‘Shame on you’: Advocates angry new education centre won’t be named after Mississauga community leader
Published May 25, 2023 at 1:01 pm
The anger reached a boiling point during a Peel District School Board (PDSB) Wednesday board meeting, when racial equality advocates protested against the decision not to name a new education centre after a Mississauga community leader.
The facility in question, a Centre for African, Afro-Caribbean, and Black Student Success, is something the board committed to creating in 2021 in order to address anti-black racism within the school board.
Earlier discussions proposed to name the centre after Kola Iluyomade, a Mississauga activist and community leader who passed away in 2021.
However, earlier this month, staff recommended not naming the centre after Iluyomade in accordance with a new PDSB policy that prohibits buildings from being named after an individual.
The new proposed name, The Centre of Black Excellence, drew ire from a group of advocates who were under the assumption that the centre would still be named after Iluyomade despite the new policy.
Shouts of “Shame on you” and “Traitor” rang out from angry advocates who attended Wednesday’s board meeting, causing the meeting to go into recess and eventually move to a closed room.
The protests started at roughly 21 minutes and 30 seconds into the meeting:
In the aftermath of the meeting, advocates for racial equality have criticized the board for its decision, saying the board blocked the community from the public meeting and made its decision while disregarding the opinions of community members.
Criticism was also levelled at the policy of prohibiting buildings from being named after an individual, saying the names of numerous existing PDSB schools would then need to be changed as well.
The shame of PDSB once again rears its ugly head. @Sflecce you let the Trustees return before they were ready to govern. @equitychatter The community will not be silenced by David Green. @DrGreen590 https://t.co/GeMwZuvLh4
— #BlackLivesMatter-Peel (@AdvocacyPeel) May 25, 2023
Having a policy that strictly prohibits naming schools after identifiable individuals would mean @PeelSchools needs to remove at least 51 names including:
Janet McDougald Public School
Judith Nyman Secondary School
Beryl Ford Public School
Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
— Nokha Dakroub🍁 (@NokhaDakroub) May 25, 2023
“Did a single Peel District School Board trustee that voted yes to pass this policy ask about the implications of the policy and how much that’s going to cost taxpayers?” wrote former school board trustee Nokha Dakroub. “This is nothing short of incompetence.”
In a statement to Insauga, the PDSB reiterated that the centre’s new name was chosen with consideration to the Naming and Renaming of Schools, Special Function Areas, and Facilities policy.
Section 5.9 of this policy states that proposed schools, special function areas, and facilities names will not include “names of identifiable individuals.”
“While the landscape of the Peel District School Board has altered significantly over the past year while we came out of supervision, our commitment to centering student and community voice remains steadfast,” said Malon Edwards, manager of communications with the PDSB.
“We value the time and effort community members have and continue to contribute to our path forward for The Centre of Black Excellence.”
Kola Iluyomade, who the centre was originally going to be named after, was an activist and community leader in Mississauga who lobbied for the disruption and dismantling of anti-Black racism within the PDSB.
He has been described as a leading voice in the PDSB community and was a parent representative on the We Rise Together Community Advisory Committee and the founder of Advocacy Peel, a group calling attention to instances of racism in Peel Region and Ontario.
He passed away in June 2021 at the age of 56.
Iluyomade was one of many advocates who called out racism in the PDSB over the past few years. In 2020, the board issued a formal apology to students and their families following the release of a report that shone light on racism that was happening in schools and at the board level.
While the report suggests discriminatory practices existed in Peel schools for some time, calls for action on anti-Black racism reached a fever pitch when a trustee referred to McCrimmon Middle School in Brampton as “McCriminal” in late 2019.
“Over the past several months, during our execution of duties and stated roles as trustees of the Peel District School Board, debates, discussions and conversations have taken place, and decisions made which have caused hurt and harm fo members of the Black community, both those who live in Peel and others who live outside of Peel,” the apology reads.
“This includes the mishandling of circumstances around the disparaging comment made by a trustee about McCrimmon Middle School. We heard from students, staff, families and the community at large about how harmful this comment was, and the negative impact it had.”
In 2022, the school board says it approved its “most comprehensive” anti-racism plan yet, which included using metrics to gauge and dismantle practices and behaviours that led to alleged racialized education disparities.
The board said the policy would include collecting data on issues such as bullying and suspensions, advancing a “culturally responsive curriculum,” training for educators and promoting “racially responsive leadership.”
With files from Ashley Newport and The Canadian Pressinsauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising