Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society points out that “African Canadian students need to feel affirmed; need to be aware of the contributions made by other Blacks in Canada; need to have role models; need to understand the social forces which have shaped and influenced their community and their identities as a means of feeling connected to the educational experience and their life experience in various regions of Canada. They need to feel empowered.” (From the TDSB resource guide: African Heritage Month – 2002)
This is as true in 2013 as it was in 2002. It was as true in 1603 when the first freed slave, Mathieu De Costa arrived in Nova Scotia as a translator for Pierre Dugua as it is now.
I think that Ms. Sadlier was on to something… I have long since opined that the identity of Black Canadians is intertwined with those who have come before us. I know from experience that to belong to a community of people who are derived from a similar historical context shapes, molds and influences the way one views one’s own self.
Having had my own early childhood education impressed upon me largely through black teachers, principals and role models who understood the importance of educating through showing us examples of other black intellectuals, dignitaries and pioneers; I can say that it has certainly left an indentation of how important that connection is for me.
Move 1800kms from Nova Scotia to the GTA in Ontario and the learning environment changes dramatically. Suddenly, the Black student is a minority in a sea of minorities. How then do we foster a learning environment that is conducive for connecting that student to their own culture as a Black Canadian? The answer is simple; we create an environment that exposes the learner to elements of familiarity. Even the briefest of exposure will create the comfort zone that is critical for supporting the Black student in a way which influences confidence, creativity and self-discovery.
Now, in defining fore mentioned comfort zone. It must be a place where the Black learner feels at ease, comfortable, safe and without stress. Naturally a place like this can be supportive toward a young mind. We can even reason that a learning environment like this and coupled with a facilitator who is as animated and passionate as they are educated, we have the recipe for success! I already know what you’re thinking and I can smell what the proverbial rock is cooking. How can we foster such an environment in our school systems? Quite frankly, due the diversity of our populace, the lack of school board funding not to mention cohesion in designing a set plan for the public school environment, at this time at least, it’s nearly impossible, but lest we forget the adage, “Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way!”. As parents, community leaders, youth educators and mentors the onus is ours to create these comfort zones. In our living rooms, our dining rooms, through private workshops, literacy activities and Black education programs.
If our foremothers and forefathers could give us religion, wisdom and understanding in rudimentary shacks, cabins and open meadows there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that we cannot take up the torch and create these niches from with our very own contemporary nooks and crannies.
Do you believe that educating our children should be left entirely to the proverbial powers that be? Why or why not?
I’m interested to know your thoughts on this…