The Anti-Racist Coalition Vancouver started a petition calling on B.C.’s education officials to make Black Shirt Day official. The inaugural event in solidarity with Black and racialized Canadians takes place on Friday, Jan. 15. (Screenshot/

The Anti-Racist Coalition Vancouver started a petition calling on B.C.’s education officials to make Black Shirt Day official. The inaugural event in solidarity with Black and racialized Canadians takes place on Friday, Jan. 15. (Screenshot/


Surrey students, staff to take part in first-ever Black Shirt Day

Special day in ‘recognition of the struggle for civil rights fought by Black and racialized Canadians’

A few Surrey schools will be taking part in the inaugural Black Shirt Day tomorrow (Jan. 15).

The Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver started the petition two months ago to designate Jan. 15 Black Shirt Day. Since then, it has received more than 8,500 signatures, with a goal of 10,000.

RELATED: Petition calling for official anti-racism Black Shirt Day gaining traction in B.C., Jan. 12, 2021

Kamika Williams, the chairperson of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver, said the support so far for the petition and Black Shirt Day has been “amazing.” She added she’s aware of people participating as far away as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and even Germany.


Kamika Williams is the chairperson of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver.(Submitted photo: Kamika Williams)

“We always believed it would be a good idea, but we weren’t sure how it would be received and we’re very glad to see the response. It’s very positive.”

The petition on states in B.C. “thousands of students wear pink shirts in support of anti-bullying. Orange Shirt Day has also been introduced across Canadian schools, where students wear orange shirts in solidarity with Indigenous victims of the residential school system.”

The coalition is petitioning for Black Shirt Day to be introduced in B.C. in “recognition of the struggle for civil rights fought by Black and racialized Canadians.”

The deadline to hopefully be recognized with an official proclamation was Dec. 4, but Williams said the organization “just didn’t have the time. However, she said it “worked out better” this way.

“We wanted to have the support before we went to (Education Minister) Jennifer Whiteside,” said Williams, adding that being able to show how many people “want this” is helpful.

“So there’s really no point in her not approving it, as opposed to just going with some petition and saying, ‘Hey, we’re a bunch of individuals who think this is a good idea.’ We’ve proven it’s a good idea.”

Williams said the coalition is an organization that “believes in education.”

“We understand that to help people be anti-racist, there’s certain behaviours that they have to learn at a young age,” she noted.

“Just going back to Pink Shirt Day, and specifically Orange Shirt Day, what that has done to spread awareness on such a very sensitive topic. Having a t-shirt just opens the door to spread awareness and opens the door for parents and teachers to have this difficult conversation with children, just focused around a shirt.”

Black Shirt Day would fall on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and Williams said the coalition thought it would be a good way to start the conversation of anti-Black racism and continue that education into Black History Month in February.

She noted the hope for the future is a more “robust, mandatory curriculum, hopefully around Black History Month.”

At L.A. Matheson Secondary, teacher Annie Ohana said ”most, if not all teachers” will take part in Black Shirt Day on Friday, adding she hopes at least 600 to 700 students take part.

“I do think days like this give teachers – students – a chance to kind of have an easier way to have that dialogue where maybe we take a breather to focus on specifically that one issue,” she explained.

“Our students, our staff need to realize that we need to celebrate Blackness, we need to celebrate students and everybody having a safe and peaceful existence.”

Ohana said anti-Blackness is “something we should all discuss.”

“We need to realize that even though my school is majorly BIPOC, but even if you belong to a marginalized group or a visible minority, we all have prejudice and we all need to work on how we can make things better. It’s everybody’s job.”

For Michael Musherure, an English teacher at Earl Marriott Secondary, he only became aware of Black Shirt Day earlier this week, but he said he mentioned it to one of his classes and the students were “very excited about it.”


Michael Musherure, an English teacher at Earl Marriott Secondary. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

“These shirts, these special days, to me, it’s aiming at alerting the public that we are visible, we are there. Making the public aware that we are here,” he said.

In 2020, Musherure told the Now-Leader about the racism he’s faced, including at the Surrey school district.

RELATED: ‘If we are quiet, we aren’t changing the situation,’ Surrey teacher says of racism he’s faced, June 13, 2020

Musherure said it’s about “the symbol they stand for.”

“If it’s Pink Shirt Day, and you see boys and girls and everybody in the classroom wearing pink. It projects a big statement and it makes people in the LGBTQ (community) feel empowered.

“For me, as a Black person, if I know there is a Black Shirt Day, and I see the support of the people around me, it makes me feel empowered.”

The first Black Shirt Day comes in the wake of worldwide protests calling for racial equality throughout 2020, sparked by the death of a Black man, George Floyd, after being restrained by Minneapolis police.

– With files from Adam Louis

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An officer collects forensic evidence from a police SUV following the July 18, 2015 incident that ended in the police-shooting death of Hudson Brooks in South Surrey. (File photo)
Experts discuss toxicology, use-of-force at inquest into fatal 2015 police shooting in South Surrey

Proceedings could lead to recommendations for preventing similar deaths

Longtime Earl Marriott Secondary rugby coach Adam Roberts said he’s concerned that young athletes are losing motivation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cancelled high-school sports seasons since last spring. (Janice Croze photo)
COVID-19: Stress, lack of activity a consequence of pandemic

‘There’s nothing really driving’ students right now, says South Surrey rugby coach

Bob Jadis, along with a team of painters and an etch artist, are selling firefly lanterns with 100 per cent of the funds allocated to the Sources South Surrey White Rock Food Bank. (Contributed photo)
Lanterns flying off the shelves as White Rock fundraiser gains momentum

Decorated bottles are on sale for $50, with all of the money donated to the food bank

A proposed multi-family, multi-building development in east White Rock was the subject of a public hearing Monday evening. (City of White Rock image)
Pros and cons of White Rock housing development debated at virtual public hearing

Affordable housing need, traffic concerns among reasons cited for and against Beachway project

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
7 Surrey schools reporting possible COVID-19 exposures; no variants reported overnight

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

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

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Most Read