Afro-Can Club Celebrates Black History Month

By: Grace Vela
Oakwood CI
Toronto, Ontario

The 2000 Black History Month Celebration at Oakwood High was one not to be missed. The celebration is to acknowledge the leadership and dedication of students of Afro-Canadian background across the board. This year's show included performances by Oakwood alumni, student produced songs, a piano selection, poetry recitals and an excellent keynote speaker. The theme was " to remember that we are young, black and gifted." After the show, it was impossible to forget that.

Amanda Henry, the club's president, was the MC for the evening, along with Jasmyn Gibbons, future pro-star. These two alone embody the night's theme. Amanda has been on the club executive since she was in grade 10 and as she graduates, her presence will be greatly missed by the club. However, Jasmyn Gibbons looks like she's ready to fill Amanda's shoes. Jasmyn was the leader of the African dancers who performed later on in the night. Their dress and dance symbolized what African pride is all about.


With pride in mind, it is only fitting to mention the Oakwood alumni who performed. Kamau and Danilo performed some rhymes that they wrote themselves. This wasn't their first time at the celebration. These guys are vets when it comes to Oakwood performances. When asked about the show, Kamau smiled and said " everyone is so much younger, so many new faces. I can't feel it as much as before, but there's definitely some talent here".

That talent Kamau was talking about was probably Neil Donaldson and Ca-sandra McCleggon. These two produced, wrote, mixed and performed several pieces throughout the night. Neil was a winner of the Lorraine Hansberry Poetry contest earlier in the month. His recital light up the room and everyone chipped in a couple of ‘Amen's, here and there. At the end, the up and coming rapper, received a thunderous round of applause. What's his secret? According to his mother, co-chair of the parent council, "Neil spends all his free time reading the dictionary".
Ca-sandra is no stranger to the stage. This grade 11 student has performed at the Air Canada center, and can be found singing the national anthem everywhere. In a song that Neil and Ca-sandra performed together, they had a very soulful chorus. That chorus was sung by Patricia
Campbell and Marlene Witter, who, to say the least, can make anyone cry. During the course of the night, we were treated to cameo appearances of these three.

Stacy-Ann Buchanan was also a winner in the poetry contest. Her recital, coupled with a play by several students, showed the strong West-Indian roots at Oakwood. In both the recital and play, Patwa was the language used here. It was so thick that before the play, Amanda decided to give us a couple of vocabulary words to help the audience understand. There was no need for that, the body language and everyone else in the crowd going nuts, was enough translation to let us know
when to laugh and when to 'ooooh'. Lamine Martindale threw a spin into the show. This
talented grade 12 student performed a selection on piano. It was quite "comical" as one parent would say, to hear the crowd react to his piece. She said that not many people in the
crowd have been to piano recitals. I beg to differ. Who needs to go to a recital when you've got Lamine down the hall. He's probably got the quickest moving fingers in the whole school.
Personally, having know him for years, and remember how in grade 8 during Black History Month, he would be in the main foyer before school playing, for whoever was around, is just as
good as hearing a recital.

Backstage, the joke was "why not just call it the Ca-sandra show". That would have been fitting. Ca-sandra, in total, was responsible for about 5 acts. At the end of the night, she was rewarded with a little treat by the club. There is a group of Oakwood students that seem to be coming out into the light. These students will be around for a couple more years. Because of that, this new millennium looks to be a very promising one for the club, and Oakwood.


This article originally appeared in The Voice, an online
student publication at Oakwood High in Toronto, Ontario.