By Christina Dinh
(Photo taken by RCI Yearbook)
The black history assembly took place on the 22nd of February in the auditorium. BHED+ had spent months organizing the event with the help of Mrs. McDonagh-Vella, Mrs. Thomas-Reynolds, and the AV crew. Many lunches, time after school, and even weekends were spent organizing and making sure the assembly went smoothly.
The assembly started off with an introduction from MCs, Rukiya Mohamed and Rehaana Abdii. They mentioned that black history is more than colonization and slavery, of the suffering of black people, but the achievements of black people and black excellence as well.
Next, everyone stood for the land acknowledgement and Lift Every Voice and Sing –often referred to as the black national anthem- performed by Brandie Richardson, Praise Erianamie, and Katya Manukyan with Zora Zheng on piano.
Afterwards, there was a video that presented black historical figures, black celebrities today as well as the black students of Richview. Representing the black figures of the past, present, and future.
Then, Elizabeth Jefferies told the story of her family in Nova Scotia. She explains that Nova Scotia and Ontario were places of refuge for slaves coming from the states. Elizabeth’s ancestors settled in one of the safe spaces in Halifax, in fact, it was the oldest settlement of black people. These were safe spaces where black people were free but it didn’t erase the racism and discrimination they were still facing. She notes that often the stories of black Canadians are erased, but Canadian history without black history is an inaccurate retelling. To quote Elizabeth,
“Black history is Canadian history.”
Following up was a step dance performance. It was spectacular and definitely took a lot of skill and effort.
Next came Shianne Desmaris who performed a spoken word on the stigma of mental illness within the black community. The issue of mental illness is often overshadowed, making it come up as less important, but mental illness should not be something to be ashamed of.
“We must teach black children the feeling of not being ok is ok.”
She notes that mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of race.
After, there was a performance of A Change Will Come by Sam Cooke, sung beautifully by Natalie Munoz.
Followed by another step dance performance, just as amazing as the first one.
Another video was shown, this one highlighting #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy. It spoke of European beauty standards and included black students explaining how they themselves do not match those standards and the struggles that come with it. The video follows with why they are proud of who they are, that when you learn to love yourself and your skin you become unstoppable. It ends with the students saying a final message of educating those who are ignorant, to believe black people, to be proud of your skin and features. Coming full circle, the video ended by referencing #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy.
The final performance of the assembly was a play that focused on Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter. The play starts off by introducing our 2 characters a black girl, Kim and a white boy, Cole portrayed by Shy-Lee Gunn and Pavel Svinukhov. The two grew up next door, but drifted apart with time. When Kim tweeted #BlackLivesMatter Cole replied with #AllLivesMatter. Kim deleted his reply, but Cole didn’t understand why it was a big deal. The two agreed to meet up. Cole points out that all lives do matter, that black people aren’t special and that the hashtag only creates more division, not unity. Kim explains that black lives matters is not intended to exclude others, that those other people don’t matter. It means that right now black lives matter because there are people who believe that they don’t. She continues saying black people are killed because of their race, face police brutality, and are incarcerated more than white people even though black people represent a minority. The play compares on multiple occasions actual scientific matter to the concept of Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter. Cole tells Kim that she should ignore the oppression, but Kim tells him that she’s been silent for too long. Cole refuses to say that black lives matter. Later he hears the news that Kim had died: a victim of police brutality.
“She couldn’t stay silent so they made her silent,”
In the end, Cole tweets #BlackLivesMatter.
The assembly concluded with a statistic on police brutality in Toronto. Even in our own city black people, the minority, represents the majority of arrests.
Finally, there was a thank you to everyone who was involved in the making of the assembly.
When asked what was wanted to be taken away from the assembly Mumtaz Mahamed, co-president of BHED+, answered “It isn’t to single out black people … it’s showing our culture and why we’re important. We’ve heard throughout history why Europeans think that they’re important so it’s nice for a minority group to do the same.” Kyra Whittaker, one of the dancers, added, “I hope that people will think differently about black history, see why we’re doing this and they learn something from it.” Lastly, Lisandro Violante, co-president of BHED+, remarked that
“Black people are diverse. There’s not one model for how a black person should be.”
The assembly was very well done and is definitely one of the most memorable events of the year.