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January 15 marked the first unofficial Black Shirt Day in BC, and government officials marked the day with some important commitments.

Black Shirt Day—which coincides with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday—is a day to don a black shirt and stand in solidarity with Black Canadians against racism.

The day has been heavily advocated for by Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) Vancouver, an organization committed to combatting systemic racism.

While ARC Vancouver did not manage to have Black Shirt Day officially recognized in 2021, they are working to make that a reality for 2022. However, the day did pick up some serious traction, garnering participation from schools both in and out of the province.

In a joint statement on January 15, Rachna Singh, parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, and Jennifer Whiteside, minister of education, acknowledged the day:

“We stand alongside every person who has faced—and continues to face—racism today and every day. Black Shirt Day is a grassroots initiative to show solidarity with Black and racialized communities in BC in their ongoing struggle for equity, equality, and justice.”

Singh and Whiteside also acknowledged the importance of education in the fight to end racism, saying:

“BC’s curriculum supports the teaching of Black history topics, such as the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Underground Railroad. But, we understand there is more work to be done to ensure an anti-racism lens is core in BC’s curriculum.”

To improve the BC curriculum’s anti-racism lens, the BC government has enlisted the BC Black History Awareness Society’s help to identify resources for teachers and students.

The pair also announced that the BC Government is launching an anti-racism awareness campaign. Singh and Whiteside added that “a recent $1.9 million investment to make BC safer and more inclusive for everyone,” is what is driving the campaign. However, some of the funding will be used on other initiatives dealing with racism.

Singh and Whiteside also announced an expansion of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network—whose focus is identifying and challenging racism—and the introduction of “BC’s first anti-racism act and disaggregated race-based data collection.”

Information regarding Black Shirt Day and other ARC Vancouver initiatives can be found on their Instagram (@arc.vancouver).

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