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

SkyTrain running through Whalley. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Mayors’ Council wants feds to fund Surrey-Langley SkyTrain in upcoming budget

Mayors’ Council on regional transportation sent letter to federal government Monday

Premier John Horgan with drawings of replacement bridge for the Pattullo during a February 2018 presser. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey city staff want to act on council’s behalf for ‘minor’ changes to new Pattullo

The old bridge’s replacement is expected to be open for traffic in the fall of 2023

Seed & Stone hopes to open a cannabis retail store in the old Giraffe Restaurant building on White Rock’s waterfront. (Seed & Stone rendering).
Council to decide on cannabis store proposed for White Rock beach

Councillors heard support and opposition at public hearing last week

South Surrey’s Historic Stewart Farm. (City of Surrey photo)
City receives $400K grant to build Indigenous Carving Centre in South Surrey

Construction of showcase venue to be completed mid-2022

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

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

Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Most Read