Members of B.C.'s Black community set to meet with education minister about Black history curriculum
The virtual meeting marks the first time Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside will be present
Advocates, educators and parents from B.C.'s Black community are meeting with the education minister on Monday to discuss a path forward on how to include more Canadian Black history and anti-racism training for teachers and staff in the province.
Anti-racism advocate Markiel Simpson helped bring together a group of stakeholders from the Black community two years ago to brainstorm a Canadian Black history curriculum they hoped would become mandatory in B.C. schools.
Although the group has met with ministry staff over the last two years, this virtual meeting marks the first time Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside will be present.
Simpson says the group will present a memorandum of understanding outlining the willingness of all parties involved to move forward and work together, with the hope that this will lead to a timeline for the curriculum's implementation.
"We're hoping to enter into a partnership with the ministry so that we're there at the decision-making table when there are topics and issues that relate to the Black community," Simpson said.
Although Simpson did not reveal the details of the memorandum ahead of Monday's meeting, he says it includes some of the group's expectations for what a path forward looks like, so that the stakeholders can hold each other accountable.
In a statement on Friday, Whiteside said she wants to continue to discuss anti-racism initiatives while working to ensure Black representation is included in B.C.'s curriculum.
Whiteside also said she believes in the value of working with people who want to improve B.C.'s education system and that she is happy to be meeting with stakeholders from the Black community during Black History Month.
Seeing Black history 'reflected and respected'
Simpson, who grew up in Vancouver, says he vaguely remembers learning about about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Underground Railroad.
But he didn't get to learn about some of the people who helped form B.C., he says, such as Mifflin Gibbs, B.C's first Black person elected to public office; Sir James Douglas, the province's first governor; or Olympian Harry Jerome.
"I hope that Black people and all British Columbians can see people of African descent reflected and respected in their learning materials," he said.
He says it's important to mandate Black history teachings because Black British Columbians still face high rates of discrimination.
He adds that learning about Black people's contributions to the province's formation may encourage students to see themselves as leaders and as valuable members of society.
Simpson says the next steps involve more consultations with the Black community to come up with learning resources for educators.
He says he also hopes this meeting is the start of a working relationship with the ministry, so the Black community could be included each time the province updates its curriculum.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Mugoli Samba