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Vancouver students explore and share the African epic narrative during Black History Month

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Black History Month in the Vancouver School District sees students share and celebrate what they have learned—and continue to learn—about this rich and important culture. While this learning takes place all year, it is highlighted each February. This month, the Vancouver School District website features a series of stories that focuses on student exploration of Black history, and how students educate one another.

At Magee Secondary, students plan to share their learnings not only with their peers at the school, but also with students in Magee’s family of elementary schools: Maple Grove, McKechnie and Cavell Elementary, currently in a swing space at the Maple Grove site while their school undergoes seismic upgrades.

The secondary students plan to build on the success of their Black History Month celebrations of 2020 when they explored films by Black artists that highlight experiences within the Black community. Students engaged in discussion before and after viewings, facilitated by a teacher.

During Black History Month in 2021, students at the school turn to the African epic narrative, a celebration of literary masterpieces. Nine drama students in Grades 9-12 of different ethnic backgrounds and gender identities plan to read the entire narrative of The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngugi wa Thiong’o that describes the origins of the author’s people, the Gikuyu of Kenya. The students record the readings and share them with other students as daily episodes on the 19 school days of February.

The students plan to upload the readings to a closed channel on Microsoft TEAMS that the elementary schools will access. Readings run approximately seven minutes. Teachers of Grade 6 and 7 students can include the readings in their daily programs. Parents of students in Grades 1- 3 can use the readings as part of a bedtime story routine as the text is appropriate for the entire grade spectrum.

“Across the grades, I hope to shift from the colonial practice of focusing on the individual Black man or woman who became an astronaut or made it to the NHL,” explains Andrew Schofield, Principal of Magee Secondary. “I want to decentre whiteness by foregrounding an African story. This helps to attack racism at a foundational structure—the structure of language and racialized imagination.” He adds the sharing of these learnings between students is important because it builds bridges rather than walls.

Continue to visit vsb.bc.ca to read more on how students throughout the Vancouver School District celebrate and share their learnings with one another throughout Black History Month.

Photo courtesy of Templeton Secondary

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