Daniel Afolabi remembers one soccer game in particular at age nine in Okotoks, Alta., when a player on the opposing team refused to shake his hand.
“He goes, ‘I don’t want to shake your hand because you’re Black,’” Afolabi recalls.
He was around the same age when a woman showed up in his class wearing black face to portray American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who freed slaves in the 1800s via the Underground Railroad to Canada.
Afolabi, who is 20 and entering his third year at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder school of business, said the outpouring of emotion after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis is an opportunity for Canadian schools to address racism against Black people.
He launched an online petition Wednesday to present to Alberta Education in hopes of getting more Black history taught in schools. It would be based on the teaching of Indigenous history and cover the historical, social, economic and political impact of racism.
“I’m not saying learning about racism in high school or elementary school will solve racism but at least people can be held a bit more accountable,” he said.
When he was in high school, one of the few Black-themed assignments Afolabi remembers was the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, a book he enjoyed reading on his own but not hearing it read aloud by the teacher.
Alberta Education spokesman Colin Aitchison said the province’s current curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 12 addresses race and racism by teaching students to value and respect diversity and support equality.
“Throughout the social studies curriculum, there is a strong focus on Canadian history, including issues related to the histories, cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples and people of African and Caribbean descent to our province and country,” he said in a statement.
“The recent events unfolding across North America are a clear example as to why it is important to educate our youth about racism.”
Aitchison did not immediately respond to questions about possibly changing the curriculum.
Jean Ngendakumana, a Grade 11 student in Vancouver who moved from Tanzania when he was four, said any Black history he has been taught at school was skimmed over.