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Black Shirt Day: a commitment to being anti-racist

At New Westminster Schools we are proud of the rich and diverse backgrounds our students, staff and families represent. And we’re committed to celebrating that diversity, while we foster and build more inclusive environments. But we also know that’s not enough, as we look at the racism and inequities that still exists both in our schools and our community.

And that’s part of why the Board of Education made a commitment last Spring to develop anti-racism policies and create more opportunities to engage in anti-racism work.

But, what does it mean to be anti-racist?

Our district’s new Principal for Equity and Inclusion, Rav Johal, framed it this way, “We all know we don’t want to be racist. But as we look at the barriers to equity and inclusion that people, including our students, are still facing, we also know we need to do more. We need to listen, to seek those barriers out and work to dismantle them or stand against them. It’s about actively fighting the racism that harms those around us … and that can be a very personal journey, an uncomfortable one as we dig into the systemic roots of racism and privilege, and it can also be a very collaborative experience as we work together to raise the profile of the realities we’re trying to change.”

That’s why New Westminster Schools was inspired to join in an inaugural event being organized by a local anti-racism group, Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) Vancouver: Black Shirt Day.

Black Shirt Day will take place this coming Friday, on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday … and sets the stage for more conversations as we lead into Black History Month in February. Much like Pink or Orange Shirt Day, Black Shirt Day provides us with an opportunity to raise the profile of the struggles black and racialized people have faced and continue to face … while we show our personal and collective commitment to doing more to be part of the solution, when it comes to dismantling the systemic racism we know exists all around us.

We welcome any staff, students and community members to join us in wearing their black shirts on Friday January 15th, to show support for the anti-racism work we all need to do together.

And share your photo on social media, if you’re comfortable doing so, with the hashtag #blackshirtday .

Looking for more?

If you’re interested and ready to take the next step by adding some reading or local content, here are some resources* that focus on the experiences of Black Canadians (as well as a few that speak to Indigenous and other racialized Canadians) that you might find interesting:
*this section is likely best for adults or teens, with resources for younger kids listed below

Looking for resources and books to start having anti-racism conversations with your younger kids?

There’s a great list on this below piece put together by the ARC Vancouver team.

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