Students ‘going forward, guided by the past’

Students at Catholic schools throughout York Region are celebrating Black History Month by honouring Canadians of African descent by ‘going forward, guided by the past’ in keeping with this year’s theme.

Our Lady of Counsel Catholic Elementary School in East Gwillimbury was among several York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) schools that held events on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Blues singer Diana Braithwaite and guitarist Chris Whiteley took students on a historical journey of Black Canadians through music.

At St. Justin Martyr CES in Markham, actor and playwright Leslie McCurdy performed her one-woman play, The Spirit of Harriet Tubman. It tells the story of Tubman’s life from her earliest experiences as a slave through her work rescuing enslaved people using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

At San Lorenzo Ruiz CES, also in Markham, author and musician Aubrey Clarke read to students from several of his children’s books, including Fly Little Blackbird Fly and It’s Not Over Until It’s Over. Staff and students at St. Veronica CES in Woodbridge enjoyed an interactive musical presentation by Canadian rapper Duane Gibson, who shared stories of Black Canadians and inspired students with his message to ‘Stay Driven.’

The next day, more than 35 high school students representing families of African heritage shared their vision for the board’s African Heritage Student Symposium, which will be held on May 12. “Here at the YCDSB, we continue to engage our students’ voices and empower our students to guide our work on anti-Black racism,” says Chairman Maria Marchese.

Every February, Canadians are invited to participate in Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. This year’s theme is inspired by the United Nations declaration that 2015-2024 would be deemed the International Decade of People of African Descent.

Photos of high school students sharing their vision for an African Heritage Student Symposium and Leslie McCurdy performing her one-woman play courtesy of the York Catholic District School Board. Other events will take place throughout Black History Month.

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