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February is African Heritage Month at the TDSB

Friday, January 31, 2020
Categories: News Releases

UBUNTU Poster - African Heritage Month 2020

The Toronto District School Board is the largest, and one of the most diverse school boards in Canada. Nearly one-quarter of our students were born outside of Canada and collectively, we speak more than 120 languages.   Understanding all cultures is essential to the success of our young students today as they transform to our future leaders of tomorrow.

During the month of February, the Toronto District School Board is proud to recognize and celebrate African Heritage Month. It is an occasion to recognize and celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Peoples of African Descent to Canada and the world.    The chosen theme for 2019-2020 is "UBUNTU: I am because we are” which is derived from the Nguni Bantu term in Southern Africa.   UBUNTU is a South African term used by the Zulu community that represents an ethic of African traditional life.  The philosophy of UBUNTU realizes that everything is interconnected; “everything that I do has an effect on you and your well-being and everything that you do has an effect on me and my well-being.”  

A poster to reflect the theme, "UBUNTU: I am because we are” was created by students from Downsview Secondary School under the leadership of their teacher, Matthew Chapman.  It was shared with all schools across the Toronto District School Board.  It was designed with the following five principles presented in this painting:

  • Umoja (unity) the tattoo. 
  • Kujichagulia (self-determination) the word was used to create the textile for one of the shirts.
  • Nia (purpose) the logo on the shoe.
  • Kuumba (creativity) the logo on the shirt.
  • Imani (faith) the brand tag on the hijab 

These principles are further explored in more subtle ways:

  • The interconnected hands of the figures: Unity
  • The cheetah, which adds an element of surprise and wonder, but fully represents the traditional symbol for keenness of sight and vision for the future. In ancient Egypt cheetahs were also kept by royalty for these reasons. (Self-determination and purpose)
  • The eagle is an African symbol for Victory, as well and vision and leadership (Purpose and unity).
  • Nia (purpose) as it appears on the shoe, to show direction and purpose in where we are heading. 
  • Imani (faith) on a garment that represents a connection to faith, and a confidence in identity.
  • The inclusion of animals adds a sense of connectedness, not only to each other, but to the earth, and to all creation as a whole.

The African Heritage Month Planning Committee members are excited to share that an African Heritage Month celebration will be organized for all TDSB staff, students, and community members in the future.  Details will be shared once finalized.   Also being planned is the Know Your Worth Conference:  Black Student Empowerment Conference in collaboration with Black Law Students Association of Osgood Hall Law School (York University) for secondary students. 


The Toronto District School Board has designated a number of Heritage Months. The original decision of The Board of Trustees (2004) named February as African Heritage (Black History) Month. The terms African Heritage Month and Black History Month have been used synonymously in recent years.

The term African Heritage Month was more commonly adopted beginning in 2008 when there was a discussion about Black History Month and the need to represent the historical and current lived experiences of people’s throughout African diaspora. This discussion took place at the time of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the British Empire and concurrently with the introduction of the Africentric Alternative School in TDSB. These conversations contributed to a more systemic focus on African or Africentric focus.

The use of the term “Heritage Month” is based on the TDSB’s framework for recognizing Heritage Months. The Heritage Month Procedure is currently under review.