In celebration of the 25th year of Black History Month in Canada, a number of Metro Vancouver School Districts (Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam) participated in the Lifting Black Voices Youth Conference. This was a unique opportunity to see an official address by the Honourable Jean Augustine, who is the first Black woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament. Augustine is also responsible for securing unanimous legislative support for Black History Month in Canada. We heard from the keynote speaker Kamika Williams, who is the chair person for the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver and the organizer for the Black-Shirt Day initiative this year. Williams stressed the importance of representation, particularly in schools, as a way to dismantle racism, microaggressions, and harmful stereotypes. Representation plays a pivotal role in fostering safe spaces where all people can feel connected and valued. Cecily Nicholson and Khari McClelland are both activists, organizers, and spoken word artists who gifted us with a greater understanding of the experiences of Black Canadians and Black people around the world through poetry and song. The conference culminated with an extraordinary student panel who courageously spoke of their experiences as Black Canadians and Black students in the public education system.
A big thank you to Beth Applewhite and Kenneth Headley for facilitating such an memorable, moving, and inspiring event!
In the words of Kamika Williams: “See Something. Say something. Do something. No movement is too small!”