Thousands of students across the Surrey school district took part in Black Shirt Day and Black Excellence Day Friday (Jan. 13).
Black Shirt Day was created in 2021 by the Anti-Rascism Coalition Vancouver to show solidarity with Black and racialized communities in B.C. in their ongoing struggle for equity, equality and justice.
Following the inaugural Black Shirt Day, the Vancouver-based charity Ninandotoo Anti-Racism Society established Black Excellence Day. The group created the event after hearing from various Jewish and human rights groups about how the use of the words “black shirts” and seeing people march wearing black shirts could be potentially triggering for Holocaust survivors. Friday’s live virtual event was hosted by Ninandotoo Anti-Racism Society and the Burnaby School District.
About 7,000 Surrey students from 80 different schools attended the event, which included a wide variety of speakers, including Jeremiah Brooks, a North Surrey Secondary student.
The event featured discussions on the contributions of Black Canadians and their ongoing civil rights struggle, with presentations from the following guest speakers, the Surrey school district said.
JB Mahli, director of instruction for racial equality, stated on the district’s website that days like these are important ones to celebrate.
“We’re always looking for ways to celebrate our identities, who we are and the connections we have with one another, and at the same time the connections to our curriculum,” stated Mahli.
The day of the event also coincides with Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday on Jan. 15. Since his birthday falls on a weekend this year, the day was moved to the preceding Friday.
Surrey schools stated the day is also “a chance to show solidarity by wearing black.”
Just a few of the many posters done by @NorthSurreySec students for Black Excellence Day!— Nicola Racanelli (@MsRacanelli) January 13, 2023
Black Excellence Day is a day to stand in solitary with Black Canadians and to learn about Black stories, Black people, and so much more. #BlackExcellenceDay @Surrey_Schools @racialEQ36 pic.twitter.com/qEoAcVgr0x
Unbelievably powerful and heartfelt. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” - Khari Wendell McClelland 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/Mg7JaD7xpu— JB Mahli (@JB_Mahli) January 13, 2023
-With files from Phil McLachlan