EMSB marks Black History Month

Montreal, February 27, 2024 The English Montreal School Board has been marking  Black History Month with programming at many of its schools and centres.

On Thursday, February 1,  James Lyng Adult Education Centre in St. Henri   kicked off Black History Month with a steel pan band performance by Salahpan. Students were then surprised with fresh Jamaican patties from Manago Bakeries.

Svens Telemaque, a noted speaker on youth empowerment, did class visits at Marymount  Academy International for Secondary  III, IV and V  classes on  Thursday, February 1  and  he did so again on   , February  16 .   Equitas, formerly known as the Canadian Human Rights Foundation, finished up their anti-racism workshops at the school for Secondary II, III, IV and V  during the month.  Educator and community worker Simeon Pompey will be doing class visits  in  late March  at Marymount to Secondary I and II classes.

Overture with Arts was at Marymount.  Willingdon Junior  and Senior Campuses  and Merton Elementary School  in Côte Saint-Luc.

Students enjoy their Jamaican patties.

At James Lyng Adult Education Centre in St. Henri students in the  Academic and Basic English programs kicked off Black History Month with steel pan music performed by Salahpan. For many of our students, it was their first introduction to the beautiful sounds of the steel pan. Students were also treated to traditional Jamaican Patties from local bakery Menago. A collaboration with Pop Up Paint Shop Montreal kicked off week two and three of Black History Month. Students and staff painted four canvases of internationally and locally famous black individuals. Students and staff were guided in the art of collaborative painting to bring to life the portraits of Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Jacky Robinson and Daisy Sweeny. James Lyng Adult Centre took great pride in discovering the untapped talent of students and staff and in learning about individuals that positively impacted both the global and local community.

At Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School (see above) in Rosemount, there was an interactive performance of African drumming and dancing on   February 19.

Perspectives I and II Alternative High Schools in St. Michel participated in a three-part educational program that will include an interactive and portable Black History Month Museum, celebrating the achievements of the black community from the 1800s up until today. The museum, created by Mr.  Lacroce, will include information on the Underground Railroad, pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, and highlight the important achievements and contributions of the black community throughout history. Once the students have had an opportunity to learn and dialogue about what they have learned, they will test their knowledge with an interactive trivia game called “The Wall of Heroes.” The Wall of Heroes trivia game 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 Arts, Science, Music, Activists, and World Events. Players can test their knowledge by answering questions about the heroes and their contributions to society. On February 21 , founder of Born to Rise, Montreal change-maker and model, Aiesha Robinson, will address the students of both Perspectives I and II in an intimate interactive session about the importance of Black History Month. Her talk will also include her diagnosis of Vitiligo when she was 18. Vitiligo is a rare skin condition that causes patches of skin to lose pigmentation in certain areas. While it isn't overtly harmful, in a world with such unrealistic beauty standards, self-acceptance can be easier said than done. Her motivational story will navigate through the ups and downs of her life and uses her platform to empower and uplift marginalized communities.

Malik Shaheed at Dunrae Gardens

At Dunrae Gardens Elementary School in TMR, community advocate Malik Shaheed made   a presentation about Black History on Thursday, February 22   with the theme of appreciation of diversity and peace. 

Mapou Ginen, a dynamic dance troupe  performing a Haitian Folklore Dance involving dancers and drummers, much vigor and excitement at Coronation Elementary School in Côte des Neiges. There  were mini workshops teaching the dance and education on its history. A big performance took place in the gym.

At Dante Elementary School in St. Leonard, Dalkeith Elementary School in Anjou and  Gerald McShane Elementary School in Montreal North and Honoré-Mercier, Lésouta Luc Bambara    provided students with a taste of culture from Burkina Faso via a fun and energetic introduction to traditional African drumming and dancing on    February 26 to 29.

At John Caboto  Academy in Ahuntsic  and Michelangelo International Academy in RDP, an  African artist  visit on February 26  and  February 29  respectively.

For Rosemount High School    Fatima Wilson and her Steel Pan Band were talking drums of West African cultures that were used for communicating messages at a distance with drum language on  February 27  

Mackay Centre School in NDG  (6333 Terrebonne) will receive Montreal Steppers (a black troupe of dancers) on Monday, March 18 (1 pm).    

Aiesha Robinson addresses students.

On February 21, Founder of Born to Rise, Montreal change-maker and model, Aiesha Robinson, addressed the students of Perspectives I & II High Schools in an intimate interactive session about the importance of Black History Month. Her talk included her diagnosis of Vitiligo when she was 18. Vitiligo is a rare skin condition that causes patches of skin to lose pigmentation in certain areas. While it isn't overtly harmful, in a world with such unrealistic beauty standards, self-acceptance can be easier said than done. Aiesha shares her motivational story and how she navigated the ups and downs of her life, and uses her platform to empower and uplift marginalized communities.

Cedric Foufana

On February 20, Leonardo Da Vinci Academy kicked off its Black History Month Celebration 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 young dancers as they showcased their skills to over 400 students. Mr. Cedric Fofana, Canadian Olympic Diver, was the Keynote speaker for the celebration. He addressed the contributions of Black people in our society and paid homage to great Black Canadian athletes who have represented Canada around the world. The celebration culminated with the powerful vocal harmonies and sweet sounds of the Gospel Choir called “The Chosen”. The event was coordinated by Spiritual Community Animator Vince Lacroce. Classroom-based workshops were also delivered that created a space for meaningful dialogue, reflection, and celebration of diversity.

On February 23 (Nesbitt Elementary) and February 27 (Pierre de Coubertin Elementary), students gathered under the guidance of Spiritual Community Animator Vince Lacroce to celebrate Black History Month with school-wide presentations featuring the incredible Fatima Wilson and her Steel Pan Band.  Fatima Wilson stands as the leading woman of steelpan music in Quebec, as a mother of three young children, she is a highly respected instructor at several EMSB schools (Coronation Elementary, Marymount Academy, John Grant High School), tutoring dozens of students in the fine art of playing steelpan and in music theory. The group performed original, Caribbean-inspired songs and shared their love of music. Classroom workshops were given that addressed topics such as colonization, the contributions, innovations, and trials and tribulations of the Black Community in Canada, as well as how to be a better ally.  

As part of their Black History Month celebrations, Dalkeith Elementary hosted Luc Bambara, who shared his passion for drumming, dance, and African culture. Everyone was up singing and dancing along during the entire performance! 

In honor of Black History Month, Spiritual and Community Animator Veronica D’Agata, invited Omari Newton from Overture with the Arts to speak in-person at Vincent Massey Collegiate. The presentation, “Tracking Black Canada”, focused on the often-forgotten histories of early Black communities across Canada. Through his trademark entertainment style, he highlights the contributions and achievements of prominent residents in these communities. Staff and students found it to be very engaging and interesting as they learned more about Canadian Black history.  

Ms. D’Agata also organized for the students at John Caboto Academy, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary, and Michelangelo International to have an interactive performance from African artist, Lésouta Luc Bambara. Students and staff had an opportunity to explore the culture from Burkina Faso, through a fun and energetic presentation of traditional African drumming and dancing. Everyone was all smiles, full of joy and enthusiasm. It truly was a wonderful time!

The students loved learning about traditional Caribbean dances.

To kick off their celebration of Black History Month, Spiritual and Community Animator Ibrahim Abou Arab invited West-Can folk dance group to Cedarcrest on Monday, January 29 to teach students about traditional Caribbean dances. Since 1978, West-Can has been teaching and inspiring, both children and adults, about Caribbean culture through dance. Melika, the Caribbean dance instructor, highlighted important values such as inclusivity, teamwork, and creativity. With over two decades of teaching experience, Melika taught grade 2-6 students about the connection between Caribbean dance, and the four sacred elements of water, fire, wind, and earth. Cedarcrest students danced to the rhythm of djembe drum, led by Joseph, the drumming instructor, and traditional folk music. By the end of the session, students felt encouraged to celebrate their cultural diversity and take pride in their identities. We look forward to having them come back again for another rich experience! 

The Spiritual and Community Animation Service hosted their third annual Virtual Story Time in celebration of Black History Month. The first story time came about from a collaboration with community organizations WIN Intergenerational Network and and the Saint-Raymond Community Centre. This year, the featured book was Old to Joy, written and illustrated by Anita Crawford Clark. Forty PreK to Grade 2 classes from 15 elementary schools from across the board came together to hear a reading from special guest, Nadine Joy Collins. Nadine has been a community worker in NDG. for over 14 years and is the Executive Director of Women on the Rise. As exemplified by her dance moves as she welcomed students to the reading, she is also the World Groove Movement Ambassador for Quebec, as well as a book worm, book collector, lover of literature, and advocate for literacy! Nadine’s engaging reading and interactive style brought the book to life and captured students’ attention during the story time. Nadine’s mom joined her for part of the reading, bringing the intergenerational love and joy from the book to life. At the end of the reading students shared what “old” things brought them joy, and their responses included: old recipes, old books, my grandma, old toys, my grandma’s cookbook, helping my great grandparents, old photos, my old guitar, a locket with a picture of my grandmother who died, and more heart-warming responses. Thank you to all the classes who joined and to our wonderful community collaborators!

Malik Shaheed inspired the students.

On February 14,  Joseph Monachino, Spiritual and Community Animator, organized an event for Laurier Macdonald High School where the entire school was privileged to hear Malik Shaheed present on the topic of Canadian Black history. Mr. Shaheed`s energy and charisma captured the students’ attention as he shared key points of Canadian Black history with an emphasis on Montreal. Through Mr. Shaheed`s captivating presentation, the powerful and positive impacts of Black Montrealers was highlighted, and attention was given to breaking down stereotypes perpetuated by media and pop culture. Students left with a deeper understanding of Canadian and Montreal Black history and empowered to be a positive force for racial equality.

Students show their posters with the names of different countries.

Throughout February, Galileo Adult Centre commemorated Black History Month by providing students with meaningful activities which focused on dialogue, culture, courage and inspiration.  These learning opportunities helped to deepen an understanding of black history and culture as well as build a more inclusive environment for all.  Students particularly enjoyed dancing to the rhythm of DJAMBOOLA, African cardio dance, which helped to promote the development of cardio endurance, awareness of self and musicality.  Students were also treated to a musical performance of steel pans from SALAHPAN, which introduced a diverse musical style and rhythm to students.  Any event would not be complete without food.  Boulangerie Menago Inc supplied staff and students with a tasty treat of Jamaican patties, which were enjoyed by all. Seconds please!

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.


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