Voices to Verses: Sir Wilfrid Laurier Black365 Student Union Creates Collaborative Poems

Voices to Verses: Sir Wilfrid Laurier Black365 Student Union Creates Collaborative Poems
Posted on 10/19/2023
Voices to Verses: Sir Wilfrid Laurier Black365 Student Union Creates Collaborative Poems

In 2023, students in Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School’s Black 365 Student Union participated in a series of conversations and activities to share their lived experiences and advocate for Black and biracial students. Recently, their work was showcased to the community at a community wellness festival.

During Black History Month in February 2023, the student union organized an initiative to challenge hurtful language and educate others in the school about harmful use of the n-word. Students planned a variety of activities and learning opportunities, including an art display, hoodie designs, and a workshop on The Power of Words. Together with OCDSB Social Worker Sadia Abdullahi, 60 Black and biracial students composed this collaborative poem:

Reclaiming Blackness

My Blackness feels like freedom
Sounds like excellence
Smells like cocoa butter
Is Justice and Power
I dream for our existence to be recognized but not
To be respected without being condescended to

To be judged by the content of my character, not by the colour of my skin
To unite and overcome racial stereotypes
To be understood.

Nurturing my Blackness is about educating myself about Black culture and history
We are Black kings and queens
Being proud of our melanin
Our Community
Loving the features that make us Black
Nurturing my Blackness is taking care of my Black hair
Learning protective styles while protecting my peace

My Blackness means everything to me
It is full of kindness, resilience, hope and acceptance
It’s the 3’S for me- Support, Seasoning, Self-love
It means sticking together and accepting each other
Taking pride in our strength and perseverance

Our Black is
We are unapologetically us
A perfect masterpiece!

The workshop made an impact at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School and beyond, by inspiring other schools to participate in this collaborative learning. Today, the workshop is offered to intermediate classes across the District in collaboration with the OCDSB’s Equity department.
Photo 1
Later that spring, the students worked together to create another poem entitled “Dear Black Parent,” where they expressed what they wanted their parents and all Black parents to know. Watch this spoken word performance by Sir Wilfrid Laurier alumna Naomi G.:
The poem was shared at the Parent Advocacy Conference organized by Parents 4 Diversity, sparking a dialogue with families across Ottawa. Sadia presented a workshop at the conference, where parents and caregivers heard the poem and shared their responses in a series called “Dear Black Child.” Parents wrote messages of affirmation, insight, and love, which were turned into postcard-sized letters for students. Photo 2
Recently, the students’ poetry was showcased at the WOW (Working on Wellness) Festival, an event hosted by the Community Addictions Peer Support Association. The event brought together mental health and wellness organizations from across Ottawa. Staff from the OCDSB’s Learning Support Services department attended the festival, speaking with families, sharing the poems, and offering other helpful resources. Photo 3

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