Students at Astral Drive Junior High in Cole Harbor had the opportunity to learn about systemic racism and injustice by talking to those who have experienced it.
Their teacher, Megan Neaves, started the Empower Change by Conversation program in 2018, which has been key to educating her students on the issues faced by marginalized communities.
“In order to stop the cycle of systemic racism, we need to learn how to recognize what systemic racism looks like. A lot of our leaders are unsure of what it looks like, and that’s why it’s important for an event like this because they get to hear different perspectives,” said Neaves.
Students were asked to do research on their guest speakers and conduct interviews — asking hard questions and getting honest answers.
The speakers were prominent members of the African Nova Scotian and Indigenous communities around the Halifax Regional Municipality.
It was Grade 9 student Akayjah Moses’ second time attending the event, and she says that it has empowered her to learn more about her culture on her own.
“When I asked my social studies teacher about the things we were learning, she said that it’s important to teach history so that history doesn’t repeat itself. But they never teach about black history so I think if they did, there wouldn’t be as many racial issues,” said Moses.
Students were shocked and intrigued to hear about the discrimination that people faced in Halifax and said that they were not aware it was so prevalent in their city.
The young attendees said they felt empowered to stand up for what’s right and speak up if someone they see is being discriminated against.
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DeRico Symonds was one of the guest speakers and says that the students were eager to hear real stories from real people and not just read examples out of a textbook.
This left Symonds feeling helpful and hopeful.
“Hopeful because I know young people — of course, the old cliché is that they are going to be the future, but they really are and they’re going to be running businesses and going in (to) work, going into systems, and we know that the systemic stuff is still what’s affecting marginalized communities and people of colour today, so it’s hopeful and helpful for me because of that,” he said.
Neaves hopes her program will become an annual event, not only at Astral Junior High but across the province.