Students at a Toronto elementary school received a painful lesson on the reality of racism after posters they created to voice their feelings about police violence and anti-Black racism were defaced twice in recent days, splattered over with paint.
The posters, made by a group of Grade 6 students at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School, featured the words, “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace” and images of raised fists, and were created as part of a larger discussion on race as students grapple to make sense of recent news stories, including the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer in May.
“This is children’s work. They wanted to respond to something that was happening around them in their world and in their community. Some are becoming aware of systemic racism, some have already known it their whole lives. They wanted to express themselves. But to have someone come and deface children’s work is incredibly upsetting,” said principal Richard Messina.
With students’ permission Messina says, the school proudly displayed their work on the grounds in front of the school.
The double-sided posters were put up on June 23, but this past Saturday, the school found they’d been vandalized with black spray paint and turned around.
On Sunday, Messina says, they were defaced again, this time with white paint splattered over them.
“I was naive to think that something like this wouldn’t happen,” he said. “Black families that are a part of our school were not surprised though.
“This is a reminder to all of us that Toronto is far from exempt from racism.”
The school says the incident won’t stop it from displaying students’ expressions on racism, saying it intends to reprint and redisplay the posters.