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BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATED ACROSS THE EMSB

MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 27, 2013 – Schools and centres across the English Montreal School Board celebrated Black History Month throughout February through a variety of events:

On Thursday, January 31:

  • The English Montreal School Board, represented by Tino Bordonaro, Social Science consultant and Athina Galanogeorgos, Assistant Director of Pedagogical Services, attended the launch of Black History Month at Montreal’s City Hall. The event, hosted by Mary Deros, honoured a number of members of the community by presenting them with awards of recognition for their leadership and contributions.

On Monday, February 11:

  • Royal Vale Elementary School in N.D.G., along with Principal Nathalie Lacroix-Maillette, Vice-Principals Jean Alexandre and Elizabeth Lagodich as well as Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher welcomed Justin Jackson. Jackson, a James Lyng alumnus, is a professional tap dancer. In addition to preforming, he shared his life story, which showed that through hard work and perseverance anyone could turn their dreams into reality. He also led a tap workshop in celebration of Black History Month. The students thoroughly enjoyed Justin¹s visit.

On Tuesday, February 12:

  • Elizabeth High School, Venture, Options 1 and 2 all had the opportunity to see a presentation of “When Elephant Was King” from the Black Theatre.

On Wednesday, February 13:

  • Marlene Jennings, former Liberal Member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-De-Grace/Lachine from 1997-2011, visited Royal Vale High School in N.D.G. Jennings was the first African Canadian woman to represent Quebec in Parliament. Coordinated by Principal Nathalie Lacroix-Maillette, Vice-Principals Jean Alexandre and Elizabeth Lagodich as well as Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher, Jennings focused her talk on Black Canadian history, which is largely unknown to many students, and she shared her life experiences. Born into a family of 10, Jennings’s mother died when she was young. Being there for her family through difficult times helped her to be there for her constituents while serving as a Member of Parliament. The students asked great follow-up questions during the question period.

On Thursday, February 14:

  • Marlene Jennings, former Liberal Member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-De-Grace/Lachine from 1997-2011, visited James Lyng High School in St. Henri. Jennings was the first African Canadian woman to represent Quebec in Parliament. Coordinated by Principal Angela Vaudry, Vice-Principal Steven Manstavich and Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher, Jennings focused her talk on Black Canadian history, which is largely unknown to many students, and she shared her life experiences. Born into a family of 10, Jennings’s mother died when she was young. Being there for her family through difficult times helped her to be there for her constituents while serving as a Member of Parliament. The students asked great follow-up questions during the question period.
  • Perspectives High School in St. Michel welcomed the Youth Stars Foundation and their special presentation of “Facing the N-word” to the school. Hosted by Westmount High School alumnus Malik Shaheed, featured Shaharah and Purpsy Purps as well as a live DJ. In addition to the entertainment, the tour highlighted the civil rights movement and some of its’ greatest activists. Focusing on the “N-word,” the guests addressed the controversial, sensitive and rarely discussed topic, its origins, history, and contemporary meaning. The efforts of outspoken prominent individuals to condemn its use and educate today’s society of the detrimental impact that this hateful euphemism has had and continues to have on today’s youth were outlined.

  • Grade 6 students at St. Gabriel Elementary School in Pointe St. Charles took turns reading Black History stories and tales to the younger students at the school. Organized by Principal Jim Daskalakis and Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher, the Grade 6 students had a great opportunity to be of service to their younger peers while practicing their reading and public speaking skills. The younger students enjoyed the stories and appreciated a visit from their older schoolmates.

On Thursday, February 21:

  • Marlene Jennings, former Liberal Member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-De-Grace/Lachine from 1997-2011, visited James Lyng High School in St. Henri. She was the first African Canadian woman to represent Quebec in Parliament. Coordinated by Principal Angela Vaudry, Vice-Principal Steven Manstavich, and Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher, Jennings focused her talk on Black Canadian history, which is largely unknown to many students, and she shared her life experiences. Born into a family of 10, Jennings’s mother died when she was young. Being there for her family through difficult times helped her to be there for her constituents while serving as a Member of Parliament. The students asked great follow-up questions during the question period.

On Friday, February 21:

  • St. Monica Elementary School and Royal Vale High School in N.D.G. along with Principals Katherine Snow, Nathalie Lacroix-Maillette, Vice-Principals Jean Alexandre and Elizabeth Lagodich and Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher welcomed professional tap dancer Justin Jackson. Jackson, a James Lyng alumnus is a professional tap dancer. In addition to preforming, he shared his life story, which showed that through hard work and perseverance anyone could turn their dreams into reality. He also led a tap workshop in celebration of Black History Month. The students thoroughly enjoyed Justin¹s visit.

On Tuesday, February 26:

  • James Lyng High School in St. Henri, Principal Angela Vaudry, Vice-Principal Steven Manstavich, and Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher welcomed the Glen Clarke and the African Percussion Workshop. The workshop included explanations of the percussion instruments, musical performances and a traditional African dance lesson. Students found the workshop interesting and highly interactive.   

On Wednesday, February 27:

  • Students at Parkdale Elementary School in St. Laurent had a school-wide assembly that featured Ethel Bruneau, a tap dancer and owner of the Ethel Bruneau dance studio. The assembly, which was coordinated Spiritual and Community Animator Mary Poullas, allowed students to hear from Ethel, who spoke about her life and what she has done for the African American community.  Students also participated in the assembly by preforming the dances they learned throughout the month.

  • St. Gabriel Elementary School in Pointe St. Charles, Principal Jim Daskalakis and Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher welcomed the Glen Clarke and the African Percussion Workshop. The workshop included explanations of the percussion instruments, musical performances and a traditional African dance lesson. Students found the workshop interesting and highly interactive.   

On Thursday, February 28:

  • Royal Vale High School in N.D.G., Principal Nathalie Lacroix-Maillette, Vice-Principals Jean Alexandre and Elizabeth Lagodich as well as Spiritual and Community Animator Aaron Durocher welcomed three members of Salah¹s Steel Pan Academy. The students thoroughly enjoyed the music, which demonstrated an aspect of Caribbean Black culture to which many students relate.
  • Students at Nesbitt Elementary School in Rosemount had a school-wide assembly that featured Ethel Bruneau, a tap dancer and owner of the Ethel Bruneau dance studio. The assembly, which was coordinated Spiritual and Community Animator Mary Poullas, allowed students to hear from Ethel, who spoke about her life and what she has done for the African American community.  Students also participated in the assembly by preforming the dances they learned throughout the month.

Throughout February:

  • Willingdon Elementary School in N.D.G. offered their students a unique learning experience about Black History Month. Coordinated by Spiritual and Community Animator, Linda Luca, students had the chance to participate in an interactive classroom lesson, which focussed on the long journey from slavery to the civil rights movement and finally to the election of an African American president.  Additionally, some classes were able to make Kente cloths, a beautiful ceremonial cloth from Ghana.  These cloths represent the history, philosophy, oral literature, religious beliefs, political thought and aesthetic principles of the Ghanaian people.  Today people wear Kente cloths as a symbol of pride of their African heritage. 

  • Parkdale Elementary School in St. Laurent learned about the history of Breakdancing with dancer and choreographer Johny Walker-Bien-Aimé.  Additionally, Grade 5 students learned about gumboot: a method of communication used between the mineworkers in South Africa.  The workers were not allowed to talk so they communicated by clapping on their boots.  It has since evolved into a form of dance. Choreographer Just Aïssi was on hand to teach the students the history behind the dance as well as help them learn to perform it.

  • John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel and Rosemount High School came together to celebrate Black History Month. Coordinated by Spiritual and Community Animator Frank Lofredo, events and presentations were organized to focus on the need for equality and justice and trace the history of slavery, the roots of the abolitionist movement and to appreciate the many role models who offer examples of equality and justice.  Events included: presentations by the Black Theatre Workshop, student dance competitions and a Caribbean Pot Luck Luncheon attend by several hundred staff and students. Entertainment at the Luncheon was provided by the Salah Steel Pan Group.

  • Students at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School in Rosemount discovered and enjoyed African drum music through a wonderful performance by “Kattam et ses Tamtams”. This interactive activity allowed the students to learn about many African instruments and to dance to African rhythms. It provided them with a unique opportunity to appreciate the contribution that Africans have made to the world of music.

  • At Michelangelo International Elementary School in R.D.P., students attended a talk by guest speaker Sonia Huggins, who described the many contributions of African American people to our contemporary society. Huggins explained to students that a stronger emphasis must be placed on Black history in society. Throughout the month, Principal Anna Della Rocca and teacher Alicia Piechowiak expressed that Michelangelo students have also explored many Black History issues, such as the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman’s contribution to freeing African American slaves, Jackie Robinson’s feat as the first African American to break the Major League Baseball color barrier, as well as the determination and bravery of Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint who formed an all-Black unit to fight alongside the English in Upper Canada in the War of 1812.

  • At Coronation Elementary School in Cote Des Neiges, students attended the Black Theatre Workshop play “When the Elephant was King”. Principal Christina Chilelli noted that students enjoyed seeing the different animal characters come to life as well the opportunity to ask the actors questions after the performance.

  • Students at Gardenview in St. Laurent listened to stories about the lives of true heroes such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. They also listened to the storybooks “Under the Quilt at Night” and “The Secret to Freedom” which depicted true facts about slaves escaping to freedom.  They wrote summaries and drew illustrations about these people of courage, and proudly displayed these in the school showcase. To conclude the month, students watched a film about Ruby Bridges.

  • At Westmount High School, students visited the #MLK50 photo exhibition at Place Des Arts displaying the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This exhibition celebrates the life of Rev. Dr. King and his fight for civil rights as seen through the eyes of six photographers, three of whom are Canadian. Students also participated in the “Songs of Freedom” tour with renowned artist Jonathan Emile and Overture with Hearts, showcasing the cultural influence of Black music and its emphasis on social cooperation. Furthermore, for the seventh year, students participated in McGill’s Annual Children’s Day hosted by McGill’s Black Student’s Network, which emphasized the relevance and importance of Black History in Canada, the African Diaspora, and the contributions of Blacks to Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism. Westmount also hosted the Youth Stars Foundation’s special presentation of “Facing the N-word”. Hosted by Westmount alumnus Malik Shaheed, featured Shaharah and Purpsy Purps as well as a live DJ. In addition to the entertainment, the tour highlighted the civil rights movement and some of its’ greatest activists. Focusing on the “N-word,” the guests addressed the controversial, sensitive and rarely discussed topic, its origins, history, and contemporary meaning. The efforts of outspoken prominent individuals to condemn its use and educate today’s society of the detrimental impact that this hateful euphemism has had and continues to have on today’s youth were outlined.

  • Elizabeth Ballantyne School in Montreal West scheduled a Black Theatre Workship. Additionally, Spiritual and Community Animator Gladys Batten engaged her students in presentations using impromptu drama, a decision chain, a hands-on taste test about “what is real” to tell the stories of the families of Washington T. Booker, Wilma Rudolph, and  John & Mildred Ware,  highlighting the choices they made in face of racism and social disadvantage, emphasizing that their choices and faith inspire us all to have courage, be encouragers, and take responsibility. 

  • Students at Roslyn and Westmount Park Elementary Schools in Westmount also were engaged by Gladys Batten’s presentations highlighting the stories and the families of Washington T. Booker, Wilma Rudolph, and John and Mildred Ware. Students learned and were asked to contemplate the choices they made in face of racism and social disadvantage, emphasizing that their choices and faith inspire us all to have courage, be encouragers, and take responsibility. 

  • Carlyle Elementary School in T.M.R, led by Spiritual and Community Animator Mike Shaw, celebrated Black History Month with songs and documentaries of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other African American leaders created by Irene Miller. Presentations also included the myriad of inventions that the African American community created. Additionally, students watched a simplified PowerPoint from Mary Poullas, which included the subject of respect for cultures and ethnic traditions. On that topic, students delved into the life of Mahatma Ghandi and the concept of how one person does make a difference, as was the case in Black History.

  • The grade 4 English classes at Leonardo DaVinci Academy in R.D.P. learned about Martin Luther King Jr. Spiritual and Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone spoke to the students and provided context and background information. Additionally, students had a presentation on American slavery, a brief explanation of the Civil War, and an overview of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, covering Rosa Parks, Student Sit-Ins, and peaceful marches (emphasizing that the key to achieving human rights is through peaceful protesting). As a follow-up to the book on Martin Luther King Jr and their activities, Pellicone will return play a game she invented called "Civil Rights Bingo!" which is essentially Bingo!, but the goal is to spell civil rights phrases and children must answer questions based on the Civil Rights Movement. Grades 5 and 6 had a presentation on Famous Black Canadians, entitled “A Different Perspective on Canadian History.” Students had the opportunity to understand that Canadian history is important and as Canadians, they should pay attention to it more often, as well that history has multiple perspectives. During the workshop, students looked at history through a Black-Canadian lens. Spiritual and Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone made sure to educate the students about the importance of learning Canadian history from multiple perspectives.

  • Grades 5 and 6 at Gerald McShane Elementary School in Montreal North had a presentation on Famous Black Canadians, entitled “A Different Perspective on Canadian History.” Students had the opportunity to understand that Canadian history is important and as Canadians, they should pay attention to it more often, as well that history has multiple perspectives. During the workshop, students looked at history through a Black-Canadian lens. Spiritual and Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone made sure to educate the students about the importance of learning Canadian history from multiple perspectives.
  • At Lester B Pearson High School in Montreal North, Spiritual and Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone visited all the Secondary 3 history classes to give a presentation on Haitian History and their culture, followed by an explanation on racism and where it comes from. The purpose of this workshop was to sensitize the students to the culture and history of their Haitian peers at Henri Bourassa High School, which is down the street. Due to external factors, students at both schools very rarely mingle together and therefore know nothing about each other. This can lead to apprehension, fear or aggression. Immediately following the presentation on Haitian culture, Pellicone explained where racism comes from, how it is a human-made construct and can be completely avoided if we are self- aware. The goal of the presentation was to ease any students' fears and lower their level of suspicion towards "the other".


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Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213
E-mail: mcohen@emsb.qc.ca