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Richmond School District speaks about Black Shirt Day

New working group among additional staff resources used to tackle racism within the school district, says Richmond Board of Education chair.
Richmond resident La Toya Barrington with her kids on Black Shirt Day, just before sending them off to school.

Black Shirt Day is not only about racism awareness, it’s also about sparking conversation and change, according to the chair of the Richmond Board of Education.

Sandra Nixon said days such as Black Shirt Day builds awareness around “social and historical issues and help spark conversations” in schools and classrooms.

“Racism awareness is extremely important to the Richmond Board of Education,” said Nixon.

“The timing of Black Shirt Day, a few weeks before Black History Month, helps to build interest in learning about the contributions of Black Canadians and also about antiracism overall.”

Many students, families and staff from the Richmond School District and across the Lower Mainland took part in Black Shirt Day campaign on Friday.

The day was a grassroots initiative started by the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver, which petitioned to have Jan. 15 declared Black Shirt Day. The day happens to coincide with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday.

While the petition may have missed the B.C. Ministry of Education’s Dec. 4 deadline for an official proclamation, there were lots of posts last week on social media with the hashtag #BlackShirtDay to promote the campaign.

The day allowed staff to promoted “deeper learning about the issue,” and gave them the opportunity to promote learning materials such as their newly acquired antiracism book bundles in school libraries, said David Sadler, spokesperson for the Richmond School District, on Friday.

“Many teachers and teacher-librarians (took) the opportunity to highlight this collection in connection to Black Shirt Day,” he added.

According to Nixon, the school board also recently approved the formation of an Antiracism and Diversity Working Group, which aims to consult with students, staff and other stakeholders about their experiences with racism within the school district.

The working group, she added, will discuss how the district is approaching educating students around forms of racism including reviewing district policies and practices on incidents of racism and identifying gaps that the districts need to address.

An anti-racism awareness campaign is also being launched in the province as part of a $1.9 million investment to make B.C. a more safe and inclusive place for everyone.

-With files from Alan Campbell