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Burnaby students celebrate 2nd annual Black Excellence Day

On Friday, students gathered at Byrne Creek Community School to share their experiences on the second annual Black Excellence Day. They tell Angela Bower what the day means to them.

By Angela Bower

High school students in Burnaby celebrated the accomplishments of Black people Friday during the second annual Black Excellence Day (BED).

But it’s not just limited to the Lower Mainland — schools across Canada participated, with over 30,000 students connecting virtually on the day.

Lulyana Tsehaye, a Grade 11 Byrne Creek Community School student, told CityNews that communities of Black kids are coming together to watch demonstrations on Black excellence.

“Black people thriving and achieving, in passion and projects that protect the true potential of black voices,” Tsehaye said. “Black people are resilient, and after hundreds of years and centuries of injustice inflicted on our people, we are still here and we managed to thrive and excel in many spaces.”

Students at this Burnaby high school are celebrating Black Excellence Day – schools across the country are participating – with over 30,000 students connected virtually. (CityNews/Angela Bower)

Students at this Burnaby high school are celebrating Black Excellence Day – schools across the country are participating – with over 30,000 students connected virtually. (CityNews/Angela Bower)

The purpose of the day encourages youth to be confident and strive for their goals, like Tsehaye who wants to be a lawyer.

“I would love to advocate for the people who can’t have their voices projected. I grew up kind of quiet and I have always sat back and looked at the injustice inflicted around me and to me, so the past few years I learned to find my voice through writing,” Tsehaye shared.

BED was founded by the Vancouver organization Ninandotoo Anti-Racism Society, and one of the co-founders and president, Kamika Williams, says often the contributions of Black Canadian heroes and leaders go unacknowledged in history books and school curriculums.

“We really wanted this to be the focus of this day,” Williams told CityNews.

Dieulane Miller, Grade 10 student, had her artwork featured on the shirts handed out at the day’s event.

“Each book represents different trauma that a black person has faced … the stories they never got to share — so in here — this person is picking this person’s brain about all the people who did not get a chance to share their stories,” Miller said.

Beth Applewhite, district principal of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Burnaby School District, was MC for the day and says they were happy to see such a large turnout of students.

”It can bring me joy, it can bring me hope. Yes, resilience maybe, not by choice but in that resilience, there is strength,” Applewhite said.

Miller has a message for those who feel unheard. “Your voice may be one in a million, but one domino effect can change everything… so keep on yelling”

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