A Montrealer’s Black History Month school tour teaches acceptance, kindness to students

"What I hope to accomplish with the tour is really having a brighter future for kids from racialized communities, BIPOC communities and marginalized communities," says youth advocate and entrepreneur Malik Shaheed. Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed reports.

A youth advocate and entrepreneur is visiting Montreal schools to share his Black History Month tour with students.

Malik Shaheed was at Willingdon Elementary Senior Campus – part of the English Montreal School Board – Wednesday to share the importance of Black history.

“The importance and significance of the Black History Month tours, spreading awareness about the great contributions that Black people have made to society, breaking stereotypes and just really educating people,” said Shaheed.

“Our youth need to know about Black history because so often pop culture, media, social media portrays Blacks in a negative way. So for me, it was important to take this tour around the cities, around different provinces, to teach kids the short history of Black people.”

Shaheed says he would have loved to learn more about Black history in school, growing up.

“Little Burgundy has a rich history of Black people and in terms of people who fight for civil rights,” said Shaheed. “So I learned my education about Black history and I’m a proud person regarding Black history.

“But if I was if I had an opportunity like this in my elementary school, which was mostly predominantly homogeneous, Caucasian, it would have been life-changing for myself and my classmates.”

Changing landscape in Quebec 

Shaheed says teaching about diversity is important, especially because the landscape of Quebec and Canada is changing.

“We have immigrants coming here every year,” he said. “And people need to understand the importance and the culture and the ethnicities of different people’s origins and not stereotype.

“When I see people, example, wearing a hijab or a headscarf, just knowing that they have different outlooks than you in terms of religion… we should treat each other as equal as possible.”

Eugenia Carystios, the vice-principal at Willingdon, says bringing Shaheed to speak to the students was a no-brainer.

“I’ve seen Malik Shaheed presentations before and I know he’s very dynamic, very energetic, and he communicates his message to students in an amazing way,” said Carystios. “So I knew that our students would appreciate that and would learn from that, which they did today.”

Shaheed says it’s all about spreading a message of acceptance, kindness and understanding.

“What I hope to accomplish with the tour is really having a brighter future for kids from racialized communities, BIPOC communities, marginalized communities, and having people who are in positions of power and leadership to treat people with equality and also to try to find ways to build equity for those people who are marginalized.”

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