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Surrey Schools is proud to celebrate Black History Month and support our students in learning about and honouring the legacy of Black Canadians.
Nicole Curtis, the district's inclusive practices helping teacher for SOGI and anti-racism, said there is a rich history and legacy of Black Canadians – both past and present – that many students may not know about.
One of the facts Curtis often shares with her students is that in 1858, nearly 800 free Black people left the oppressive racial conditions of San Francisco for a new life on Vancouver Island. While they faced intense discrimination on the island, they enriched the political, religious and economic life there.
"That's a massive piece of B.C. history that many people just don't know," she said
While Canadian social studies textbooks offer chapters on Indigenous history, European settlers, Chinese railway labourers and the internment of Japanese Canadians, Curtis said there is very little mention of Black history. However, she noted the Black Lives Matter movement has struck a chord with students, many of whom have expressed an interest in social justice to their teachers and want to learn more.
"So many of our educators want to build on that interest and have our students look at systemic barriers and decide what is right and what is fair," she said.
Curtis outlined several ways schools can honour Black History Month, including sharing facts about Black history during announcements, featuring timelines and prominent figures on bulletin boards, reading poetry by Black Canadian poets or poets of African descent, and holding virtual assemblies. She also has a number of resources for students and teachers to learn more about Black history in Canada:
Through initiatives such as Black History Month, Curtis said she hopes people will feel more comfortable discussing imperialism, colonialism, slavery and racism, while also building awareness of the legacy of Black Canadians.
"People are really scared to talk about these things, but they don't need to be," she said. "Educating ourselves on Black history and celebrating the achievements, resiliency and legacy of Black Canadians is so important. We gathered the Black History Month resources for our educators to help bring awareness and facilitate these important conversations their students."