Black History Month at RSGC

The theme for Black History Month for 2022 was “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day,” which focused on recognizing the daily contributions that Black Canadians make to our country. At the College, faculty, staff and students were encouraged to share resources on and celebrate Black History in and outside of the classroom.
To encourage resource sharing and learning at the College, the DEI committee, which is made up of 25 faculty and staff, launched a Black History Month (BHM) Resource sharing system called BHM&Beyond. “The BHM&Beyond resources are an extension of our curated multi-media videos, podcasts, books, publications, speakers, events, and focuses on carrying the learning beyond the month of February,” said Lindsay Gentner, Co-Chair of DEI. “The focus and the intention have been to provide opportunities for our community to continue to celebrate and learn about Black history, heritage, identity, and joy,” Lindsay continued. Margaret Nozuka, Co-Chair of DEI, continued to share, “The impact, we hope, of sharing resources is to emphasize the importance of continuous learning as a community in all areas of life on and off-campus; within the classroom, among teams/departments/ committees, and as individuals out in the community.”

The Junior and Senior Schools each emphasized the importance of Black History month in the classroom.
“In the Junior School, we focused on the theme of Black History Month and beyond, incorporating stories of Black experiences into the curriculum throughout the entire school year,” Stefanie Turner, Associate Head of the Junior School, said. “In February there
was a high degree of focus on Black history and all Junior School students in Grades 3 to 8 researched Black history, explored the impact it has on Canadian identity / diverse identities, deepened our appreciation of diverse Black experiences, and celebrated Black joy and creations,” Stefanie continued. Students in Grades 3 and 4 learned about the experiences of Black Canadian trailblazers. “Through read-aloud and research projects, Grade 3 and 4 students discussed how history has impacted present-day experiences and considered how we will be inspired to be allies and change-makers,” Stefanie shared.

In Grade 7, students explored and had discussions on the biographies of Rankin Wheary and Ethelbert "Curley" Christian, two Black men who not only played baseball on otherwise all-white military teams and were also among the 20 Black soldiers who took part in the successful Canadian capture of Vimy Ridge.

Grade 8 students engaged in a self-directed exploration of Black culture and communities in Canada. They learned about innovators in science and technology, observed the works of Afro-futurist artists, and listened to poems about Black joy and resistance. Students continued to discuss the importance of representation in media and texts and discovered many new Young Adult novels written by Black authors to add to their reading lists.

Similarly, in the Senior School, teachers embraced Black History Month when developing their lesson plans. Rachel DeBlois, French Teacher, explained that “each day in my Core and Enriched French classes we started with a video en Français about an important Black Canadian, either deceased or
alive”. Rachel continued, “it’s important for the students to learn about those who contributed to our country and have a conversation about the impact they made. Having the conversation in French is just a bonus”. Specifically in Rachel’s Enriched class, “students read a book on Black history while we were distanced learning in January which dovetailed nicely into Black History Month.” Enriched French students also were tasked with a project to research a Black Canadian, dead or alive, research their history and impact on Canada and prepare a five-minute oral presentation. “The students were excited to learn about someone new, they were able to choose important people in our country’s past, or someone they might have been more familiar with such as musicians or athletes,” Rachel said.
In Tom Wade West’s Grade 9 and 10 Music Classes, students were asked to either record a song written by a Black composer and include an introduction of who the composer is, or write a short essay about a Black musician or composer and discuss important facts about the song. Students were encouraged to discuss their feelings when listening to the song and the message that is portrayed. “The students put together really great recordings and presentations for this assignment. It was nice to see the time and effort they gave to the assignment, thoroughly researching the composer and using a lot of visuals in their presentations,” said Tom.

Grade 10 Art Teacher, Leanne Mladen, has also used Black History Month as an opportunity to widen students’ perspectives on the arts. In their most recent project in Leanne’s class, “the students were first introduced to the concept of racism and had discussions about why we should continuously be talking about this, and how racism relates back to art,” she explained. Students were given articles and videos to review as preliminary homework for the project. “It was amazing to see what they picked up from the articles and how they decided to show what they have learned in their pieces,” Leanne continued. “It’s important to talk about racism in our country and how it relates to many areas, such as art. The art students were able to understand why they would be disadvantaged if they do not expose themselves to Black artists,” Leanne finished. The students created incredible pieces for this project. One student created a piece that symbolizes trying to put the pieces of our past together for a brighter future, while another student blatantly displayed how the white population dominates high-level positions across the country.