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Thousands call on B.C. to support Black, racialized Canadians by making Black Shirt Day official

Last Updated Jan 13, 2021 at 9:19 pm PST


Some British Columbians calling on the province to designate Jan. 15 as Black Shirt Day

The day would recognize the struggle for civil rights fought by Black and racialized Canadians

Some school districts plan to take part of Black Shirt Day Friday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Thousands across the province are asking the B.C. government to designate Jan. 15 as Black Shirt Day.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, and the birthday of the great civil rights activist is what thousands of people want to designate as Black Shirt Day, a day of solidarity and recognition for Black and racialized Canadians fighting for civil rights.

Kamika Williams with Anti Racism Coalition Vancouver explains wearing the shirts open the door to “much tougher conversations around civil rights.”

“We saw what great things pink shirt day and orange shirt day have done to raise awareness about anti-bullying and residential schools, so we thought this was a great way to not only raise awareness but get a day of mandatory curriculum.”

Schools in New Westminster will be participating this Friday and the Burnaby School District already has several student-led events leading up to their Black Shirt Day events.

“At various schools throughout the province students and teachers are all going to wear black shirts, take pictures, post to social media with #BlackShirtDay, hopefully, tag ARC. And then with all the support from all the schools around the province, we’re going to take all the information, take our media, then we’re going to go to Jennifer Whiteside the Minister of Education and say, ‘look we have all this support from all these schools. Let’s just make this official.'”

And at Burnaby School District, Vice-Principal of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Beth Applewhite says the celebration has already started.

“It’s not just on Friday, but it’s starting Monday, some schools even late last week, started sharing information about Black history, Black leaders, Black contributions. One school in particular, Marlborough elementary, they have a grade seven leadership team. And they have made daily announcements, every day this week, about a new Black leader. That’s just one of many examples.”

Education minister Whiteside was not available to comment Wednesday, but in an email, the Ministry of Education says it’s aware of the online petition calling for an official Black Shirt Day, which has reached over 7,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

“B.C.’s curriculum supports the teaching of black history topic, but there is more work we can do. We are working with representatives of the BC Black History Awareness Society to identify teacher and student resources,” the release reads.

Williams with hopes Black Shirt Day becomes an international event where, eventually, the whole world can celebrate Black history, Black stories, Black people, and anti-racism initiatives.