Students at R.E. Mountain Secondary School created a Black History Month display that covered several walls (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Students at R.E. Mountain Secondary School created a Black History Month display that covered several walls (Special to Langley Advance Times)

How Black History Month was celebrated for the first time by a Langley school

It was an emotional moment for one student

When she first saw the display on the wall of her school, a Black student at Langley’s R.E.Mountain school was moved to tears.

“I’ve never felt so seen,” she said.

R.E. Mountain vice principal Jennifer Koehler witnessed the moment.

“It’s been beautiful,” Koehler told the Langley Advance Times, after more than six months of hard work and research produced a Black History Month display that covered several interior walls of the school at 7633 202A St.

It is the first time the “very diverse” school has celebrated Black History month, and it was a student-driven initiative, Koehler noted.

“We just started talking about what we need to have happen,” Koehler recalled.

“They just wanted to see a more inclusive curriculum”

READ ALSO: How a ‘pivot’ by R.E. Mountain Secondary School students paid off for 22 local families – and the food bank

One of the R.E. Mountain students deeply involved in Black History Month was 17-year-old Kyla Mort, who described her own heritage as “mixed.”

Mort said there had been a feeling for awhile among students and staff at the school that Black History month should have more attention.

Then, on May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died after Minneapolis police officers stood on his neck for several minutes, ignoring his plea that he couldn’t breath.

“There was always this want for students and staff to do something,” Mort related.

“Now is the time.”

Students devoted countless hours and several months to developing the display and taking other steps to celebrate Black history.

The initiative included social media, with posts celebrating Black Canadians like jazz legend Oscar Peterson, former governor General Michaëlle Jean, hockey layer P.K. Subban and champion runner Harry Jerome, as well as highlighting the work of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver.

It also included QR codes that students with smart phones could use to access historical information, social studies teacher Bal Dhanoa explained.

“There’s quite an emphasis on QR codes, because they are kids and they have phones,” said Dhanoa, who praised the students for making it all happen.

“It was their drive to pull it all together,” Dhanoa said, adding she anticipates the month will be celebrated every year at R.E. Mountain form now on.

“It’s not a one-time thing,” Dhanoa predicted.

READ ALSO: A call for tolerance and inclusiveness from coach at Trinity Western University during Black History Month

“This is definitely ongoing,” Mort agreed.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” she added.

Langley School Supt. Gord Stewart said while the district has taken “initial steps in our anti-racism journey,” more work is necessary.

“We believe it is our responsibility to take on a leadership role against racism,” Stewart said.

In June of 2020, the district formed an anti-racism working group and created a new role, District Principal for Wellness and Diversity, in January of 2021.

The district is also amending regulations to provide explicit anti-racism language and support for students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.


Is there more to the story? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Black History MonthLangleyracismSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Part of the Black History Month display that covered several walls at R.E. Mountain Secondary School (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Part of the Black History Month display that covered several walls at R.E. Mountain Secondary School (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

The development plan for a proposed Willoughby building showing a possible library site. (Pollyco/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Langley Township council says no to delay in considering Willoughby library

One councillor called for a system-wide review before making a decision

Langley sister Shannon Obando, 35, and Jen Spier, 29, started Hope in a Box, which features items from local small businesses, to fundraiser for non-profit Hope International. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley sisters Hope in a Box fundraiser: local products with global impact

All proceeds will benefit non-profit Hope International

Christian Burton is not a cold-weather kind of athlete, but he took the plunge anyway, getting dunked to help raise funds for Special Olympics. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Langley’s Christian Burton takes the plunge for Special Olympics

A freezing dip in a kiddie pool to raise money for athletes

A new Fraser Valley food hub in Abbotsford will include shared kitchen space that can be accessed by small and medium-sized businesses. (Stock photo by Robyn Wright from Pixabay)
Almost $2M to support new Fraser Valley food hub in Abbotsford

Project being developed by District of Mission and Mission Community Skills Centre

COVID-19 virus. (CDC photo)
School records 2nd COVID-19 alert this week, while employee at Langley grocer tests positive

Families of H.D. Stafford Middle were also notified on Monday

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

A woman boards a transit bus through rear doors, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
TransLink slow to reveal crucial details about ransomware attack, says union

Union says company took months to admit what info was stolen, including SIN and bank account details

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Most Read