B.C. school held ‘Slave Day’ in 2009, selling students to other students

Leadership students carried books, wrestled for an audience for school fundraiser

An event called Slave Day at a Chilliwack area middle school raised $450.

The money came from students willing to pay for the privilege of having a Leadership student be their slave for the day. This reportedly happened at Rosedale middle school in 2009. Evidence of it surfaced online this week in the wake of other local allegations of school-based racism.

The Slave Day information popped up on Instagram from an account called Black Vancouver. They shared several images, including one of a Rosedale “Student Auction” day page from a yearbook. The caption with the photos says it was the school’s second annual event, involving Grade 8 and 9 students who were auctioned off.

“Rosedale students could buy slaves in the auction and use them the following day,” it reads. “Obedient slaves carried books, wrestled, dressed in crazy costumes and committed outrageous stunts to please their masters and the crowd.”

READ MORE: Opinion: Conversation about racism an opportunity to shut up and speak up

The post was created on June 9, with many followers of the Instagram account calling for immediate action by the school district. By 8 a.m. the next morning, June 10, the district’s interim superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam issued a press release (See full press release below this story).

“I thank those who have brought forward these events,” he wrote. “Hearing about them makes us all in the School District reflect on what we did, what we could have done better, and what we can do to prevent these things from happening again.”

He wrote directly of the Rosedale student auction in his letter.

“That is wrong,” he wrote. “And just as it is wrong today, it was wrong then. We take responsibility for that and I unreservedly apologize on behalf of the District for that event.”

Past students of several Chilliwack schools have been speaking out about their experiences over the past few weeks, including a time a student was allowed to wear black face for a mock trial. Many local students and grads of colour also spoke at a Chilliwack Black Lives Matter March, at Central Community Park on June 5.

The originator of the post about the Slave Day, Layla Mohammed, now 24, spoke with The Progress about why she went public. When she saw news coverage of the black face that took place at G.W. Graham, it triggered a memory of what she had experienced more than 10 years ago at Rosedale middle.

She asked her friends if they remembered and had photos, and sure enough, they did.

“It’s awful that as a black person experiencing these pains, that people don’t believe me, that I need proof,” she said.

She wasn’t involved in the Slave Day, as she was not accepted into the elective Leadership class. But she now clearly recalls the day, including a teacher “having a collar and leash on a student and telling them to crawl like a dog.”

“It was a form of entertainment. It was making a mockery of the slave trade, which happened. And that is offensive to my identity,” she said. Mohammed was a Muslim at the time, is half Black and half Asian, and wore a hijab.

Some supporters of the event have said she is overreacting and that it was a learning opportunity.

“Yes, they’re learning racism,” she says in response.

She wants people to know she is not “asking for blood” by bringing this up. She wants an acknowledgement that it happened, apologies, and a better school district. Her younger siblings are still at the school and she hopes that bringing these past events to light will create a better learning environment for them today.

“I want the school to be a safe place for them,” she says. “That’s why I’m being so adamant about this.”

She also wants people to put their love and admiration for the teachers involved aside, and think about the big picture, she said.

As for the black face that took place at G.W. Graham, Arul-pragasam has now spoken to that issue twice.

“Another incident involved a student wearing black face as part of a mock trial classroom exercise,” he wrote. “A picture of that ended up in the yearbook. The school bears responsibility for allowing it to happen. Today we can look back and ask how did we let that happen? But we did, and we need to take responsibility. We do.”

And while he apologized for the events that have come to light, he also asked if those with stories of racism contact him directly instead of through social media.

“There are potentially other incidents and experiences of racism and other discrimination that have taken place in our District. I want to hear from the community about them, preferably directly instead of through social media, which I find difficult to engage authentically in meaningful dialogue. I want to hear ideas about how we can be better,” he said.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Anti-racism rally in Chilliwack goes ahead, despite rumours of cancellation

Superintendent Statement on Racism and Discrimination – June 9, 2020 by Jess Peters on Scribd


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Chilliwack School Districtracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langford boy wakes up from surgery to find stuffed puppy wearing the same cast

Hospital staff outfitted ‘Eddy’ the puppy to match the young patient

VIDEO: Annual artist studio tour goes virtual on Saanich Peninsula

ArtSea converts popular event to online format with personalized artist videos

Local Flavour: Youth take the lead in Victoria’s Pollinator Leadership Team

Guest writer Thompson Hygge, summer intern with Pollinator Partnership Canada

Sewage installation to delay drivers along Sooke Road until early September

Construction starts Monday, August 10 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Flyover at B.C. Leg to commemorate National Peacekeepers’ Day

August 9 marks biggest single day loss of Canadian lives from peace operations

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Most Read