In the 1960s Blacks in North America were contesting their unequal social locations and demanding legislated institutional rights. In 2017 Black civil society activism continues with aims of full institutional inclusion and respect for the legal rights of all Black persons. (Daenzer and Burnett, 2018. Politics and the Education of African Canadians in Civil Society Engagement: Achieving Better in Canada. 2018. Routledge.But, change has been slow. In February 2016, the 57th Session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the following in observation #4 regarding African Canadians and Education: Right to Education: Recognizing the continuous lower educational and academic achievements by African Canadian children, the committee recommends that the state party develop interventions African Canadian Legal Clinic, 2016)
Canadian Alliance of Black Educators
Forty years ago two African-Canadian Ontario residents decided to challenge the educational marginalization of Black learners, and thus enhance the socio-economic locations of future Black generations. Their determination to take action was both ambitious and courageous especially since this vision materialized during the late socially-unsettling 1970s and was institutionalized in 1980. The Canadian Alliance of Black Educators (CABE), incorporated in 1980, was the brainchild of Oscar Brathwaite, retired educator, and the late David Melville, educator, both of the Greater Toronto area, Ontario (see organizational objectives below). The civic agenda spearheaded by Brathwaite and Melville would draw others into action and the organization CABE would enhance the future of unrecorded numbers of Blacks.
Especially important were educational remediation offered in the Saturday morning tutoring classes, advocacy with Boards of Education, and research which exposed systemically embedded issues which impeded the life chances of Black learners in Ontario.
But CABE would also attract attention from government entities and other civic organizations across regions. Race relations advocacy groups, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and the Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat would all consult with members of the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators and support the civic agenda of the organization. And although the organization has a national mandate, its work would mostly be centred in the Province of Ontario. However, CABE functioned in close collaboration with educational advocacy groups in Nova Scotia, Quebec and in the United States, regions with concentrations of Black populations. That early period of our organization best epitomizes cross-sectoral collaboration and community building which improved lives.
Decades later the model of civic intervention to alter lives through educational advocacy and remediation continues in areas of the province of Ontario with concentrations of African Canadian populations. Assorted groups in their geographic regions and school districts work to remedy concerns which have roots in educational deficiencies. Kudos to all those organizations working with this agenda.
Educational intervention to facilitate the social life chances of younger African Canadians is still acutely essential in the 21st Century. Labour market requirements have advanced since the early 1980s. Adequate education is linked to optimal location in paid employment in today’s evolved labour market. But, the 2016 Census of Canada shows that Blacks have the highest unemployment rates (next to Arabs) across Canada. This reflects little improvement since the 2006 Census which also showed only 2.2% of ‘visible minority’ males and 4.7% of ‘visible minority’ females earned university degrees.
Our work must continue and collaboration among us is essential. Those early days of Saturday morning tutorials and gentlepersons advocacy regarding inequities in educating Blacks are now history. Those persistent and compelling questions are still painfully relevant:
- Might there be a relationship between youth violence and high school dropout
- Do we fully understand the politics of lower educational achievement and poverty
- Should educational advocacy be more creatively asserted among parents
- Could there be a need for more strident reporting on educational achievements by race, neighbourhood and family income
- Could there be a need for Saturday morning neighbourhood tutorials with Black parents instead of young Black learners
- Might the most pressing agenda for Black educational advocates be to frame questions, seek answers and forge solutions collaboratively
If you share concerns regarding Black educational achievement then you are invited to dialogue with us. Our format has changed. The need for periodic around the table meetings and paid membership dues is now outmoded. We can connect through innovations in technology and need only meet when crises demand our collective face-to-face interchange. You will decide when that is required. But we invite you to join us in modelling collaboration through shared ideas for attenuating our still increasing crises.