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

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

BC CDC graphic showing weekly numbers of new cases by local health area.
Local health area records 11 new COVID-19 cases from Feb. 21 to 27

The Northwest has become the COVID hotspot in the province

The Smithers recycling depot was destroyed by fire May 9, 2019. (Thom Barker photo)
Curbside recycling pickup returns to Smithers

The Town will start collecting single stream, loose and clean residential recyclables April 12

Adam's Igloo sustained serious damage when the roof collapsed. (Facebook photo)
Roof collapses on Smithers landmark

Cleanup efforts underway at Adams Igloo and Wildlife Museum

Instructor and master artist Dempsey Bob (right) speaks to the crowd at the Terrace Art Gallery about the importance of cultural art on Feb. 7, 2020. Bob is a recipient of a 2021 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts Artistic Achievement Award. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Northwest artist Dempsey Bob wins national art award

Renowned Tahltan-Tlingit master carver one of eight people to receive Governor General’s Arts Award

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Most Read