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

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Local New Democrat Zeb King welcomed Premier John Horgan during a brief photo opportunity in Sidney Monday afternoon (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
NDP leader John Horgan predicts party will ‘flip’ Saanich North and the Islands

Incumbent MLA Adam Olsen calls Horgan’s claim ‘bold’

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

London Drugs at Colwood Corners is temporarily closed after a water main burst on Sunday afternoon. (Google Maps)
Water main burst temporarily closes London Drugs in Colwood

Staff say re-opening date yet to be determined after Sunday incident

West Shore RCMP say a single car crash into a power pole caused a power outage that affected over 1,500 residents in Colwood on Monday morning. (West Shore RCMP)
Vancouver driver cause of power outage in Colwood

Police detain 27-year-old man for impaired driving investigation

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read