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Award-winning author Lawrence Hill visits Harbord CI during African Heritage Month

Award-winning author Lawrence Hill visits Harbord CI during African Heritage Month

REEL Canada screens CBC’s The Book of Negroes

Friday, February 19, 2016
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

On February 9, Harbord CI welcomed a very special guest to the school for an important and poignant presentation during African Heritage Month. Award-winning author Lawrence Hill visited the school to talk about his seminal work The Book of Negroes, winner of the 2007 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It was the winning book for CBC Radio's Canada Reads in 2009 and later turned into a miniseries by CBC TV, part of which screened at Harbord as part of the event.

Hill spoke to more than 500 grade 11 and 12 students attending their very own half-day Canadian film festival, through REEL CANADA’s Our Films In Our Schools program. Students watched the first two episodes of the six-part television miniseries, and then had an opportunity to engage in discussion with author of the novel and co-writer of the miniseries. 

The Book of Negroes tells the story of Aminata Diallo, an 11 year-old girl who is kidnapped from her village in Africa and brought to America aboard a slave ship, surviving horrifying conditions and treatment along the way and while in North America. She eventually arrived in Canada after serving the British in the Revolutionary War, then made her way back to Africa in Sierra Leone, and finally, went to England where she shared her journey in an effort to bring an end to the slave trade once and for all.

Hill said that it was important to come to the school to speak to students “about art, about Black history, about cultural engagement, and about television.”

The event was organized through a collaborative effort between the Assistant Curriculum Leaders (ACL) of English, the Library Learning Commons, and School-Wide Initiatives at Harbord. David Ast, one of the ACLs who organized the event said “it provided a powerful learning opportunity for students to reflect on important aspects of Canadian history, as well as the legacies of racism that exist within contemporary society.”

Fellow ALC Gina Thurston agreed and added “Today’s Library Learning Commons is a place where young readers are inspired, new perspectives are offered, local, national and global issues are explored, researched and debated, and where controversial and sensitive issues are examined as a core part of our curriculum. The screening, the Q&A and the reception facilitated all of this and more.”

After a post-screening Q and A, Hill also attended a meet and greet in the school library with students from Harbord’s Whole of Africa and the Caribbean Club (WACC). Students were appreciative about hearing from the celebrated author on such an important topic. 

“For Black History Month, having these events really helps with our education, and our culture, and our histories,” said grade 12 student Juhaina Moustapha.

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