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Looking Back on Black Heritage, Black Brilliance and Black Futures month at the UG

February 29, 2024

GUELPH, ON – As February comes to an end, we remember that this month is more than just about history. In 2021, Upper Grand students and staff in their work to re-conceptualize Black History Month, ended up renaming it Black Heritage, Black Brilliance and Black Futures month. This year, we continue the celebration by including Black Joy. 

This name change captures the balanced approach to understanding the history, celebrating the reality, and looking brightly towards the future of the people who descend from the African diaspora. 

We, as a board, are proud of the initiatives, projects, and curriculum shared by and among students and staff these last four weeks that celebrated the unique experiences of those who are of Afro and/or Caribbean descent. 

Schools have looked to the past — Every day during morning announcements or on social media, UG schools have been sharing small bios of Black (Canadian) individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to society through inventions or through socioeconomic impact. Additionally, many of our UG schools participated in a presentation from Tracy Cain, a 5th generation Black Canadian whose ancestors escaped slavery through the underground railroad and began Black settlement in and around Wellington County. Cain taught on the importance of understanding and learning from your personal heritage, celebrating our ancestors while also learning from their mistakes; she spoke of using community as a tool to uplift one another and make positive change to their environment. 

Tracy Cain is pictured with students and staff

Schools are celebrating the present – Throughout the month, UG schools have taken the opportunity to recognize Black Canadians in their curriculum exercises, through writing black out poetry pieces written in class or to creating foyer presentations that highlight current Black Canadian “movers and shakers.” One UG school had even invited a Black hairstylist, to talk and teach students all things Black hair care related and to empower other Black students to have the means and knowledge to celebrate and take care of their hair. 

Students learning about hair

And as a board we look to the future – Sherwyn Solomon, the UG’s Principal of Equity and Inclusion, says celebrating black joy and brilliance needs to be a board-wide effort, year-round. 

“It’s in the staff learning that’s on going, with a real sharp focus this month, ‘how do we meet our equity of access and outcomes pillar through our strategic plan and what does that look like through the eyes and lens of Black students.” 

The board’s Multi-Year Plan has carved out a specific pillar “Equity of Access and Outcomes”, that Solomon says staff across the board continue to engage in deep, meaningful conversations, to make sure they provide a system that supports all.

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