A textbook example of systemic racism in Ontario

Who: The Ontario Black History Society and DDB Canada.

What: #BlackedOutHistory, a pro bono campaign pushing decision-makers to ensure that Black history is better represented in the province’s JK through Grade 12 curriculum.

When & Where: The campaign launched last month with online video running across the Ontario Black History Society’s social channels, accompanied by an internal PR push. According to the Ontario Black History Society, additional campaign elements will be introduced until the Ontario Ministry of Education commits to changing the curriculum.

Why: The Ontario Black History Society says the campaign is intended as a reminder of how the education system is failing to acknowledge, educate and celebrate 400 years of Canadian Black history. The goal is to make the teaching of Black history mandatory. The province’s curriculum currently only has optional suggested topics related to Black history, which teachers do not have to include in lesson plans.

“This is a decades-old conversation and we’ve just decided that we were going to shine a light on it. Parents have called [for it], community leaders have called for it, students themselves have called for it,” said Ontario Black History Society vice-president Mawuli Chai. “Part of our dedication is to the preservation of Black history in this country, and I think this is a great invitation to join the conversation. It’s not a unilateral conversation—it’s [inviting] all races, all ethic beliefs and values to lend their voice. Black history is Canadian history.”

How: The campaign is built around a video showing the results when all of the non-Black history from an actual Grade 8 history textbook is erased. Once that action is complete, only 13 of the book’s 255 pages remain untouched.

The video concludes with the super “Black history is Canadian history. It deserves to be remembered,” and urges viewers to demand change by tagging public officials using the #BlackedOutHistory hashtag. More than 34,000 tweets using the hashtag have been sent since the campaign’s debut, said Chai.

The Ontario Black History Society is also sending blacked-out textbooks to politicians including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by a letter demanding change.

Lecce’s office did respond with a letter stating its commitment to education that reflects the province’s cultural diversity, said Chai.

And we quote: “The contributions, sacrifices, and stories of Black Canadians are woven into the fabric of this country’s history. It is imperative that we educate young people in Ontario about our past in order to address and disrupt anti-Black racism in public education. Through these stories and this action, we hope to inspire future generations of change-makers to fight and stand up for equality.” — Natasha Henry, president of the Ontario Black History Society

Chris Powell