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Dr. Kearney Middle School hosts inaugural Black History Month celebration

Dr. Kearney Middle School held its inaugural assembly celebrating Black History Month on February 27th.

“Celebrating Black Excellence: Navigating the Legacies” was an hour-long presentation hosted and organized by the school that offered students a slice of Pan-African culture,

Canada first recognized Black History Month in 1995 after the movement first surfaced in the United States in the mid-1920s as ‘Negro History Week,’ with the month distinction first occurring in 1970.

Keynote speakers spoke to students about their journeys to Fort St. John, with School District 60 administration in attendance.

Organizer and teacher Cassandra Baker-Watson says it took a month to plan the event.

“We started at the beginning of February,” says Baker-Watson, who moved to Fort St. John from Toronto after immigrating from Jamaica six years ago. “I live in this community and want to share what black culture is and how we benefit and contribute to this community.”

“The students at the assembly, I hope they take from this that we can all contribute to diversity,” said Baker-Watson.

Speakers included Dr. Chiji Nwanko of Northern Health, senior scrum master for Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Obinna Amaefule, and purchasing manager for Steel Toes Workwear Trishauna Dwyer.

Dwyer, who migrated from Portmore, Jamaica, came to Northern Lights College two and a half years ago as an international student. Deciding to stay, Dwyer’s family are now permanent residents of Canada.

Dwyer says one of her first discoveries when she arrived in Fort St. John was the Canadian accent, saying it “was a surprise.”

“When I first came here, I wasn’t aware of it,” said Dwyer. “Certain words I pronounce were different. I had to practice pronouncing words the Canadian way.”

Originally from Nigeria, Nwanko compared his journey from Lagos, Nigeria, to Fort St. John, after moving from Saskatchewan and Vancouver, as something that is an impossible dream from his area of the world.

He compared the desire to move to Canada to be a doctor to “being a beginner musician and wanting to win the Grammys.”

Nwanko defines diversity as “being a strength” to overcome prejudice, discrimination, and hatred.

“In my profession, it was very challenging and extremely difficult,” said Nwanko. “But I cannot forget those people who helped me along the way who looked like me and those who didn’t look like me. That is one thing I’ll never forget.”

Highlights of the event included students presenting the meaning of Pan-African colours and a pair of musical numbers sung by students, including “Stand Up” by Harriet Tubman and “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.

The event concluded with a fashion show celebrating Pan-African culture.

Edward Hitchins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Energeticcity.ca