Students and staff of the newly renamed Toronto high school Central Toronto Academy say Black History Month is more than just a one month celebration.
CTA, previously Central Commerce Collegiate Institute, is in preparation to pay homage by displaying student artwork throughout the school to demonstrate how art can influence people in positive ways.
Students made murals are displayed on he walls, and paintings are scattered through the hallways. Black culture is also woven into the curriculum of CTA throughout the entire year.
Beckie DiLeo, curriculum leader of the Arts department at CTA, believes that Black History Month should be celebrated in all mediums of expression; whether it is through dance, spoken word poetry, visual, or abstract art.
“We’ve converted our main foyer into what is called the ‘connector gallery’. It is basically a gallery that allows students to showcase their artwork,” DiLeo says.
In the past, students of CTA have been honoured to work with local community activist for empowering youth, and spoken word artist, Stacey Mckenzie in her ‘Walk This Way’ workshop.
Students learned about self-esteem, and leadership.
“It was an amazing experience; extremely empowering for the young girls, and again, it sort of helped them instill confidence within themselves and in their talent,” DiLeo says.
CTA principal Iwana Kurman says there should always be a celebration of different cultures and beliefs within the hallways of the school.
“I think it’s become a part of us to have various events that have to do with different cultures; I don’t think they feel it this way. They look forward to these different activities,” Kurman says.
Kurman says Black History Month should be marked throughout the year, not just in February.
“We don’t necessarily pack everything into one month. We need to celebrate each others cultures as much as possible throughout the year,” Kurman says.
Student Austin Mombourquette says the artwork leaves the most powerful message with the students.
“When we’re making something, when we’re doing something, when we’re forming something all under this black culture – the whole expression of it is probably the most important because it’s the most lasting,” Mombourquette says.
Central Toronto Academy students will continue to commemorate Black History Month through the use of art and continue to build connections with local community black artists.
CTA hosts its Black History Month assembly on Feb. 19.