Surrey Teachers' Association renames building after its first Black president

·2 min read
The first Black president of the Surrey Teachers' Association, Lloyd Edwards, is pictured here. The association recently renamed its office building after Edwards. (Hargun Singh - image credit)
The first Black president of the Surrey Teachers' Association, Lloyd Edwards, is pictured here. The association recently renamed its office building after Edwards. (Hargun Singh - image credit)

The Surrey Teachers' Association (STA) has renamed its office building after the group's first Black president, Lloyd Edwards.

The Lloyd Edwards Building was formerly called the Park Place Building.

Edwards says he was shocked, but honoured, when he first found out about the initiative.

"It's not every day you get a building named after you," said Edwards.

Ashley Moliere/CBC News
Ashley Moliere/CBC News

Over 100 current and former teachers, administrators, as well as friends and family, gathered in Surrey on Saturday afternoon at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School to honour Edwards' legacy and the renaming.

Jatinder Bir, the current president of the STA, says the association wanted to thank Edwards for his advocacy around keeping class sizes small and his anti-racism work.

Anti-racism advocate

Lloyd Edwards, 90, was a teacher for over 30 years in Surrey, spending most of his career at Princess Margaret Secondary School. Edwards was elected president of the association in 1973 and was in power for two years.

In 1974, Edwards led a march of more than 1,000 Surrey teachers to the B.C. Legislature in Victoria to protest the Surrey school board's decision to increase class sizes.

It's a fight that still continues today, according to Bir.

"In order to give our kids the best opportunities, class sizes matter," said Bir. "We want smaller classes, and that will continue to be the legacy of Lloyd Edwards."

Ken Novakowski, former president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF), said in a speech at the event that in the 1970s, Edwards advocated for South Asian students who were facing racism at his school.

Novakowski said Edwards set up an anti-racism committee and spoke about racism in Surrey schools at a BCTF annual general meeting in 1975. That led to the formation of the federation's anti-racism program.

Edwards was active in the anti-racism program, delivering workshops for teachers across B.C., according to Novakowski.

Edwards retired from teaching in 1989.

Although he's spent most of life fighting against racism and has noticed some changes over the years, Edwards says it's important to remember that racism is behaviour that is taught to children. Education is one of the best ways to counteract that, he says.

"We have to teach anti-racism. We have to let kids know how unpleasant it is to suffer at the hands of a racist," said Edwards.

Work continues

Bir says the Surrey school district has initiated a racial equity assessment to see how it can better address racism is its schools. She says they are working with the district and pushing for more racial representation among leaders and making sure students and staff get anti-racism education.

Teri Mooring, president of the BCTF, also announced the federation will be creating a new anti-racism and anti-oppression office within the next year.

"That work all traces back to Lloyd," she said.

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