Nova Scotia

Cape Breton students take home African Nova Scotian poetry prize

Three Cape Breton students took home the prizes for the Buddy Daye Learning Institute poetry contest seeking to uplift Black voices.

Buddy Daye Learning Institute poetry contest wanted students of African Ancestry to raise their voices

Toluwani Osunneye, Tyra Obadan and Olivia Obadan are the winners of the African Nova Scotian Voices Speaking poetry contest. (Youtube/Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute)

Three Cape Breton students took home the prizes for a Nova Scotia poetry contest seeking to uplift Black voices.

The Buddy Daye Learning Institute is based in Halifax with the goal of improving educational outcomes for Nova Scotians of African ancestry.

The non-profit organization wanted to sponsor a poetry and spoken-word competition to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Toluwani Osunneye is a Grade 8 student at Malcolm Munroe in Sydney River. She was one of the winners.

"I believe that some people downplay racism a lot, and we really need to start speaking up about it," said Osunneye. "A line of my poem says, 'Racism is a border, tall and heavy without walls. It's almost transparent, you may not see it, but you hear it.'"

The other two winners are sisters Tyra and Olivia Obadan. Olivia is also a grade 8 student at Malcom Munroe and Tyra is in grade 10 at Sydney Academy.

They were born in Nigeria and lived in the United Kingdom before coming to Canada.

Tyra said after they left Nigeria, she didn't really know what racism was because that wasn't something they had experienced before.

"In Nigeria there isn't really this Western world concept of racial patriarchy, because everybody is the same. Of course, foreigners are going to be recognized, but they're not discriminated against in the same way it would happen here or in the U.K.," said Obadan.

Tyra says non-direct microaggressions are some of the toughest things to deal with that builds up over time.

"When I was the only Black kid in my whole school, [it] just felt like, 'Oh, they don't want me to be here,' and I always just felt that way, but it's not like anybody had ever expressed to me that," said Obadan.

Olivia said she feels her school is accepting but there are moments when she is singled out.

"I'll always find minor things since there aren't many of us, they'll always be people that will look at me differently and say different things to me and that just makes me feel really bad," said Obadan.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was March 21.

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.



With Files from Information Morning Cape Breton