On Nov. 29, 2021 the Waterloo Cathloic District school board had called the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) on a four-year-old Black student in crisis. This sparked Black parents and caregivers from all over the region to band together and unify their voices to call out the blatant racism within the school boards. 

The council’s main tenants are advocacy, education and community care. Since 2021 the organization has been run by Black parents for Black parents, with the goal of ensuring equitable treatment of ACBi students. Since hosting their first meeting in March of last year, there are now 30 active members of the council and 50 families who have signed up in support.  

The collective outrage and call for action formed the Black Parent Council of Kitchener-Waterloo Region (The Black Parent Council KW).  

The council is a safe space for parents to come together for African, Caribbean and Black Identifying (ACBi) students. It was founded for Black children in the KW region as well as collectively BIPOC, racialized, queer, trans and disabled students with the region’s school boards. 

“Within the school board, so we said that’s enough. We’re not going to wait for the next generation to deal with white supremacy within the Waterloo Region of justice to be addressed and needs to be addressed now. That then also the incident with a four-year-old Black boy, who the police was called on was, it was a very triggering moment for many parents across the region,” 

Selamm Debs, an Ethiopian, queer mom of one and co-founder of the Black Parent Council said. Debs also works as a local anti-racism educator. 

“Black joy is an act of resistance. We are going to hold white supremacist trustees accountable. But we’re also going to offer space for us to experience joy together and to move community together,” Lena Thibeh, co-founder of the Black Parent Council said. Thibeh is a queer, Afro-Palestinian single mother with a second-grade child who attends French immersion school.  

Both school boards have spoken out on the matter of racism in their boards. When CBC news approached Loretta Notten, director of education for the Catholic school board, she denied any issues of systemic racism within the school system. 

On Mar. 3, 2022 the Waterloo Public school board launched a series of listening forums that allowed parents and caregivers of marginalized students to have their concerns heard by the school administration.  

The resolution rate of many of these incidents is extremely low because such crime is usually faceless. In the spring of 2020, a Waterloo-based family endured damage to their property as someone defaced their front door with red paint. The assailant left behind a letter that included racist insults and a death threat. The Laurelwood community rallied to raise awareness of the issue online and helped the family make necessary repairs.  

“What we’re trying to do is really hold schools accountable, and the school board of trustees accountable. And that’s one reason why we created our demands, to talk about the importance of racial violence in the Waterloo District School Board and the Catholic Waterloo Catholic school board. [And] to discuss the importance of real investigations done to support our children because Black children have historically been denied justice,” Debs said. 

In 2021 the founders started meeting regularly at the start of the school year with other parents to share their concerns. Debs and Thibeh had sent emails back and forth, sharing their feelings about the events of last year. In these emails they found that their feelings and stories shared so many aspects of hurt. 

“It came out of a need because of our own experiences. And from there, we developed the parent council to fulfill the need that wasn’t available because of how harmful parent councils are, across all school boards, Catholic and public-school boards for Black and equity deserving parents [and students],” Shilan Woldemariam, mother of two and co-founder of the Black Parent Council said. 

The parents and caregivers of the Black Parent council argued that there should be more done to address the anti-Black racism that affects students daily. In 2020 the Waterloo region experienced a rash of racist and hateful graffiti found in local schools. Despite having fewer police-reported hate crimes in the KW Region, hate towards racialized students is rampant.  

For more information about the Black Parent Council, visit their Twitter page @blackparentckw