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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

 I would say to teachers who want to be more inclusive of a diversity of voices and want to share the ideals of equity with their students, this can’t truly be achieved in our Canadian context without including African Canadian history. What I mean by this is, people can’t get the full picture of how human rights legislation came to exist in Ontario without learning about the persistent struggles of Blacks to be treated fairly and equally when seeking an education for their children, when applying for a job, when hoping to immigrate to Canada, when enlisting in the Canadian military, and when seeking service from a business or government agency that serves the public. It’s due to their efforts to challenge racial discrimination and get laws enacted that support the rights of all that we have a better society today.

We tend to rely on American content, but I’d encourage teachers to use Canadian content as much as possible, to help Canadian students to understand Canadian history. There is more content becoming available all the time. Also, be prepared to be uncomfortable, as there will be issues raised that require a teacher to learn right along with her students. Don’t shy away from the discussion; having those conversations is important and beneficial to the students as well as the teacher.

LB: Are there resources you would recommend to your colleagues?

NH: Yes, there are many that I could share, but I’ll only name a few. The Sankofa Black Heritage Collection (sankofacollection.com) is one of the latest resources. It’s a series of 15 books written for audiences from grades 4-8.

It’s a great series that focuses on representing the African Canadian experience and the African diaspora. It provides real opportunities to make connections.

The Book of Negroes  miniseries and the supporting teacher guide are great resources. Teachers have access to these through CBC Curio Learning (curio.ca/en/collection/thebook- of-negroes-1932/).

The Richard Pierpoint Heritage Minute along with the resources help teachers use a powerful 1-minute visual in the class and make connections to Black Loyalists, slavery in Canada and media literacy (thecanadianencyclopedia. ca/en/studyguide/richardpierpoint- heritage-minute/).

There is also the Black History in Canada Education Guide (blackhistorycanada.ca/ education/LearningTools.pdf).

The National Film Board has a range of amazing resources to incorporate aspects of Black history, from animated films such as  Joe, Black Soul, Christopher Changes His Name  and Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room! , to documentaries like  Journey to Justice, The Road Taken, Speakers for the Dead  and Dresden Story .

When I worked at the Harriet Tubman Institute, we developed two groundbreaking projects on African Canadian history that use digital storytelling – 

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