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March 9, 2018
Say Her Name
Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson and Malissa Williams — just some of the names read out at our student-run Black History assembly. With each name, members of Branksome’s Afri-View Club lit a candle to remember and raise awareness for black female victims of violence and police brutality.

“We must say her name to ensure that these women are not a statistic—they had real lives and real impact,” said Sophia Williams, co-head of the Afri-View Club, before holding a moment of silence. “You must say their names to ensure the legacy of these women is integrated into the fight for justice and equality.”

Members of the club spoke about black culture, colorism, the intersection between racism and sexism and the history of hip-hop—aiming to make connections and further the discussion on race in our community.

“It took a lot from everyone involved to be so vulnerable in front of the entire school,” commented Sophia. “The conversations that the assembly ignited have really brought our community closer together.”

A very impactful speech was given by Rayne Sutherland, who shared her experience of what it’s like to be a black female at the independent schools she has attended. “Coming up to speak in front of you today isn’t as easy as you might imagine,” started the Grade 11 student. “Mainly because I know you’re all watching me, and that’s what it feels like some of the time in class, in the halls and at lunch. Because of the colour of my skin I’m clearly different. But the other part of it is feeling invisible and that I don’t fit in at all.”

Rayne came to Branksome in Grade 9 and immediately felt at home. “I was finally able to get comfortable in what was a new and scary environment. I joined clubs, explored my interests and found a great group of gals that I love very much.”

“I am proud to go to a school that strives to represent all types of diversity — that strives to understand everyone’s individual identities. I love my school, I love my friends and I love my uniqueness,” said Rayne. Since the assembly, the Afri-View Club has received an overwhelmingly positive response. “People have been asking questions and having conversations about race, representation and identity, which is exactly what we aimed to have happen as a result of our words,” said Massoma Kisob, co-head of the Afri-View Club.

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