The principal of GW Graham says the student in blackface (left) wore it as part of a mock trial, and the picture found its way into the school’s 2017 yearbook. (Instagram photo)

Blackface photo in 2017 Chilliwack yearbook sparks apology from school principal

The controversial photo of a GW Graham secondary student surfaced on Instagram

The principal of GW Graham secondary school has issued an apology for a picture that found its way into the 2017 yearbook.

The photo surfaced on Instagram this week, showing a student in blackface.

Responding with a letter posted to the school’s Instagram account (@gwg_grizzlies), Chuck Lawson apologized for the “inappropriate and offensive picture” and said the student wore blackface to portray a role in a trial.

“It was unfortunate the actions were not stopped at the classroom level and discussed as a learning opportunity for those involved,” Lawson wrote. “Our youth are going to make mistakes, and it is the role of the adults to bring concerns forward in a respectful manner. It is important that we discuss our actions and understand the hurt that others may feel from our actions.”

Beyond the incident itself, Lawson said it was “unfortunate” that the picture made it into the yearbook.

READ MORE: George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

READ MORE: Murder charges upgraded in George Floyd case

“Our yearbook is a celebration that is a reflection of our school,” he wrote. “I apologize to the students who cherish our yearbooks and fondly look through them for bringing back special memories from high school.”

It was Makena Lejeune, who was a high school student in Chilliwack in 2017, who posted the photo on her Instagram feed and urged others to share it and tag @gwg_grizzlies.

She wrote that staff at the time brushed off the incident.

“The fact that teachers allowed this to happen is unacceptable,” she wrote. “The fact that there were no repercussions for the staff and students that allowed this to happen is unacceptable.”

With race relations top of mind the last few weeks with the death of George Floyd, Lejeune noted that GW Graham posted a black square on social media to show solidarity with black students.

“But that was performative,” she wrote. “You can’t tell me a school that allows blackface in their yearbook actually cares about black students and other minority students.”

In his letter, Lawson expressed gratitude to those who brought it to his attention and pledged that the school will do better.

“We will build on the strengths of GW Graham and ensure that we are an inclusive school that provides exciting opportunities in a caring environment,” he wrote.


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

chilliwack

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse native Elias joins Michigan-Dearborn Wolverines

Johnny Elias played for the Fernie Ghostriders this past season

EDITORIAL: Editor bids farewell

Editor Paige Mueller will be leaving The Free Press team at the end of July

Aislinn Dressler competes in 2020 Youth Innovation Showcase

Dressler was a finalist at the showcase, exhibiting her energy efficient fridge design

Stories decorate city pathways for new reading initiative

The Fernie Women’s Resource Centre began the initiative in support of the local early years community

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Interior Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19, 149 linked to Kelowna

Nine new cases were reported in the Interior Health region over the long weekend’s four reporting periods

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

Feds fund $2M for habitat conservation in the Kootenays

Kootenay Connect program to protect habitat for species at risk in four areas in the region

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

400 gardeners receive free seeds courtesy of Kootenay Food

A variety of seeds were delivered, which included carrots, beans, kale and peas

Interior Health expands COVID-19 testing access in Kelowna

First-come, first-serve, no-appointment-needed testing centre opens in downtown Kelowna

Most Read