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Natasha Henry standing in front of lockers
Natasha Henry standing in front of lockers
Feature

Beyond Black History Month

Lauren Beckford in Conversation with Natasha Henry

 It fits into my teaching practice in many ways. First, it enhances my ability to diversify the presentation of the curriculum and enables me to deliver a more culturally responsive program. It also makes me more cognizant of the omissions and gaps in content. Incorporating the experiences of Blacks into my teaching helps my students develop critical thinking skills. Many questions arise when they encounter some of the information for the first time and they become engaged in finding out the answers. Another way it fits is in doing my part in implementing the government-mandated equity agenda. We can’t talk about equity and social justice without looking at and gaining an indepth understanding of Black experience in Canada, without including these stories.

LB: What specific ideas and themes do you explore with your students?

NH: One theme I often bring in is that of Black contributions to the field of science, for example Black inventors, to bring a different perspective. However, even when there may not be specific ideas or themes, we need to present and help our students to see the content through as many different voices as possible, to represent the experiences and cultures of our students, and the contributions of all Canadians.

Specifically related to African Canadian history, the critical idea is the inclusion of the Black experience in all its diversity. The history of Blacks in Canada is by no means homogeneous. There were free Blacks, those who were enslaved, refugees and immigrants, Black children and Black adults, male and female. Blacks worked in a range of occupations and owned all kinds of business. In a general sense, it’s being conscious of whose stories are told, whose voices we’re silencing, and ensuring everyone is heard.

LB: How do you connect Black history with what is happening around us today – social movements like Black Lives Matter?

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On this year’s day of pink (or on any given day in your classroom) consider challenging your class to spend at least one full day erasing the forced gender binary from all spoken and written speech by using gender-neutral language.