“Diverse Voices Unite” honours and celebrates the lives of Black Canadians

Barrie high school teacher says some topics of past history might be difficult to discuss

Manon Heran said her latest project is about people coming together and having courageous conversations.

The teacher at St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School in Barrie has organized initiatives for Black History Month at the school for 14 years.

Heran’s new project, called “Diverse Voices Unite,” honours and celebrates the lives of Black Canadians.

She said there will be details of the past history that might be difficult to discuss.

“People will have to admit to either knowing or not knowing about certain things in the past, or being able to understand the history in the past and being able to identify individual bias in the present,” Heran explained.

“We all come into a situation with our values, opinions and experiences. We’re so greatly affected by the bias that is in Hollywood and the media around us.”

Heran hopes the difficult conversations will spark even more conversations.

“Where do we go from here? How do we take the past and what we’re doing in the present to make a bright future, so that everybody feels that their voice is heard and not silent, or devalued.”

The event brings together prominent guest speakers, local dignitaries, performing artists, community partners, and social justice committee students from St. Peter’s, in pre-recorded video clips.

The timing of this event is important, according to Heran.

“It’s important to do because I believe, personally, that our world is finally at a level of readiness to absorb and start these conversations. I think it was a little bit more difficult in the past.”

She said people are starting to notice there are things in our world that needed to be addressed, such as systemic racism.

“I don’t believe that people are innately racist, but I believe our organizations and our systems are set up to be racist.”

Heran acknowledges it goes both ways.

“But right now there’s a really strong movement in empowering those of African descent, because historically, they have not been given the same privilege or opportunities.”

There is another reason Heran wanted to do this project.

“It’s important to do this event because Simcoe County has an amazing and rick black history. Canada was built off immigrants and descendants. It’s really important for us to acknowledge our own history.”

The program will also air on Rogers TV on February 24 at 6 p.m. followed by a live Q/A with guest speakers.