West Island high school grad calls out Quebec for lacking Black history education in schools

A 17-year-old graduating student at John Rennie High School is calling out the Quebec government. She says not enough black history is taught in the provincial history courses, and wants that to change.

Keisha Ferdinand felt she needed to act after the Black Lives Matter movement began to gain momentum, and because of a racist video created by two John Rennie students that recently made the rounds on social media.

Ferdinand started thinking about how little she learned about black history in school, and how much of her education about Black issues had come from social media. She decided to research the subject on her own.

“I learned how there was slaves in New France and all over Canada. They were being sold. It is a part of our history and it’s just not represented in our history books,” Ferdinand said.

She thought if other people her age knew what she knew, it could help in the fight against racism.

“If we educate our youth, then people will learn more about the history and won’t be so ignorant, and then there won’t be as many cases of discrimination, at least I hope,” Ferdinand said.

She consulted with her teacher Raquel Lobaton.

“I said, well, it all starts with the government allowing us to to teach the material that would help everybody to be more comfortable with each other, and understand each other’s cultures and race and differences, and to be able to celebrate those in a better way,” Lobaton told Global News.

Keisha sat down and wrote a letter to Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and the MNA responsible for relations with anglophones Christopher Skeete.

“How come as a black Canadian, I do not know any of the history of black people in Canada?” she wrote.

She called on Quebec to bring more Black history into the curriculum, and to make sure young voices like hers are heard as the province creates a new task force to combat racism.

Her parents are bursting with pride, but their daughter’s fight also evokes sadness.

“I couldn’t be more proud, but I’m also super sad that my daughter has to fight this fight,” said Keisha’s mother Linda Stroude, who had hoped racism would be eradicated by now.

Keisha says she is encouraged by the huge outpouring of support from fellow students since she wrote the letter. She has even heard from people she doesn’t know.

Global News reached out to Christopher Skeete and Jean-François Roberge for comment, but neither was available to speak about Keisha’s letter.

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