Introducing ‘Our Stories: Pieces of BIPOC History’—A TDSB Art Project - Nia Centre for the Arts

Introducing ‘Our Stories: Pieces of BIPOC History’—A TDSB Art Project

By Nia Centre, p
Posted on March 26, 2021

Nia Centre has always had a mission to support a healthy identity and instill a sense of belonging for youth through the arts. Since 2010, we have ventured into classrooms to support the implementation of the arts, Black History and traditions into the educational curriculum. With the current pandemic, Nia Centre has transitioned our school engagements to a virtual platform.

In January, we entered Kurt Lewin’s grade 12 virtual classroom, at Downsview Secondary School, who also call themselves the Imolewa Community. Students had the opportunity to work alongside Book Editor and Self-Publishing Consultant, Brittany Chung Campbell, and Equity and Inclusion Specialist and author of Trailblazers: The Black Pioneers Who Have Shaped Canada, Tiyahna Padmore-Ridley. They learned about self and community advocacy, and how to build their artistic capacity in creative writing. 

Students explored various movements, such as the #ourvoices movement, #BlackLivesMatter movement, and discovered historical figures who have used art as a tool to instigate change in their communities and beyond. 

Drawing from the lessons taught by Brittany and Tiyahna, we challenged the Imolewa community to serve as advocates and create an artistic piece in reflection of Canadian BIPOC historical moments, leaders, and their impact on society, and why it is important #Ourstory is part of our country's narrative and the educational curriculum.

In this exhibition titled “Our Stories: Pieces of BIPOC History,” we’re showcasing some of the pieces the Imolewa community created in their journey as advocates.

Sir George Williams Affair (1969) by Victoria Okwudi - Grade 12

Victoria Okwudi's Artist Statement:

My creative piece shows what the media at the time was advertising as a riot. According to the Akua Benjamin Project at Ryerson, this protest was against the unfair treatment of Black students at Sir George Williams University which turned into a two-week sit-in. After a fire started at the computer center, the riot police squad showed up and arrested Rosie Douglas for arson. A newspaper article documented this event as if the entire “accusation” of racism was an excuse for violence. The main message that is being conveyed in this piece is that the media is a powerful tool that can be used in both good and bad ways. The pictures in my creative piece were pictures that were being circulated in media outlets that framed the peaceful protest as a riot and left out what sparked the entire occurrence. It is important that we continue to advocate for the full story and for the media to be accountable and use their platform in a positive way

Carrie Best (1903-2001) by Ayoola Olusesi — Grade 12

Ayoola Olusesi's Artist Statement:

I chose Carrie Best because she used her platform as a newspaper writer and a radio spokesperson to bring information about the Black community in Canada to light. She wrote stories about Black Canadians who were fighting against racism and featured the poetry of Black artists on her radio. Through her platform, she created a safe space for Black people in Canada who had experienced any form of racism. I'm interested in this topic because while fighting racism, we should also be looking out for our brothers and sisters. We need to create a community in which we can come together and talk about what we are facing and also share some good news. That was Carrie Best’s mission and she has inspired me to do something like that in which we can come together as a community.

This assignment taught me that a leader doesn’t just lead, they bring people together. I learned that in order to get people to fight for their rights, there has to be a certain type of community to help them as they encounter oppression and discrimination in their daily lives.

Jeralyn Rufugia — Grade 12

Jeralyn Rufugia's Artist Statement:

The presentation inspired me to use my imagination and voice to portray a story. The message I am trying to convey in my collage is to show what slaves had to do in order to gain freedom. The photo collage I made is about the Underground Railroad. The background is a map of the routes Black Americans used to get to safe houses in Canada.

We know so much about World War I, but we don't have an understanding of the Black Canadians who made an impact in Canada. I read an article called, “5 Canadian Events to Remember This Black History Month.” I did not know anything about the Underground Railroad, until reading this article. This article taught me other historic Canadian Black events such as North America’s First Race Riot, Hogan’s Alley, Ontario Passes Anti-Discriminatory Acts and the Apology for destroying Africville. As a leader, this information can help me understand other ethnicities and cultures, because that is the key to success. 

Want to schedule a virtual workshop for your classroom? Email and learn more about the services we offer here.

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