Student art highlights the power of education to combat racism

Grade 11 students Rainat Salako and Omobola Agboola unveiled a new art piece that will become a permanent fixture within Chippewa Secondary School. The mural commemorates Black history while recognizing the role education has in eradicating racism.

“We made this mural because we wanted to encourage the diversity that has grown at our school,” Salako explained, adding the two wanted to “leave behind a legacy that would stay at our school for a long time.”

Agboola hopes the piece will “encourage people to be themselves,” and “encourage them to feel that they can do great things.” She undertook the work “because I believed that our school needed some more representation from the Black community” not only during Black History Month but throughout the year.

Salako concurred, explaining her motivation was “to bring cultural awareness to the school. As a student of colour, I felt as if I was not being represented in the art around me. I wanted to change that and help others feel welcomed and acknowledged at our school.”

“I believe this project will help accomplish that,” she added.

The work was part of their International Baccalaureate program, as their Creativity, Activity Service (CAS) project. Ashley Oszytko, an art teacher, helped Salako and Agboola get the project off the ground, as did Stephanie Silverthorn, the CAS coordinator.

“This mural will be a reminder that all Chippewa students are beautiful, strong, and important,” Oszytko said, noting the importance of representation within the school. “We embrace different cultures, races, genders and beliefs here at Chippewa, and the raised clenched fist will now be a permanent reminder that anti-racism begins here in the hallways of our schools.”

See: School board’s annual report emphasizes inclusive culture

“We had lots of help from teachers, staff and students,” Agboola said, adding that once the design concept was complete, they had “six or seven” students help them create it. The image of the fist was created with various shades representing different skin tones, and “the different shades show the diversity, not just in our school but throughout our community and the world.”

“When I look back at things that have happened,” in the quest for civil rights and equality, “I feel in my heart so much,” Agboola said. “It just feels like a weight on my heart. Sometimes I’ll be feeling sad, and I think about the people who couldn’t even speak for themselves and stand up for themselves, and it gives me more motivation to do more.”

“I’m very happy about how far we’ve come,” she added, “but I’ll be happier once we get to a point where nobody has to feel that being different is an issue.”

“We have come a long way, but there is still a very long way to go.”

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Anita Shire

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