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We need to include more Black history in our Education system in Manitoba, and to improve the experience for Black children and youth.


My blog post below was originally published in a shortened version in the Sou'Wester on Wednesday June 17

“Black Lives Matter!” This chant echoed loudly when fifteen to twenty thousand people came out to a rally at The Manitoba Legislature on June 5th hosted and organized by​Justice4BlackLivesWinnipeg (1).  Many residents of River Heights including myself attended.

As the conversation of Black Lives Matter continues to grow around the world and right here in our                  community, we must remember that as we fight for justice, we must also address the systemic discrimination and exclusion of Black Manitobans on all levels. The powerful chants at the rally reminded us of the urgency and necessity of​ action.  One important area to take such action is our education system. On March 10, 2019, I hosted a public forum in River Heights on Education in Manitoba. One of the panelists, Alexa Joy is the founder and president of Black Space Winnipeg and longtime political activist in our community. 

Ms.Joy educated attendees on pressing issues of anti-Blackness within our education system in Manitoba.  First being, the inadequate content in our curriculum about the lives and contributions of Black Canadians and Black leaders globally. It is crucial that we represent all of Canada’s history prioritizing historically marginalized communities, specifically, what Black Canadians have achieved and fought for in our country.   Additionally, as our Manitoban curriculum lacks in Black history, we see the disparities of Black educators, administrators, teaching assistants and school trustees. It is essential for Black students to have academic role models and mentors who are Black to support students throughout their education.

In 2015, Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators released a 72 page report entitled ​Voices of Ontario Black Educators - expressing the need to support academic development and growth for Black students with the need for Black educators to be hired in predominantly Black communities (2). We see the urgency  that all students will benefit from having a faculty that reflects all demographics of our province.

In October 2003, Manitoba Education and Youth released a similar report "​Diversity and Equity in              Education, An Action Plan for Ethnocultural Equity​”, for consultation (3). The report put forward an agenda to increase ethno-cultural representation and strengthen education diversity approaches to curriculum and hiring practices.  However, not much has been done since with respect to Manitoba’s community.  Indeed, Manitoba is one of the few provinces that has not moved forward with an action plan to address these systemic barriers in education. 

Ms. Joy wrote to the Minister of Education with tangible suggestions for action in December 2018 (4). In support of Ms. Joy’s call to action I wrote to the Minister of Education in January 2019. Once again, there has been little progress on a provincial level since. 

In my letter, I emphasized the importance of addressing what Ms. Joy outlined - starting with the                 incorporation of Black history in our schools.  I also provided an example of a successful mentoring                program initiated by Maurice (Mo) Williams (son of late Winnipeg activist Wade Williams) at the               University of Winnipeg.  

Ms. Joy went into considerable detail suggesting the following steps: 

1.) Introduce Black student groups in schools that are financially supported to host events and              programming.

2.) Incorporate existing national models for Black education in Manitoba's curriculum (e.g. pushing            for education reform and Black education in Ontario and Nova Scotia). 

3.) Develop a Black history textbook centering Black-Manitoban and Canadian history and           contemporary experiences. 

4.) Develop a public fund to support Black students financially pursuing post-secondary education.

5.) Conduct regular diversity, inclusion and anti-racist training for Manitoban teachers, educators,           staff, trustees and all members of school divisions academic communities. 

6.) Engage and encourage students to participate in culturally relevant events like Black History             Month and year-round programming. 

7.) Develop a stronger anti-racist/anti-bullying policy in our educational institutions to ensure the            safety of Black students.

8.) Support Black educators, administrators, coaches, teaching assistants, staff and trustees to expand their knowledge of Black history, educational tools and resources to best educate their students.

All of these topics and more were discussed at the forum I hosted at the River Heights Community Centre March 10th, 2019.

I welcome the opportunity to work with others to improve our education system to serve all Manitobans and to build a Manitoba which emphasizes and strides to support that Black Lives Matter on every level. Taking steps to readdress our education system to support our Black Manitoban communities will centre the focus on a community that has been ignored by our systems for too long and therefore must be seen, heard and supported moving forward.

1 Frew, N. “Thousands Gather in Peaceful Protest at Manitoba Legislature to Demand Justice 4 Black Lives | CBC News.” CBC news. CBC/Radio Canada, June 6, 2020. ​https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/justice-4-black-lives-petition-abolish-winnipeg-police-1.5601130​. 

2 ​Ontario Alliance of Black Educators . “Voices of Ontario Black Educators .” Toronto, ON: Turner Consulting Group Inc, 2015.​http://onabse.org/ONABSE_VOICES_OF_BLACK_EDUCATORS_Final_Report.pdf

3 ​Manitoba Education & Youth. “Diversity and Equity in Education An Action Plan for Ethnocultural Equity.” Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Education and Youth, 2003. ​https://digitalcollection.gov.mb.ca/awweb/pdfopener?smd=1&did=11169&md=1​.

4 ​Joy, A. Black Education in Manitoba (Letter of Intent) Winnipeg , MB, December 21, 2018 - Black Space Winnipeg Inc.

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