“When Black people succeed, amazing things happen.”
That’s the idea at the heart of Black Excellence, according to Burnaby South Secondary Grade 12 student Amanuel Kassa.
Officially proclaimed by the province this week, Black Excellence Day on Jan. 14 is “a day to rejoice in Black history and learn about Black stories, Black art and Black people, and a day to stand in solidarity with Black Canadians,” according to the Ninandotoo Society, the anti-racist charity behind the event.
January 14, 2022 is officially Black Excellence Day in BC. #BlackExcellenceDay is a day to rejoice Black history and learn about Black stories, Black art and Black people, and a day to stand in solidarity with Black Canadians. ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻 pic.twitter.com/2bEEueolVP— Ninandotoo Society (@ninandotoo) January 12, 2022
On Friday, the Burnaby school district will host a virtual event for more than 6,000 people from school communities throughout the province.
The event will feature a host of speakers ranging from educators to artists to athletes.
Participants will also hear from some Burnaby students, including Kassa, sharing what Black Excellence means to them.
“Black Excellence is a mindset and a series of actions that celebrate and uphold the Black community as well as acknowledges the challenges Black people face in reaching their full potential,” Kassa said in a school district news release. “It is what motivates us and keeps us going – something that we need more of in this world because when Black people succeed, amazing things happen.”
Beth Applewhite, the Burnaby school district’s district principal of equity, diversity and inclusion, will also be among the presenters.
The district led a large virtual event for Black History Month last year, with thousands of Greater Vancouver students attending.
“The Ninandotoo Society founder, Kamika Williams, was a guest speaker at that event," Applewhite said in an emailed statement to the NOW. "She reached out to us this year to let us know about her plans for Black Excellence Day and asked if we would be open to hosting and being the connection for school districts in B.C.”
Black Excellence Day emerged from the Black Shirt Day movement, and participants can wear black shirts to show solidarity, but Ninandotoo created Black Excellence Day after consulting with community groups such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and BC Human Rights Commission.
They all voiced concerns that the words “black shirt” and people marching brought up traumatic experiences of Holocaust survivors.
“Despite moving away from ‘Black Shirt Day,’ the meaning of Black Excellence Day remains the same: acknowledging the ongoing civil rights struggle of Black and racialized Canadians and fighting for mandatory curriculum on Black history,” states the Ninandotoo website.
For more information, visit www.burnabyschools.ca.