The Upper Canada College Black History Club invited journalist and activist Desmond Cole to speak at the school on Feb. 6 as part of Black History Month, but the club is active on campus throughout the school year.
The 30-member club, headed by students Kal Shaw and Sevion Da Costa and advised by administrative assistant Sandra Fulford, meets every Monday during lunch to discuss pressing social issues and organize activities and fundraisers.
“It is astounding to see the increasing support our club has received from the UCC student and teacher community,” says Shaw. “Our various speakers have been well-received by the UCC community on a whole, with a great amount of respect and appreciation for the speaker’s effort to make an impact.
“We have also received tremendous support for the activities and fundraisers we run sporadically throughout the year.”
Shaw invited Cole to the College because of his activism and willingness to address such issues as social justice, equity, systemic racism and poverty.
“The goal in bringing Mr. Cole to speak was to provoke serious thought and conversation, considering the brutal experiences and conditions of our current social climate,” says Shaw. “The club was fully aware that discussing this relevant topic may cause some students to feel uncomfortable.”
Cole spoke at the Monday morning Upper School assembly in Laidlaw Hall about the definition of racism and how it needs to be addressed directly. He later joined the Black History Club’s lunchtime meeting to discuss his award-winning article “The Skin I’m In,” which is about his interactions with police, carding and racial profiling in Toronto.
“UCC prides itself on being a forward-thinking institution,” says Shaw. “As Mr. Cole pointed out, racism along with other oppressive actions still exist in today’s society and these conversations are important to raise awareness and educate the school body on what we can do to combat these issues.”
Black History Club members will present a spoken word performance along with a video made in collaboration with Branksome Hall students and have invited Old Boy Jared A. Walker to speak in assembly in the coming days and weeks to mark Black History Month, which is observed annually in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.