Calgary Catholic Schools Celebrate Black History Month With Posters Highlighting Prolific Black Canadians

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What began as a school initiative honoring Black History Month at Father Lacombe High School has grown into a Calgary Catholic School District-wide celebration.

A few years ago, Father Lacombe’s art teacher started making posters of prominent black Canadians and their significant contributions or accomplishments. Since then, they have continued to grow the project, adding a handful of new faces and stories to the posters each year.

Now these posters have been distributed throughout the district and displayed in the hallways of CCSD schools.

One of the people leading the initiative is Sheryl Campbell, a secondary school teacher and team leader of 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 had the chance to see black people in important roles. And so as a teacher at Father Lacombe, which is very diverse, I was forced to show people who are in this world, in our society, in our community doing amazing things that they can emulate,” she said.

“One of our first 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 hold a cabinet position. member of Parliament and who launched Black History Month [in Canada] over 25 years ago.”

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

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

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

The poster campaign grows every year and highlights the contributions and achievements of Calgary Blacks and Canadians. (Submitted by CCSD)

Grade 12 student Jonathan Rodney is one of the student organizers of Black History Month at Père Lacombe. He said he loved the conversations sparked by the posters.

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

Rodney said he looks forward to the other events his school is holding to celebrate Black History Month, including Dashiki Day.

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

“It’s a way of showing everyone, you know, that we’re all in this together as a community.”

Maytee Negash, another student organizer and Grade 12 student, said one of her favorite things to celebrate Black History Month is the daily morning announcements recognizing notable Black Canadians.

“I was surprised to learn about all these people. I’ve never seen these people, never heard of them, but they’re amazing,” she said.

“I feel like it’s important for everyone, not just black students, but everyone to be aware of these people. And even within black students, it’s good to know that people like you have done these things and that 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 with who I can relate to.”

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

The district said this month it is also promoting guest speakers at its schools, in addition to reviewing various presentations and sessions taking place across the province and inviting all students and teachers to celebrate.

A recent presentation focused on the legendary Black Cowboy and Albertan, John Ware.

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

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(Radio Canada)

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