(Illustration: Taylor Callery)
The tall black man was angry. “I want to propose 10 seconds of silence in memory of Brother Dudley Laws,” he said into the microphone, his voice booming through the auditorium at Oakwood Collegiate. It was question period at a raucous, emotionally raw public meeting in March, called after news leaked that the Toronto District School Board had recommended embedding the city’s first Africentric high school inside Oakwood. Parents, students, teachers, alumni and neighbours had filled every creaky, green-leatherette flip-up seat.
Laws, the civil rights activist, had died the week before. The man hoping to commemorate him applauded his own suggestion, smacking hands the size of baseball mitts together, before returning to his seat. I half hoped that Karen Falconer, the school board superintendent who was chairing the meeting, would rule him out of order. But Falconer immediately rose to her feet and announced a moment of silence.
It was like a scene from the American pre–civil rights era of the 1950s and ’60s, except that this time the tables were turned: angry blacks demanding segregation before a shell-shocked mixed-race community, while uniformed cops kept wary watch.
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