Kanata high school students celebrate what would have been George Floyd’s 48th birthday
Students All Saints Catholic High School in Ottawa release 48 biodegradable balloons into the air for George Floyd’s 48th birthday. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)
OTTAWA -- There was a symbolic birthday party in Ottawa in honour of George Floyd, the Black man murdered by a Minneapolis police officer last year.
Floyd would have turned 48 on Thursday, and students at a Kanata high school wanted to remember him with a celebration.
Dozens of students that are part of the Black Students' Association (BSA) at All Saints Catholic High School thought this was the perfect way to honour Floyd's life.
Student Kenia Pike, so moved by the murder of George Floyd, she wanted to be part of this event.
"I usually was the only Black kid in my school," says Pike. "As teenagers, we’re not just becoming conscious of the world around us, becoming aware of what’s happening around us. And George Floyd’s death happened when our eyes were really opened to the world."
"Floyd’s death, untimely death, was actually a catalyst to challenge the world to open their eyes and to realize what has always been there. And not only to realize and to recognize it, but to respond," said Rev. Dr. Antony Bailey of the Parkdale United Church.
Anne Marie Vannesta has been a teacher here for 20 years, and has been instrumental in creating the association that represents Black students.
"You know, we can celebrate because we don’t want George Floyd’s life to be in vain," says Vannesta. "The Black Students' Association wanted to do something, for our first event, light. Something to celebrate in a positive way and we couldn’t think of a better way than to celebrate George Floyd’s birthday."
The BSA has close to 200 members, and everyone is welcome to join. Vanessta says 90 of those students are white, including Grade 11 student Madia O’Neill
"As a white person, I feel like it’s equally as important for me to learn about everything they’re trying to spread so I can spread it onto my friends and family. And pass down super important information," says O’Neill.
"Black students representation is really important," says Oluchi Isiuwe, a Grade 12 student. "And everyone needs to know that they have a voice and a connection and a way they can get their voices heard."
To honour Floyd's 48th birthday, the students released 48 biodegradable red balloons into the air in dramatic fashion in front of the school.
“When you talk about Black issues and Black lives, it doesn’t have to be heavy and it doesn’t have to be depressing," says Pike. "There’s a lot of black joy that we can spread around the world."
This, the first of many events that the All Saints Catholic High School BSA has planned. And this won't be the last time they celebrate the life of George Floyd either.
“I think it’s something that I’d like to do every year if possible,” says Vanessta. "Yah, absolutely."