MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 25, 2009- To mark Black History Month in February, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) organized a wide array of activities, from guest speakers and documentary screenings to musical and dramatic presentations.
John Caboto Elementary School in Ahuntsic and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School in Rosemount examined the life and times of Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barack Obama. Students viewed a CBC documentary called “On the Shoulders of Giants,” as well as Dr. King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and President Obama’s inaugural address. This was tied into classroom studies of the underground railroad.
Venture and Vezina Alternative High Schools commemorated Black History Month with guest speakers from National Defence, Captain Charles Déogratias and his wife Private Hyasinter Rugoro. Both had an inspiring story about growing up in a refugee camp in Tanzania. Though they were born in horrible circumstances, they both persevered to find a way out of an otherwise grim future. Today, both are successful, happy, and very proud to be Canadians. However, they will never forget their roots, and continue to spread their message of hope, self-respect, and the power of education. While speaking to Venture students, their incredible life story was being documented for CTV News. Students were interviewed for their reaction. In addition several wrote a brief paragraph on what Black History Month means to them. These comments can be found on the CTV news website.
St.Gabriel Elementary School in Point St. Charles invited artist James Nurse to speak to the students about slavery, as well as display his own African-inspired artwork. This lecture informed the students of what life was like for the African American people, and how they were cruelly and unfairly treated. It created a greater appreciation of how far we have come, and the importance of equal rights for all.
James Lyng High School in St. Henri invited Lieutenant Colonel Henry Moïse from the Department of National Defence to speak to the students about his life experience. Born in Haiti, he immigrated to Canada as a child and was constantly told he could never be a success. Through hard work and higher education, he struggled and fought to be where he is today.
Through classroom visits by Spiritual Animator Veronica D’Agata, students at Elizabeth High School in Ville Émard, as well as Coronation Elementary School in Cote Des Neiges, learned about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work in establishing Civil Rights for all. Just as Dr. King had a dream, students were then asked to think of what their dream is - whether it be for themselves, their family, this country, or even the world. Also at Coronation, Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities Yolande James visited with students. In 2004 she became the first female black Member of the National Assembly and in 2007 the first black cabinet minister.
At LaurenHill Academy in St. Laurent, an original art project lead by student teacher Tanisha Mapp and supervised by Art teacher Sharon Erskine is on display at the school. The purpose was to pay tribute to Barack Obama’s election to the presidency and his subsequent inauguration during Black History Month. Grade 9, 10 and 11 students created large posters of Obama. Their inspiration came from the various artists who created posters to support the Obama campaign. Every original image was printed in color and then cut into 32 pieces. Each student received one piece of an Obama print or painting. They enlarged the scale of the image by using the grid technique to achieve the correct proportions. The goal was to reconstruct the same image with oil pastels to create a vibrant effect.
At Gardenview Elementary School in St. Laurent, storyteller Sonia Barnes spoke about the evolution of Black History Month, from slavery to the present. Students at Parkdale Elementary School in St. Laurent were treated to a performance by Coronation School’s Steel Pan Band. Nearby at Cedarcrest Glenn Clarke did a presentation on the history of African percussion and dance.
At Rosemount High School, the Black Community Theatre Workshop put on two performances of the play “Skin” on February 3. A gastronomical buffet was held at the school on February 26, in which various dishes from Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad were served during the regular lunch period and for a $1 donation, students and staff were invited to sample the Caribbean cuisine that was offered. The profits from this project benefited one of the worthwhile organizations in the Montreal Black Community.
Edward Murphy School in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Mountainview School in Côte Saint-Luc, John Paul I High School in St. Léonard, and Cite des Prairies School in RDP each had a visit from Russell Farrell, who spoke about the Africville community in Nova Scotia. His father Lloyd Farrell lived there, and had his house burnt down to the ground, despite the fact that he called the fire department four times and that his house was located near a basin of water.
Options I High School in Ville Émard had the Black Theatre Workshop at the school, where they also presented the play called "Skin," which explored racism and intercultural relationships, as well as the "effects of the misconceptions and attitudes we all live and practice." It was followed by a celebration at the Caribbean Paradise restaurant in Verdun, which serves authentic West Indian cuisine, and students were able to sample real cultural cuisine. A video presentation took place at Outreach High School in NDG on Martin Luther King's message and on how it has created -- and is still creating -- change.
On February 9 Senator Donald Oliver from Nova Scotia came to speak to St. Monica Elementary School students in N.D.G. about Black History month. Senator Oliver recounted what it was like growing up in Wolfville and Halifax, where he encountered much racism. For example, Senator Oliver spoke about how he and his family were refused service in a restaurant. His aunt, famous opera singer Portia White, sang for the Queen yet was not allowed to stay in a hotel in downtown Halifax.
Senator Oliver saw great hope for the future and referred to the success of Black leaders such as President Barack Obama and Governor General Michaëlle Jean shows that everything is possible today. Students, he stated, must stay in school and work very hard, do their homework and not tell lies or behave badly. Senator Oliver summed up the importance of Black History Month in reminding the world that no one should be ever judged on the basis of the colour of their skin. This was truly a very inspiring day at St. Monica.
On February 18, the Cycle 2 students at St. Monica had a classroom video presentation on the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At Laurier Macdonald High School in St. Léonard, teacher Iona Smith coordinated a program which included principal speaker Captain Yves-Eugene Joseph, a Chaplain with the Department of National Defence and a native of Haiti.
Rev. Darryl Gray of the Imani Church, who was in Washington last month for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, spoke as did St. Léonard – St. Michel MP Massimo Pacetti. Students had the opportunity to sing, dance and recite poetry in recognition of Afro-Americans and Canadians who have made a difference in the struggle for equality amongst the races.