After the rally: Kelowna BLM organizers working to launch diversity curriculum

Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira said the work around diversity continues

By TWILA AMATO

The work from last summer’s wave of Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallies continues and two Kelowna students want residents to keep it going.

Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira co-organized the BLM rally in downtown Kelowna last summer, but the duo say there is more work to be done.

Right after the Kelowna rally, Harrison and Pereira were approached by members of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS), asked to come on board as research assistants.

Now, Harrison and Pereira are helping CAERS put together a toolkit and a separate curriculum to help students, teachers and school districts pinpoint race-related incidents and how to deal with them.

“The goal is to help teachers have the tools to deal with race-related issues better than how they’re doing it now,” Pereira said.

Harrison said in order for people to understand diversity, it must be taught while children are little, which is why they want to work on educational materials geared toward a younger audience.

The toolkit will include information and training materials on how to talk openly to students about diversity and teaching sensitivity and empathy.

“It includes information on how to talk to students about not discriminating against others based on how they look, talk or how they act. For teachers, there will also be more information on how they can deal with race-related incidents,” Pereira said.

But, in order to put together effective training and tools, CAERS needs to find out what tools teachers, educators and businesses have now and what they need to improve them.

Harrison said that part is proving difficult. “There’s very little information shared and right now, it seems that the same protocols for bullying are applied to race-related issues.

“When we personally spoke to people who have dealt with race incidents, it doesn’t seem like there’s much being done about it.”

She added since diversity can be a daunting subject to tackle, schools and organizations may not be as forthcoming with sharing their current strategies, suspicious of being called out and accused of not doing enough, but Harrison says that’s not the case.

“We’re just trying to fix a very serious issue from the inside out,” she said.

Harrison and Pereira said it’s hard work but they have a positive outlook on it. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we just need everyone’s support and we need allies to keep calling their neighbours out or their friends out for being racist or saying racist things,” Pereira said.

“Supporting non-profits like CAERS and people who are working to change the system goes a long way. We also need to support people directly affected by the system, BIPOC, women of colour, trans people of colour,” Harrison added.

Central Okanagan Public Schools communications advisor Justin Schneider said the pair may have gotten in touch with someone at the school district, but he wasn’t able to comment on any communication that may have taken place.