Canada’s first-ever all-black school received the go-ahead from Toronto public school board trustees and I am still not sure where I sit on the issue.
Proponents of the concept say it will help empower students and it’s about self-determination. Opponents say the concept smacks of segregation. I should add, I have seen and had conversations with people of many ethnicities that are on both sides of this fence. The school is slated to open September 2009.
Personally, I covered 15 homicides in the north Rexdale community of Mount Olive-Jamestown during my time at Etobicoke Life. Every victim was a young black male and every story helped me understand a little more the issues facing black youth. I covered countless community initiatives to help stop the violence and connect with youth; I even sat in on some community workshops to help. I can understand how an all-black school/black-focused curriculum could help reach out to black youth, empower them, improve graduation rates (four in 10 Caribbean-born students in T.O dropout) and help them feel proud of their great heritage and history.
On the flip side, I think about Toronto and Canada and what makes it so great. The fact we are so inclusive and have been so tolerant of each other for so long seems possibly threatened by this concept. Also, how will one school serve a black student body of 30,000 in Toronto? Eventually, black youth will have to integrate, work and communicate with general society, so what happens then? May be the concept will work in Toronto and Canada because “we are so inclusive”. Also, something does need to be done, because the current system is failing.
I keep thinking back to the great Martin Luther King and these excerpts from his fabulous I Have a Dream speech:
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”
“I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”
Sure, his incredible speech was at a time in American history when racial strife was its highest, but don’t his concepts and values still speak true today? If not anymore, why shouldn’t they?