Warning: This story contains racist language and references to racist social media posts. Discretion is advised.
A Pickering high school graduate who was the target of an anti-Black racist yearbook caption was presented with a four-year scholarship from Pinball Clemons and the Toronto Argonauts on Wednesday.
Joshua Telemaque — whose personally written yearbook caption was replaced with a racist, hateful message — was awarded the surprise while he celebrated his 18th birthday Wednesday.
The caption was originally written as a tribute in honour of his grandmother. It was replaced by a racist message in all of the 2019-2020 yearbooks, which are now in the process of being replaced.
The scholarship is for any university of Telemaque’s choosing.
The presentation was made as friends and family did a drive-thru for the 18-year-old’s birthday due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, Telemaque said he was “so appreciative” and “grateful” for all of the support he’s gotten in response to the incident.
The mayor of Ajax also gifted Telemaque with a certificate from the town’s council.
“Today, I had the privilege of meeting Joshua Telemaque, and presenting him with a(sic) 18th Birthday certificate from Ajax Council,” a tweet from Shaun Collier said.
The story first came to light after a picture was posted by Telemaque’s aunt, Mayma Raphael, on social media Saturday afternoon. She recalled how she received a “frantic” phone call from her sister after the yearbook discovery.
The quote to accompany his photo was supposed to be, “RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school.” However, in the social media post, the photo showed it was replaced with, “Rip Harambe Dooga booga.O.”
The shocking message appears to reference Harambe, a gorilla that was kept at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio.
Supporters of Joshua also setup a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to support his post-secondary education.
Durham police and the school, located in Pickering, said they are investigating other potential hateful and offensive yearbook comments.
—With files from Nick Westoll