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MY Black History Month: Peel Workshop through Nia Centre

February 15, 2013

I love being a workshop facilitator! I especially love when I can fuse knowledge about my history with my love for storytelling. Last week I had the amazing experience of running 4 sessions of workshops at the Peel Board for students from grades 3-7 and grades 8-12. My partner in crime Aden Abebe, we created and executed our program: Everyone’s Country Nobody’s Land: Stories of Migration in Canada. Get out the article for more information about the Spotlight on Black Heritage event.

Me, enjoying being a facilitator

Me, enjoying being a facilitator

Both Aden and myself are storytellers. I use my words to write stories, she uses photography to document stories. Together, we wanted to invite students to consider how Black Canadians arrived to Canada beyond the over-articulated Underground Railroad. We touched on the presence of slavery in Canada, Mattheiu de Costa, the Black Loyalists and blacks traveling during the Gold Rush and many others who made their way to this land called Canada. The word “immigrant” is very charged but we wanted to stress, with the exception of First Nations people, everyone is an immigrant to Caanda. Migration is natural and we all are coming from somewhere.


My favourite part of the workshop was inviting the students to share stories of migration within their own families. It was a healing moment, where kids stood up, said their names and shared how they or their parents came to Canada. Interestingly enough there were similar narratives, patterns of migration and connections being made that the students didn’t know about before. One great moment was when one girl said she was from St. Vincent but she muttered “no one has ever heard of it, it’s small” and then shortly after another young man shared how his parents came from there too. Seeing the affirmation on both of their faces, they began to understand that in this multicultural context that there are shared experiences and for me personally, it was moving to witness.



In the workshop, students broke off into groups and we encouraged them to write fictional characters of their own stories of migration. In a hat we had little clues to help them along the way. It was a fun reading and writing with the students and I was impressed on how detailed and how enthusiastic they were to participate.


The education system has changed so much since I was in school (there was no Black History Month for me) but there’s still a need for Afrocentric workshops to bring in this crucial perspective into the classroom. And for ALL students, not just the black students. Black Canadian history is Canadian history. The students from all backgrounds were hungry for this knowledge. I was sad that the sessions were only an hour long.




Thanks again to the Nia Centre of the Arts for coordinating this amazing workshop series. And special thanks to Bev Kyros, the teacher who provided the photography.

Over and out!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2013 3:56 pm

    What a special experience it was. Afirmation, empowerment, discovery and understanding. I wish I had this when I was in school.

    Ms.French, you are such a pleasure to work with. :)


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