The Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Black History Month theme is Black Joy Inspiring Change. But how do you create opportunities for change? How do you encourage high school students to build community, broaden their perspectives, engage in difficult conversations and advocate for those who feel they do not have a voice?
The All Saints Black Student Association lead teacher, Ms. Ann Marie Vanneste, says, “It’s not one thing; it is many things strung together over time with a commitment to creating a sense of togetherness. Rooted in providing opportunities to help students build awareness of who they are and understand their place in the world.” That is why she, with a host of other educators, will take over 900 Grades- 9 -12 students to see the movie Till on Monday, February 27, 2023.
Till is based on the true life story of Mamie Till-Bradly, an educator and activist who relentlessly pursued justice after the murder of her 14-year-old son Emmett in 1955 in Mississippi. Emmett Till’s murder sparked the activism known as the Civil Rights Movement. You can watch the trailer.
Ms. Vanneste said the concept of the students walking to the theatre as one school community is meaningful – the student’s message is they will “Walk Till Justice. She added this activity allows black students to feel seen and supported by their All Saints Family.
Ms. Vanneste quickly pointed out that this is just one activity the school has engaged in to keep the conversation going about Anti-Black Racism. She said it’s important to note that learning happens with students and educators alike.
All Saint’s staff has had Professional Development from Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey, and the Board purchased resources for its Religion, English and French Math classes.
Some may think a good movie can entertain and inspire, but can it educate? Ms. Vanneste says yes! For example:
- Black History, Month morning announcements have been about Emmett Till’s life leading up to the film.
- Some religion classes created learning posters of Emmett’s life story, and we will post them in the school entrance foyer, thus creating a dedicated learning space for Emmett’s Life.
- Deborah Watts, Emmett’s cousin, provided the students with the “Never Again” pledge, which students will recite together before walking to the film.
- Students will complete a post-learning google form survey asking about what they learned from the media. The anonymous survey will create an equitable, safe space to respond while gathering grade-level data.
The ultimate goal of attending the movie is to ignite a feeling of unity, awareness, compassion and empathy in seeing Emmett’s story.