Addressing Racial Injustice in Schools

The Equitable Spaces team formed in January 2021 to tackle three goals:

  1. Raise Awareness - Advocating to drive business and raise the profile of Black-owned businesses, Black artists and important Black topics through a social media campaign which kicked off during Black History month

  2. Take Action - create a series of events to gather information from students and teachers to present to the HDSB school board
     

The key group members included: Iman Ahsan, Arshiya Alam, Kacy Bao, Edith Eseme, Mira Kikhia, Sehar Saqib, and Varun Vahainambi

We chose to focus on racial injustice in schools for a few reasons. We wanted to keep the momentum going after our insightful Black Lives Matter panel event. There were two incidents of racist graffiti at Georgetown and Oakville schools during December 2019. Social justice movements continued to be at the forefront of youth activism following the summer of 2020. And, because many of our teammates come from racialized and intersectional backgrounds.

The following organizations were super helpful in helping us brainstorm, learn new topics and have expert support in our journey: Halton Black Voices, Halton Children’s Aid Society, Halton District School Board, and Milton District Equity Team.

Specifically, we would like to thank Donna Miles and Gennile Thomas for your coaching and valuable insight on how to respectfully and sensitively approach topics such as racial injustice.

Highlights include:

  • Goal #1: Celebrating Black history, present and future beyond the month of February. Our team put together weekly carousel posts on Instagram:

    • Black Businesses - Aunt Jean Creams, Batik Boutik, and Ellenoire

    • Black Canadian Artists - Salome Bey, Drake, Portia White, and Robert Nathaniel Dett

    • Black-Owned Businesses in the GTA - Charm Berries, A Different Booklist, Girl Gang Strong, Blooming Flower Bar, and Cup of Te

    • Businesses and Artists - Bliss Truffles and Gelato, Verte Beauty, Maestro, and Buseje Bailey

    • 4 People who embody Black Excellence - Will Smith, Serena Williams, Lebron James, and Kamala Harris

    • Black Excellence in Film - Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Morgan Freeman, Queen Latifah, Donald Glover, Zoe Kravitz, and Jordan Peele

    • 5 Empowering Black Canadian Activists - Jean Augustine, Rosemary Sadlier, Dudley Lewis, Michaelle Jean, and Charles Roach
       

  • Goal #2: Hosting a series of events for students, teachers and ultimately the HDSB school board. An excerpt from one of Mira’s invite emails: “We are the Halton Youth Initiative, a group of youth in the Halton Region passionate about advocating and raising awareness around issues of equity and racial injustice within our community. Last November our team hosted a BLM panel event where we invited Black youth in Halton to share their experiences of racism within their schools and our communities. We want to continue this project by having an open discussion with students, staff, and board members about the current climate of racism within our school boards. We acknowledge that you are one of the leads for your school’s equity team and we have included a google form link and a post with further information if you or your students are interested in participating.”
     

  • Learning opportunity: Our team at one point called themselves the “Black Lives Matter team”. We thank Gennile from Halton Black Voices for calling us in to understand how, without Black youth at the lead of a team named Black Lives Matter - our name was problematic. We took time to discuss and reflect on this mistake, took accountability by messaging those who had been connected to our event series and updated our name to the HYI Equity team for efforts going forward.
     

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