EMSB schools were very active during Black History Month

Montreal, February 28, 2023

The English Montreal School Board  marked Black History Month with a wide array of activities across its network.

Svens Telemaque

Svens Telemaque in studio at LHA.

At LaurenHill Academy in St. Laurent., speaker Svens Telemaque  visited the Senior and Junior campuses on the theme Black Is His Story, Her Story, Our Story on Feb. 2 and 3 respectively. 

After schoolwide assemblies for both Junior  and Senior campuses, organized by Spiritual and Community Animator Jessica Wilson, special guest Mr. Telemaque went live on air with the students on the LaurenHill radio station The Voice  to talk about challenges he faced during his youth, moving to Montreal, working with youth, being a motivational speaker, and what activism means to him.

Fatima Wilson 

Fatima Wilson, seen here at Honoré-Mercier.

Fatima Wilson and The Steel Pans  visited five elementary schools

  • Gerald McShane Elementary in Montreal North, Feb. 2 
  • Dante Elementary in St. Léonard  Feb. 6    
  • Honoré Mercier Elementary in St. Léonard Feb. 22  
  • Dalkeith Elementary in Anjou  Feb. 24  
  • Leonard Da Vinci Academy in RDP Feb. 27 
Cody Coyote speaks to OLP students.

Forgotten Black Communities

To commemorate Black History Month, the students in Cycles 2 and 3 at Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School in Ahuntsic  learned about the often forgotten Black communities in Canada in a fantastic informative workshop. OLP  also welcomed Indigenous hip hop recording artist, motivational speaker and workshop facilitator, Cody Coyote. He presented his workshop entitled "Healing through Art,"sharing  his inspirational personal journey as well as performing three of his songs-. 

Tracking Black Canada

On Feb. 8 at Vincent Massey Collegiate in Rosemount, Overture with the Arts   presented “Tracking Black Canada.”  Spiritual Community Animator Veronica D’Agata also created two very short online Kahoot that was played during homeroom period (only six minutes) on Feb. 22.

Gumboots Dance Assembly & Workshop

Gumboots at Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Elementary in Montreal West  had the Gumboots Dance Assembly & Workshop on Feb. 8 for all grades. Gumboots, a proud ambassador of diversity in the arts, invited Edinburgh to put on their boots and embark on a movement that has travelled the world to them! Gumboots is a traditional-modern percussive dance originating from South Africa. It is an intense dance that does not require any musical instrument but will instead be accompanied by clapping of the hands and feet on rubber boots, hence the name ''Gumboots.'' Students will learn about this upbeat and energetic African dance. 

On Feb. 15 and 22, SCA Jagdeep Trehin made presentations to Grades 4 to 6 classes and explored the lives and legacies of several Black Canadians. Amongst many Canadians, the presentations  focused on the story of Viola Desmond.  

As a closing for Black History Month, Edinburgh’s Cycle 3 classes participate in a presentation to celebrate and honor Black culture BEYOND February with Overture with the Arts (OWTA)!  Overture with the Arts (OWTA) is a non-profit organization based in Montreal, offering education in music, dance, drama, and vocal training. This presentation takes students around the country, while focusing on the often-forgotten histories of early Black communities in Canada.  Using OWTA’s trademark edutainment style that combines video, slam poetry, stand-up comedy, and audience participation/interaction, "Tracking Black Canada'' highlights the contributions and achievements made by prominent residents in these forgotten communities.

My Soca Birthday Party: With Jollof Rice and Steel Pans

My Soca Birthday Part
, with Jollof Rice and Steel Pans, took  place Feb. 9  at St. Monica Elementary School in NDG with Jollof Rice at Lunch.

Malik Shaheed

Malik Shaheed

Malik Shaheed, the director of the Youth Stars program (www.youthstars.org), spoke at nine EMSB schools:
  • Willingdon in NDG, Feb. 8. Watch TV report.
  • Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North, Feb. 10
  • East Hill Elementary School in RDP, Feb. 14
  • FACE School downtown, Feb. 15
  • Edinburgh Elementary in Montreal West,  Feb. 22
  • Gardenview Elementary in St. Laurent, Feb. 23
  • Gerald McShane Elementary in Montreal North,  Feb. 27
  • Roslyn Elementary in Westmount, virtually, Feb. 28 and
  • Marymount Academy International in NDG, March 1
He   delivered key points on Black History at each school, with the exception of Edinburgh where anti-bullying will be the theme and Marymount, an anti-Black racism component is to be included. Other points to be raised will be Africa Before Colonization, Talking about African Kingdoms, Great Contributions and inventions by Black people and Understanding the trials and Tribulations Black people have faced and faced and how society can become a better ally to the Black Community. 

At Lester B. Pearson High School,  Shaheed's  energy and charisma captured the student’s attention while he shared key points in Canadian Black history.  Through his captivating presentation, Black culture was presented in a positive light while at the same time breaking down stereotypes perpetuated by media and pop culture.  Students left with a deeper understanding of key issues, and through this understanding an ability to be a positive force for racial equality. 

Canadian and American History

On Feb. 13, Grades 3 and 6 students at Nesbitt had a one-hour session with Linton Gardner on Canadian and American History

Steel Pan Band

At Cedarcrest Elementary School in St. Laurent, a Steel Pan Band  performed on Feb. 17.

Dwight Walton

Dwight Walton

Royal Vale School in NDG had multiple events during the month, geared toward students in Kindergarten to Grade 11. 

  • Some highlights included former professional basketball player Dwight Walton on Feb. 20 
  • A panel on Black Excellence, featuring successful Royal graduates on Feb. 21  
  • Black Theatre Workshop’s presentation of the play Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers on Feb. 23
  • and a performance by Gumboots Dance Troupe on Feb. 24

Students take part in their rowing event.

A Rowing Tribute

At Options Alternative High School in Ville Émard, a 24 hour rowing activity took place on Feb. 15 and 16 to pay tribute  to the unnamed figures in Black history. Project Development Officers Jason Gannon and Garth Service chose to spearheaded this initiative  to help our students understand the magnitude of the slave trade.  Working on rowing machines,  this initiative allowed the staff to create experiential learning and opportunities  for  students  to connect with Black History in a deeper and more meaningful way. A key focus is the Transatlantic Slave Trade,  where tens of millions of Africans were enslaved and displaced. "Our objective was to pay tribute to one unnamed African  with every kilometre rowed," said Mr. Gannon.

Special guests join RHS staff and students after their event.

Rosemount High School was proud to host their lineup for its annual Black History Month Celebration, featuring a dynamic group of performers and speakers. The event took place on  February 22 and was kicked off  with a spectacular dance performance by over 25 EMSB students from L’Academie de Dance de Montreal. The audience was captivated by the energy and grace of these talented dancers as they showcased their skills on stage. Motivational speaker, model, and founder of The Rising Agency Aiesha Robinson was in attendance. She  is a dynamic leader in the world of business and modeling, using her platform to empower and uplift marginalized communities. Justin Jackson, Canadian tap-dancing champion, trained with Canadian legend Ethel Bruneau for 11 years and won nine Canadian Tap-dancing championships. He has also guest starred on popular shows such as So You Think You Can Dance Canada and The Wendy Williams Talk Show. Dwight Walton, a  Canadian Olympic basketball player who played in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was the final guest speaker. A trailblazer in the sports world, he passed on his message of togetherness, awareness and respect for all  students. They also hadthe pleasure of featuring a gospel choir  filled the room with powerful and uplifting music, that closed off this uplifting celebration. Everyone was left with goosebumps and a lot to think about. "This event was not to be missed as we all came together to celebrate the contributions of Black people in our society and to recognize the achievements of these accomplished and inspiring individuals," said Principal Lino Buttino.

At Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary in Rosemount, “Overture with the Arts" gave their presentation on Feb. 20.

A Day with No Words took place on Feb. 27 at Willingdon Elementary School in NDG.

A Storybook with Ms. D’Agata

At  John Caboto Academy in Ahuntsic, Michelangelo International Elementary in RDP and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Ms. D’Agata chose a storybook about a key figure in Black History. 

Mindful Moments

At Royal West Academy in Montreal West, some RWA students  highlighted Black History Month through reflection with weekly mindful moments.  Messages and quotes   appeared in the school bulletin. A book display team   created colorful and vibrant displays for students. highlighting several cultures and holidays this school year. This February an assortment of artifacts, art, and of course books were on display on the second floor highlighting Black History Month - authors, culture and traditions. 

During lunch on   February 6,  RWA students kickstarted Black History Month with an upbeat presentation from an RWA Alumni and Fatima Wilson's Steel Pan specialists.  The band shared some creative musical pieces with a Caribbean vibe.  Students and staff had an opportunity to explore the culture, traditions and of course enjoy the lovely music during their lunch!  

RWA’s book display team Ms. Germain (librarian) and Ms. Trehin(SCA) have been creating colorful and vibrant displays for our students. highlighting several cultures and holidays this school year.  The February display features an assortment of artifacts, art, and of course books on the second floor highlighting Black History Month - authors, culture and traditions.

As a closing for Black History Month, all classes participate in a presentation to celebrate and honor Black culture with Overture with the Arts (OWTA), a non-profit organization based in Montreal, offering education in music, dance, drama, and vocal training. This presentation takes students around the country, while focusing on the often-forgotten histories of early Black communities in Canada.  Using OWTA’s trademark edutainment style that combines video, slam poetry, stand-up comedy, and audience participation/interaction, "Tracking Black Canada'' highlights the contributions and achievements made by prominent residents in these forgotten communities, illuminate the conditions that led to their systemic demise, and highlight how their impact is still felt today.

ABC's of Black History

For each day in February, John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel spotlighted a figure from the ABC’s of Black History with morning announcements and offer activities such as a QR-code Scavenger Hunt, Caribbean style cafeteria day, free Jamaican patties for everyone one day and classroom activities by teachers utilizing the ABC kit.

Gardenview Elementary School in St. Laurent welcomed Shanice Nicole to read her book Dear Black Girls to Grade 2 students. 

At Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount,  Roen Higgins presented her Know Your Roots Tour: Interactive Storytelling Black History Month.  

At Our Lady of Pompei Elementary School in Ahuntsic, Overture with Arts  featured their Tracking Black Canada presentation.

At Westmount Park Elementary School,  activities included door decorating, a scavenger hunt, steel pan band and West Can folk dance.  

At Nesbitt Elementary in Rosemount and Pierre de Coubertin in St. Léonard, a portable museum was created in the libraries. Students from Rosemount High School, alongside Spiritual Community Animator Vince Lacroce, oversaw the programming, followed by the Wall of Heroes trivia game. This is a fun and interactive way to learn about the contributions and accomplishments of black individuals throughout history. The game is designed to be played on a smart board highlighting topics such as the Underground Railroad, The Civil Rights Movement, and World Events. Players can test their knowledge by answering questions about the heroes and their contributions to society. The game is an engaging and effective way to educate people about the importance of Black History Month and the contributions of black individuals throughout history.

Shanice Nicole gets the attention of students.

A series of programs were held atCoronation Elementary School for Black History Month. First, the students received a visit from local author Shanice Nicole, who read her book, Dear Black Girls. Spiritual and Community Animator Puynung Choy noted how much the students enjoyed the reading, and that one student enjoyed the book so much, he requested that Shanice write another book about Black boys and girls! In addition to the reading, students also received a visit and mini cooking class from Sue Hamilton, owner of Végé-Tropicale, a new vegan Caribbean catering company, who offered a “Taste of Jamaica” with her vegan patties. Ms. Hamilton also shared about the importance of hair in the Black community, and various nuggets of information about Jamaican culture through food, music, art and history.  

As one of their activities to celebrate Black History Month, Dunrae Gardens hosted Michael Farkas - originally from New Brunswick, raised in Mount St. Hilaire and a current resident of Montreal – who gave a historical presentation to Grade 5 & 6 students. A wealth of information, he covered much ground from porters of Canada to slavery - where he emphasized different events that influenced or normalized one's perceptions of Blacks. "The perception of others," said Spiritual and Community Animator Puynung Choy, is what we need to reflect on and rework, and what influences how we treat others. Follow-up classes will continue to address and expand on this theme over the next four weeks, as part of a larger anti-bullying program. 

Tina Oppong

Tina Oppong

Two EMSB staff have been chosen as CBC Black Changemakers for 2023.  Like many teachers, Tina  Oppong puts 110 percent into her job. But hers is no regular classroom. Ms. Oppong only has a handful of students of different ages and in different grades, and most of them are only with her for one academic year. Oppong is the head teacher of the day program at the Jewish General Hospital's Sir Mortimer B. Davis child psychiatry department. It is a program that is unique in Canada, where children with mental health or behavioral issues get intensive help, including their own lesson plan, created in conjunction with a team of experts. Her students have often struggled in a traditional school setting. Many have already been in and out of foster care and group homes. She said the job requires her to be nimble: part teacher, part social worker, ready to adapt to each student's needs. "It is absolutely soul-wrenching," said the EMSB teacher Oppong, "and you put in your sweat, blood and tears." But she says there's nowhere she'd rather be. You can read her entire inspiring story here

Also being recognized this month as a Black Changemaker was Kathy Roach, a community worker at St. Raphael Elementary School for children with behavioral difficulties. Through her workshops, Ms. Roach has inspired hundreds of Montreal teens from all walks of life to believe in themselves and give back to their community.

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 73 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.



Michael J. Cohen

Manager, Marketing and Communications

English Montreal School Board


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