In the fall, WRDSB hosted the first student conference for African, Carribean and Black identified students. Black Brilliance brought students together for a full day of workshops and mentorship opportunities.
Planning for this conference started in the spring of 2018. Student-led focus groups took place to give students an opportunity to share their feelings at school in a safe environment. The focus groups led to the creation of a digital stories project that highlights the experiences of black-identified students and staff within our district. The Black Brilliance conference was the perfect space to launch the digital story, and it started the day honestly and authentically.
After a welcome message from Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo and Deputy Minister Pat Case, students opened the conference with a spoken word poem and a keynote address from their peers. The students’ voice gave a powerful start to the conference, energizing students as they moved to mentorship sessions.
Students choose from five mentorship sessions. Authentically celebrating Black History Month, what it takes to be a student-athlete, Black-brilliance in the workplace, roots and rhythm and coat-switching – how to play the game all offered students the chance to hear from local leaders within the Black community. Each mentorship topic was developed and shaped by students. Educators engaged in a working group where they discussed what insights they took from the digital story project and what strategies they can implement at their schools to support students going forward.
After engaging in mentorship sessions and workshops, students came together to close the conference with an open mic session where student Nate Lawes had the room on their feet with his musical talent. As students were leaving, they shared their thoughts on the day on a graffiti wall. “We are our ancestor’s greatest dreams,” “Never make yourself small for others,” “We’re only getting started,” and other words of empowerment covered the wall. Our students inspired us, and we can’t wait to see what lies ahead.