EP 02: Black Lives Matter and Curriculum Activism

By David Scott & Raphaël Gani

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 of 2020, widespread protests emerged across the US and beyond, including here in Canada. Under the banner of Black Lives Matter, these demonstrations have brought attention to the lack of Black voices, perspectives, and histories in K-12 curricula in Canada. Seeing limited movement by schools and jurisdictions of education on this issue, activists have sought to counter this reality by advocating for curriculum reform.

In today’s podcast we talk with three curriculum activists –– two in Alberta and one in New Brunswick –– who have been at the forefront of advocating for greater inclusion of Black experiences in the curriculum, as well as the need for schools, school boards and universities to address anti-Black racism. Each activist outlines their lived experiences that led them to become involved in advocating for changes to provincial curriculum, the ways they have engaged in curriculum activism, and the insights they have gained from these experiences. These insights are formidable templates to reflect on our collective responsibility toward enacting changes needed in education.

Courtney Walcott is a high school teacher in the Calgary Board of Education. Working with the Canadian Mosaic Foundation, he petitioned the Board to create an anti-racism task force to address systemic racism in the school system. Courtney is now running for Councillor in Ward 8 in the upcoming Calgary municipal election.

Celine Caruso Dixon is the former president of the Black Students’ Association at the University of Alberta where she studies Political Science. Celine helped organize a Black Lives Matter protest in Edmonton one year ago through her organization Zion, which puts on open-mic events for racialized youth.

Olivia Rowinski is a History and Political Science major at the University of New Brunswick and also plays on the University soccer team. Olivia is involved in a range of projects organized by the Black Lives Matter Fredericton group and University including a research project involving the creation of a website for educators focussed on Black education and Black awareness in the province.

Learn more about our guests:

Courtney Walcott
Petition calls for CBE to establish school-focused racism task force: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/cbe-racism-calgary-blm-petition-1.5625969
We’re asking the Calgary Board of Education to create an Anti-racism task force (video): https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=711638182739138 
Victory… ish, regarding CBE petition: https://www.canadianculturalmosaicfoundation.com/blog/victory-ish-regarding-cbe-petition

Celine Caruso Dixon
Fighting for your rights: Black students reflect on their experiences at Black Lives Matter protest: https://thegatewayonline.ca/2020/06/fighting-for-your-rights-black-students-reflect-on-their-experiences-at-black-lives-matter-protest
University of Alberta Black Students’ Association Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bsaualberta/
ZION Open-mic series: https://www.instagram.com/thezionseries/

Olivia Rowinski
The Black Lives Matter in New Brunswick Education Project: https://www.blmfnbed.org
Black Lives Matter Fredericton: https://www.blmfredericton.ca

Additional resources

Tyack, D. & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia. Harvard University Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvjz83cb