AfroQuiz offers lessons on Black history and excellence — plus some healthy competition

The top scorers from each of the lead-up program's four age groups competed in a live quiz show on Saturday. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC - image credit)
The top scorers from each of the lead-up program's four age groups competed in a live quiz show on Saturday. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC - image credit)

The inventor of the super soaker, the countries bordering Kenya, the influence of calypso: a sampling of topics at the Jeopardy-style AfroQuiz on Saturday afternoon.

Held in the basement auditorium of Edmonton's Stanley A. Milner Library, it was the 31st year of the annual competition. For the past three Sundays, almost 50 children and youths ranging from grades 1 to 12 gathered in preparation to learn about Black history and Black excellence.

"We learn about the achievements of Black people and what they did to change this world," said Osama Adeghe, who has taken part in the program for the previous three years.

The third-grader won Saturday's finals for her age group.

"My favourite part is learning, making new friends and winning, if I can."

Osama's mother, Ifueko Adeghe, says she enrolled her three children into the program because it gives them the opportunity to learn and compete.

"I like that and also making friends within the [program]," Adeghe said, adding she's also learned from the material the kids studied.

The Edmonton-based Council of Canadians of African and Caribbean Heritage (CCACH) runs the AfroQuiz and the AfroCademy program leading up to it.

The current model sees participants organized into cohorts — themed around fictional African kingdoms — within which students take part in sessions incorporating music, dance and food in an aim to be an immersive learning experience.

Each kingdom also has its own chant, which cohorts performed in front of their friends and family on Saturday.

Karen Richards, board chair of CCACH and the MC of Saturday's competition, said it was good to gather in-person after two years of doing AfroQuiz online due to the pandemic.

Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC
Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC

"Now we're back in person, and so happy to be here, because the vibes are nice," she said.

Richards said the program instills values of discipline and lifelong learning. She hopes children also see themselves in the Black luminaries being studied.

"We don't necessarily teach a lot of this material within schools in Alberta curriculum," Richards said. "So here's an opportunity for them to get the knowledge."

A gap in education

Jeannette Austin-Odina, 73, was one of the founders of AfroQuiz. She said her own education in Trinidad and Tobago was Eurocentric and that she didn't want her Canadian-born children to also know nothing of their history.

"There was nothing in schools and I didn't want them to have the same background as I did," Austin-Odina said.

The retired teacher said she and others unsuccessfully approached the ministry of education at the time to include more Black history.

"So I said, 'Well, if they won't, I will.'"

Austin-Odina said she is proud to see where the program is today but added the feeling was bittersweet.

"I think we are still where we started, that we don't have it as the norm."

She said some who once participated are now enrolling their own children or grandchildren. Austin-Odina credits the continued success of AfroQuiz to the younger organizers who have since taken the reins and fully-utilized the power of technology.

"They have brought it to such heights now," she said.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.