Black History Month Across the WQSB

Black Student Alliance group photo

Black History Month (BHM) is an important time to learn about and from our past. Teaching students about our Canadian Black history builds on their awareness, critical thinking skills, empathy, and is key in preventing history from repeating itself. In addition, Black History Month serves as a great opportunity to celebrate Black excellence and culture, as well as to highlight and support our local Black businesses.

Schools and centres across the WQSB have been active throughout the month engaging in learning about Black history by involving students in activities that promote and recognize contributions from the Black community.  

Some of the high schools have created committees for Black students to meet and exchange ideas, discuss issues affecting them and plan events that promote cultural awareness among their peers.  This article will shine a light on two Black Student Alliance groups, one at Symmes/D’Arcy McGee and the other at Hadley/Philemon Wright. 

The BSAs along with the dedicated staff who lead them, play a big role in organizing Black History Month events throughout the year and special initiatives in February.

At Symmes Jr/D’Arcy McGee High School, the school BSA organized Spirit Week, from February 20th to the 23rd.  Throughout the week, students participated in activities during lunch. Tuesday was “Black out Tuesday”, where students fashioned all black outfits, Wednesday students played a Black history themed movie, Thursday they did BHM trivia, and on Friday the students held a fundraiser for the Black Youth Helpline, selling delicious Jamaican patties and other cultural foods in the cafeteria.

At Hadley Jr./Philemon Wright High School, the school celebrated BHM by hosting the biggest Black Culture Festival they have ever had! Enthusiastic staff and co-leads of the BSA, Kassandra Johnson and Yeti Mallavi were the organizers of the event booking in all the speakers and Black businesses, making Ms. Johnson’s idea for the festival a reality. Ms. Mallavi led the charge with the school announcements and BSA preparation meetings. School Life Animator Mario Cuglietta and Principal Dodie Payne helped with logistics and all the other administrative procedures involved in organizing the event. The BSA prepared for the event by baking ahead of the festival and selling the items at a bake sale to raise money for the cost of the BSA and spice jars were sold to raise money for a local charity.

During the festival at Hadley, there were five stations set up in the school for the festival with different activities:

  • the library had Cheyenne Marcelus reading her poetry, and an area for students to submit story ideas to Lucky Book Publishing.
  • the gym had speakers Trevor Hoyte and Ian Mendez speaking about their respective journeys – Mr. Hoyte’s as a professional football player, and Mr. Mendez a senior writer for The Athletic.
  • the auditorium had a talk with Lisa Ileka about the Wanawake Mentorship Network.
  • the back lobby had photographer Omar Genus with a photo shoot area setup for students and staff, Joceline Doresca hosted a braiding booth. T, and the BSA also offered a flag face painting station.
Greg Fergus admiring Ava's artwork

The cafeteria was booming with a variety of Black businesses set up with goodies to purchase. Businesses were selling food, beverages and exceptionally striking cookies. There were handmade beauty products, stickers and mugs, and handmade purses. Greg Fergus, the Speaker of the House of Commons for Canada stopped in to enjoy the festival, and even commissioned a piece of artwork from grade 7 student, Ava Mussgnug, who was selling her beautiful artwork.

Special thanks to Principal Tara Laine and the BSA at Symmes Jr./D’Arcy McGee High School, as well as to Kassandra Johnson and the BSA at Hadley Jr./Philemon Wright High School for providing the information for this article.

Black History Month is an important time for celebration in schools and centres, but more importantly, they are committed to supporting students by promoting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion all-year round through the curricula taught in classrooms, the books purchased by their librarians and staff, and by hosting safe spaces, clubs, and alliances for all students who wish to participate. The Western Québec School Board is committed to continually supporting our schools, creating a welcoming and harmonious environment for all students and staff.

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