New equity group aims to tackle anti-Blackness in Windsor-Essex public schools

·4 min read
Natalie Browning-Morgan, top left, Shantelle Browning-Morgan, top right, Venus Olla, bottom left, and Amina Abdulle, bottom right are the four founders of the public board's new Black Staff Equity Alliance group.  (Submitted by Amina Abdulle - image credit)
Natalie Browning-Morgan, top left, Shantelle Browning-Morgan, top right, Venus Olla, bottom left, and Amina Abdulle, bottom right are the four founders of the public board's new Black Staff Equity Alliance group. (Submitted by Amina Abdulle - image credit)

Founders of a committee that seeks to combat anti-Black racism in the public school board say they hope to develop strategies and foster conversations that better support Black staff and students.

Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last year and conversations around anti-Black racism, Windsor-Essex school boards are stepping up to create space for diverse staff and students. Most recently, the Greater Essex County District School Board has developed a Black Staff Equity Alliance that seeks to generate "systemic changes."

The Alliance was founded by four members of the public board: Amina Abdulle, Venus Olla, Shantelle Browning-Morgan and Natalie Browning-Morgan.

"It really is about action and taking action," said Olla, who is a graduation coach for Black, African and Caribbean students at the public board. "And not just talking about change but actually ensuring that change is occurring through these different initiatives."

She said they have already started by providing anti-Black racism training and they'll educate the board's student senate — a group that represents the student body — at the end of the month.

Other ideas they are working on include a conference at the end of the year and creating space for conversations between staff, students and allies.

The board and union are partnering up on this initiative, said Abdulle, who is a contracted high-school teacher with the public board.

"We want to create a space where we're all coming together to create initiatives that are going to create changes and are also going to build on the things we already have to better serve our students and our staff," said Abdulle.

"This partnership is between us, ourselves as Black identifying individuals, and our allies who all want to be at the table putting together initiatives that will create fundamental opportunities for everyone to feel that they are learning in a space that really welcomes them."

They said they hope Black allies will also join in on the conversation as they "can't do it alone."

The committee has its first virtual information session on Wednesday and already has more than 50 people registered.

Here's what other school boards in the region are doing

But it's not the only school board in the region looking to be more inclusive.

The region's French Catholic Board — Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence — recently announced in a news release that it has hired Vanessa Kabore as a human rights and equity advisor.

The Catholic school board says it has an Equity and Inclusion committee that works on policies to make sure schools are welcoming to everyone.
The Catholic school board says it has an Equity and Inclusion committee that works on policies to make sure schools are welcoming to everyone. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The position, according to the board, is meant to ensure a "school and work environment that encourages students and the school community to realize their full potential."

The board said Kabore will work to create policies and strategies, as well as raise awareness, train employees and other stakeholders.

Kabore has a master's degree in law and has expertise in ethics and rules of professional conduct at different public protection agencies, according to the board.

The French public board, Le Conseil Scolaire Viamonde Publie, says it does not have a Black equity group but that its 2021-2025 strategic plan includes "initiatives and action plans," which aim for more equitable and inclusive schools and workplaces, the board said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board also told CBC News via email that it doesn't specifically have a Black Staff Equity Alliance, but it does have an Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

The committee, it said, consists of employees and community volunteers who review policies and aim to foster a more inclusive environment.

The board said it also does the following:

  • Partners with Family Fuse, a local organization that helps Black families navigate their way through the education system through workshops. The board says one of its superintendents sits on Family Fuse's advisory committee.

  • Collaborates with Black Women of Forward Action who provide resources and support and has helped the board with its professional development for teachers and support staff that specifically deal with equity issues and anti-Black racism.

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.

<cite>(CBC)</cite>
(CBC)