David Watkins: Wins award for teaching African-Canadian history

Historians in the News

A Toronto high school teacher who won a Governor-General’s award for excellence in teaching this week marked it by doing more of the same — challenging his Grade 11 students to change the stereotypes of black culture in Canada.

“If you’re one of these cats that’s just talking smack, saying, ‘I do this’ and ‘I do that,’ for the sake of a buck, you’re part of the problem,” David Watkins told his class at Weston Collegiate Institute during a lecture about rap/hip hop music on Monday.

Mr. Watkins won for excellence in teaching African-Canadian history, due largely to his innovative teaching methods, which include having students create black comic book superheroes and using videos in his lectures. He aims to inspire to his mostly-black group of students to be successful and change negative perceptions of their community.

“What have you seen — video games or movies, Get Rich or Die Tryin?” he asked his students.

“All these things are inherent in the black community. So when you’re making decisions, you draw from that frame of reference,” he explained after switching off a video of a panel discussion on hip hop and gang culture.

Mr. Watkins also discussed the issue of vocabulary, in the context of the U.S. radio host Don Imus, who called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-haired hos” in April. Mr. Watkins asked the students if they refer to themselves in that way.
Said student Jaron Francois: “When we say those things about ourselves, they get a right to say it. It doesn’t give them a right, but they think, ‘they’re saying it, so why can’t we?’ ”
Read entire article at National Post (Toronto)

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