Catholic schools across York Region will mark Black History Month throughout February with special events including visits from guest speakers, morning reflections, African drumming circles, school displays, and a variety of classroom learning activities.
“Black History Month provides an excellent opportunity for our schools, students, and staff to recognize the important contributions made by Black Canadians,” said Patricia Preston, Director of Education. “It also allows our students an opportunity to examine issues such as justice, equity, fairness, and inclusiveness, which directly relate to our Catholic teachings.”
Below is a small sample of school events and activities across the Board.
St. Brendan Catholic Elementary School in Stouffville recently welcomed presenter Babarinde Williams, Founder of Drums et al to its school as part of its Black History Month Celebrations. Mr. Williams is a well-known African drummer, music director, motivational speaker, and artist. He engaged the school community through a special tribute to Nelson Mandela during his presentation entitled, “I am YOU,” which comes from the African concept of “UBUNTU.” The presentation addressed the importance of empowerment, humanity, and ways to create a positive environment. Students participated in this presentation through songs, music, chants, drumming, and story-telling. The presentation also featured approximately 100 drums and percussion instruments.
During the month of February, Grade 7 and 8 students at Blessed Scalabrini Catholic Elementary School will use the school’s Skyhawk’s Radio Show to share stories about inspirational Black Canadians. The Shkyhawk’s Radio Show will also feature an array of African music. Students in the school’s junior division will also research famous Black Canadians, such as Lincoln Alexander, and prepare displays on them, which will be set-up in the school’s front foyer.
To mark Black History Month, the Grade 7 students at St. David CES in Maple will visit their local public library to hear a guest speaker talk about Black history. In preparation for this visit, the students have been reading a variety of short stories about civil rights leaders like: Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks, on a daily basis. After the students read each story, they are discussed among students who have the opportunity to reflect on history, and ask questions. Students will also watch excerpts from CBC's, Book of Negroes, that will give them an opportunity to better understand the history of slavery and the meaning of equal rights. Grade 8 students are doing Black History Month projects where they create a poster and a presentation of prominent figures in the black community.
Blues singer, Diana Braithwaite will visit All Saints Catholic Elementary School in Unionville on Friday, February 6, 2015 to celebrate Black History Month with the school’s students and staff. Braithwaite is a contemporary female vocalist who will share her talent and passion while presenting the story of the Underground Railway. Students will learn about Blues music, which is a genre that originated from African-American communities in the Southern United States.
On Monday, February 9, 2015, Singer-songwriter, Glenn Marais will visit San Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Elementary School in Markham, as part of the school’s Black History Month celebrations. Glenn Marais is an artist whose words and music speak out against injustice and inequality in a powerful and melodic voice. Glenn will present a compelling story of personal growth and discovery by sharing his own experiences with racism and the rich tapestry of Black history through a remarkable musical, visual and spoken word journey. Using music and story, Glenn will teach students about important people and themes that should be honoured and remembered.
Grades 4-8 students at St. Angela Merici Catholic Elementary School in Woodbridge will pay tribute to Nelson Mandela as part of its Black History Month celebrations. An interactive presentation by ‘New Hoza!’ called, “What a Wonderful World” will inspire students to recognize the importance of forgiveness, acceptance, and social action, through a tribute to the late anti-apartheid revolutionary, philanthropist, and political leader. Kevin Fell, New Hoza! Founder and Program Director, is a passionate social justice advocate and highly experienced artist-educator who developed this program as a powerful and creative teaching tool to help facilitate peaceful change. The Hoza! performer will use creative meditation to promote self-awareness, development and learning. “Hoza” is an African word that is interpreted to mean “stop”, “start” or “change.” The New Hoza! presentation will help students put a “stop” to negative thinking and behaviours and help them to “start” living the “change” that they envision for themselves and the world they share.
All Saints CES is pleased to welcome steel pan drum performer, Earl La Pierre Jr. on Friday, February 27, 2015. La Pierre will help the school celebrate Black History Month with the vibrant rhythm of his steel drums. He will teach students the basics of the steel drum and inform them about the purpose of its design and structure. La Pierre will deliver two presentations, suited to the school’s older and younger students.