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Calgary Catholic schools celebrate Black History Month with posters

Calgary

What started out as a school based initiative honouring Black History Month at Father Lacombe High School, has grown to a district-wide celebration in the Calgary Catholic School District.

Grade 12 students Jonathan Rodney (left) and Maytee Negash (right) are working with teachers like Sheryl Campbell to bring Black History Month alive for students at Father Lacombe High School.(Submitted by CCSD)

What started out as a school-based initiative honouring Black History Month at Father Lacombe High School, has grown into a district-wide celebration at the Calgary Catholic School District.

A few years ago, the art teacher at Father Lacombe began making posters of prominent Black Canadians and their significant contributions or accomplishments. Since then, they’ve continued to build on the project adding a handful of new faces and stories to the posters each year.

Now those posters have been distributed district-wide, and displayed in the hallways of CCSD schools.

One of the people leading the initiative is Sheryl Campbell, a teacher at the high school and a team leader for the Justice, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) committee. She said this type of campaign is important for young Black students.

“Being born and raised in Calgary, I never got a chance to see Black people that are in significant roles. And so as a teacher at Father Lacombe, which is very diverse, I was compelled to show them people that are in this world, in our society, in our community that are doing amazing things that they can emulate,” she said.

“One of our first few posters was Calgarian Ezzrett ‘Sugarfoot’ Anderson, who played for the Stampeders. Then a few years ago, we added Jean Augustine, who was the first Black woman to serve as a federal minister and MP and who initiated Black History Month [in Canada] over 25 years ago.”

This year one of the posters honours a former Father Lacombe student and current University of Calgary basketball player Manyang Tong.

“Manyang is one of the students that represents a lot of our students. Born in a refugee camp, came over when he was quite young and then just had to overcome some obstacles of even just being in Canada, and then just had a goal in mind,” said Campbell.

“That’s just a really good story that students can see and emulate, like, ‘hey, if you can do it well, then so can I’.”

The poster campaign has grown each year, and highlights the contributions and achievements of Black Calgarians and Canadians. (Submitted by CCSD)

Grade 12 student Jonathan Rodney is one of the student organizers for Black History Month at Father Lacombe. He said he loves the conversations that are sparked by the posters.

“I think that’s really cool, because it shows that they’re taking the initiative to try and understand Black History and Black culture — like trying to understand you at the end of the day.”

Rodney said he’s looking forward to the other events his school is doing to celebrate Black History Month, including the Dashiki Day.

“It’s an African shirt that comes from like different countries in Africa and it is really bright and colourful, and they have different patterns and prints,” he said.

“It’s a way just to show everybody, you know, that we’re all together as a community.”

Fellow student organizer and grade 12 student Maytee Negash said one of her favourite things they are doing to celebrate Black History Month is daily morning announcements recognizing notable Black Canadians.

“I was surprised learning about all these people. I’ve never seen these people, never heard of them, yet they’re incredible,” she said.

“I feel like it’s important for everybody, not just Black students, but everyone to be aware of these people. And even within the Black students it’s good to know that people like you have done these things and people like you are capable of amazing things…growing up it was kind of hard to find people like me, so it’s really nice to be able to see people I can identify with.”

Father Lacombe students Jonathan Rodney and Maytee Negash say it’s inspiring to learn about strong Black Canadian role models they can see themselves in.(Submitted by CCSD)

The district said this month it’s also promoting guest speakers within its schools, as well as looking at various presentations and sessions that are happening across the province and inviting all students and teachers to celebrate.

One recent presentation was about legendary Black Cowboy and Albertan, John Ware.

“They told the story of John Ware, of course, and it was relatable for the students. And our students were seeing themselves in our presenters, and that’s a huge piece that we really try to build on and encourage that to happen at all times, not just during Black History Month, but all throughout the year,” said Matt Sauer, a member of the Black Teachers Association and a consultant for the district’s JEDI committee.

You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018, she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at lucie.edwardson@cbc.ca

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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