Olympic medalist’s sister pushes for recognition at Richmond school

He was an Olympic medalist while also teaching at Richmond High, but do current students even know who Harry Jerome was? Jerome’s sister Valerie is now pushing the Richmond school district to recognize the Canadian track & field star. Ashley Burr reports.

VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Harry Jerome was an Olympic medalist while teaching at Richmond Secondary school, but students there aren’t being taught about who he was and his family thinks that has a lot to do with the colour of his skin.

He won the bronze medal in 1964 at the Tokyo Games when he finished the 100m dash in 10.25 seconds. In his track and field career, he set seven world records. He was named British Columbia’s Athlete of the Century in 1971. All of these accomplishments came during a time, his sister Valerie Jerome says, when it was very difficult to be Black in Canada.

“He and I and our three siblings grew up in North Van in the 50s — not a pleasant place to be, a lot of racism. But we found our way through track and field. Harry did a lot he was in eight international competitions, representing Canada in three Olympics,” she explains.

But despite all his accolades, very few B.C. students learn about Jerome in school, and even fewer know that he won the of his Olympic medals while he was also a high school teacher.

Richmond parent Karina Reid has been helping Valerie push the district to recognize Harry’s achievements.

“You need to be telling every child that goes to this school about him, I mean as a child to go here and know an Olympian taught here?! Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that and know about that,” she says.

In a statement from the district, spokesperson Sandra Nixxon says, “It’s been suggested we … consider some kind of formal recognition, given that Harry Jerome was a teacher at one of our secondary schools. This request was made to the school board’s Education Committee last month, and the board expects to be receiving recommendations from staff early in the new year.”

The push to have Harry’s achievements recognized is linked to a wider push to teach more Black history in schools.

I would like to see not just Harry’s name up there, but other people who have contributed and continue to contribute to British Columbia’s history,” Valerie says.

The Richmond school board says it is also reexamining how Black history is taught in schools, and is looking at including the stories of Black Canadians.

“I can’t imagine as a child not being able to see yourself in history and my children will always see themselves in history because we have built it on white supremacy, so it’s time to dismantle that and start getting history changed,” Reid says.

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