Honouring Black History Month

Crescent School boys have been challenged to save one of Canada’s new $10 bills featuring a portrait of black Canadian businesswoman Viola Desmond as a reminder that one person’s actions can change unjust laws.

The challenge was made by Dr. Alvin Curling, who was the guest speaker at Crescent’s full-school assembly honouring Black History Month on February 25, 2019.

Dr. Curling, an educator, politician and diplomat, was the first black Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the first black ambassador for Canada. At the assembly, he told the story of Viola Desmond, who refused to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre in Nova Scotia in 1946. She was jailed and fined, and her experience became a key moment in Canada’s civil rights movement.

Desmond, who died in 1965, was posthumously pardoned in 2010 and her portrait is featured on the $10 bill that was released in 2018.

Everyone can play a part in making the world better, Dr. Curling said at the assembly. He told the boys to ask themselves, “What can I do to change some of the things I see that are wrong?”

In his own career, Dr. Curling told the assembly, he took a stand for what he felt was right. As the MPP for Scarborough-Rouge River, he led a filibuster in the Ontario Legislature in 1995 because the government’s Omnibus Bill 26 was being rushed to a vote without time for review.

While Canada’s laws and policies are much fairer now than they used to be, Dr. Curling said, “there is lots more room for improvement and we have to work at it.”

The full-school assembly capped a month of activities at Crescent honouring Black History as students in all grades learned about the people, events and issues that define the black experience in Canada.

At the Upper School assembly on February 19, three students from Crescent’s Black Student Association spoke about why Black History Month is meaningful for them, and how the BSA helps create a sense of togetherness among black students. To overcome stereotypes and make everyone feel welcome, the speakers said that it’s important for everyone to show interest in others’ personal experiences and become educated about cultural diversity.