Black History Month at MGCI has involved a series of presentations given by various speakers of Black heritage. Rather than condense such a celebration into a single school assembly, Mr. Alexander – the school’s equity representative – has organized these presentations to be carried out throughout the month of February for a more extensive look into the lives of the speakers. The presentations were held primarily in the school library during class periods, but were also held exclusively for specific classes.

The theme for Black History Month 2015 at MGCI remains the same as the previous year: On the Shoulders of Giants – Yesterday, Today, and Forever. Each week of February also receives its own sub-theme. In order of occurrence, the sub-themes are Belonging, Resilience, Leverage, and Integrity.

These themes relate not only to the celebration of Black heritage, but also serve as goals to success on our journeys through life. To find success, it is necessary to find acceptance and belonging – both with our surroundings and ourselves – and to persevere during unfavourable times. We must learn to make the most out of any situation we face, all the while maintaining our integrity. Many speakers chose to focus on how these ideas played out in their own careers and in their own personal narratives.

“I like the idea of having people come talk to us directly,” said Nicholas Blake, a Grade 12 student. “Instead of watching documentaries of heroes and events we’ve all heard of, we have the opportunity of listening to the experiences of seemingly every-day people. It makes the experience very relatable and more engaging.”

There are many speakers scheduled to come to MGCI for the last week of February. We have already heard Samuel Getachew, a political activist with an Ethiopian background, speak of his experiences, his position at the Huffington Post, and his various other designations. Another speaker was Layth Gafoor, a sports and entertainment lawyer, who recounted the many obstacles placed before him by his school system due to his heritage. This Thursday, Staff Sergeant Major Robert Akin, a warrant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) serving for nearly 33 years, spoke to students. He is the highest ranking visible-minority officer at his rank within the RCMP, and he spoke to students of the arduous road to where he is now. There are many others who have given up their time to come and share their experiences with the students, and many more to follow for the rest of this month. Their stories have been both enlightening and inspirational, reflecting the theme of this year’s Black History Month.

Mr. Gafoor spoke to students about his personal experiences. Photo: Arfana Mulla

Mr. Gafoor spoke to students about his personal experiences. Photo: Arfana Mulla

“These speaker events [show] our students and staff immensely powerful and validating experiences and insight from individuals who have risen above the intentional and unintentional micro-aggressions that the front-lines and trenches of problem-solving are fraught with,” commented Mr. Alexander, who also teaches a leadership class. “What is particularly special about the way we are doing this at MGCI is that we are intentionally pre-disposing these talks and conversations to become progressive and inspirational for each one – and all – of us.”

We can all take something from the wisdom imparted by the speakers and use it to shape ourselves and our futures. We can scout for a road to our success by standing atop the shoulders of giants. In closing, Mr. Gafoor had this to say: “It isn’t enough to simply be comfortable with people of different backgrounds. We must learn to accept and explore in order to truly empathize. But progress takes time and effort, and success isn’t simply handed down. I urge each and every one of you to make the most out of your lives and put in all the time and hard work that you can to make some progress.”