Integrity. Leadership. Determination. Resilience. These words resonated throughout Shawnigan Lake School’s Chapel during an extraordinary service on Saturday morning. In honour of Black History Month, several Shawnigan students organized and led a powerful chapel service for the whole School. Poems, prayers and scripture readings were delivered by a group of seven students. Many of these students also spoke eloquently throughout the service, sharing their personal stories and points of view.
“Today we will be talking about the legacy of the past, present and future generations of Black people across the globe,” opened grade 12 student Nnenna O. “Black History Month means sharing the culture, language and history of our ancestors, who fought and faced many challenges in the past for us to have some of the rights and freedoms we have today. This month is for rejoicing and thanking all our ancestors for giving us hope and lasting life lessons.”
Throughout the service, we heard student addresses that were at times moving, heartwarming, and enlightening. Grade 11 student Timi A. brought a little levity to the service. “I am here to explain the complexities of hair and poke fun at a couple of the questions I get,” she laughed. After a humorous and informative segment involving some of her fellow presenters, she became more serious. “Culture is like hair: complicated, confusing, full of knots, and oftentimes extremely delicate,” she explained. “Another way culture is like hair? It’s diverse. No head of hair is the same, just as no culture is the same.”
“I understand that talking is not always easy,” Timi continued. “But I also understand that we often have to be put in uncomfortable situations in order to become better people.”
Our final speaker, Mr. Williams, shared passionately about the devastating history and effects of racism, explaining that even today, “the devices of racism, segregation and oppression … continue in the minds and actions of people, through symbolism and beliefs and especially through the media.” He also spoke about the difference between race and ethnicity, concluding, “Everyone is not the same… However, we’re all one human family that had its origins in Africa.”
“My hope is that one day in my lifetime we won’t need a month set aside simply to remember the contributions of Canadians of African ethnicity or people of African ethnicities from around the world,” he ended.
Thank you to Nnenna O., Hannah S., Deja B., Denise B., Mimi G., Timi A., and Rudi T. for organizing such an inspirational service, and for leading us so gracefully.
Shawnigan Lake School is a co-educational boarding school on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The school is home to nationally-ranked academics, arts and athletics, with 100 per cent of graduates accepted to university.