Parents, students and community members gathered in Parkdale Saturday afternoon for a rally against racism in schools.
Dozens stood outside Parkdale Collegiate Institute, demanding change and concrete measures to end anti-Black racism in schools. They held signs that read, ‘Every Black Child Matters,’ ‘Black Students Matter,’ and ‘The system is not broken. It was built this way.’
Saturday’s rally was held in the wake of racist incidents last month at the school that included a teacher who attended class with black paint on his face on the Friday before Halloween.
In a letter to parents following the incident, the school’s principal said that several students alerted the administration about the teacher, and immediate steps were taken. The school had filed a report with the Toronto District School Board and put the teacher on paid home assignment.
Leila Sarangi, one of the five mothers who organized the rally, said she was horrified and disgusted when she learned about what happened at Parkdale CI. She said it’s been difficult for the whole school community, especially students who were hurt by the incident.
“This is really harmful for those kids who are in the classroom and a lot of responsibility on them to have to be the ones to take action and really advocate for something to be done,” Sarangi said.
She noted that there was another incident at the school involving a teacher allegedly using the N-word in front of students while talking about a song.
“We know that these are not isolated incidences that there must be a culture fostered within the school system that allows anti-Black racism to flourish,” Sarangi said.
She said they organized the rally to take a stand and say that anti-Black racism is not okay.
“This is a large issue. And it makes our school unsafe. It makes our kids unsafe. It makes our communities unsafe. So, we as parents are demanding accountability and a stop to that,” Sarangi said.
Students, parents and elected representatives spoke at the rally, some sharing their lived experiences of anti-Black racism.
“We really want to draw attention to this issue. And let people know what’s really going on,” Sarangi said.
“Out of this whole thing, the thing that gives me hope is that these kids were not bystanders, and that’s really important that they took the initiative. They kept taking action until people heard them and backed them up.”
– with files from Phil Tsekouras
This content was originally published here.