the month of February with a bang, the BE club worked in cooperation with Ms. Ivkovic to run Leaside’s first Black History Month assembly. The assembly was something
the students of Leaside needed. Grade 12 Joel R. and grade 11 Shadi M. were the two main hosts of the assembly, and the two performers and speakers of the gathering were Dwayne Morgan and Kamiylah Mckenzie. Kamiylah Mckenzie performed a spoken word piece called “Everyday Conversations,” a piece that addressed the frustration of discrimination and racism in a young black person’s life. Dwayne Morgan, an inspirational speaker, was Leaside’s special guest speaker that covered the obstacles youth are challenged by in this generation regardless of any differences. He also goes on to further highlight the topic of change and choice in raising awareness about teenager’s self-love in their internal and external life experiences. Self-love is challenging, in that it encompasses the mental working of understanding ourselves and how the changes in high school affects our mental and personal self-reflection.
From the start of February, there was not a day where the sweet victory in the history of black excellence was not appreciated. So as we move forward, let us all remember the words of empowering words of Malcolm X:
“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience and patience creates unity”.