Christine Coughlin and her three children standing on the porch wearing black shirts for black shirt day in 2021

What is Black Shirt Day vs. Black Excellence Day?

by

Christine Coughlin

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Curious Living

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If you’re like me, you may be confused why the schools are suddenly celebrating Black Excellence Day and wondering why the name changed from Black Shirt Day.

After digging, I discovered Black Shirt Day and Black Excellence Day are two different movements with the same anti-racism goal.

Learn the origin story of Black Shirt Day and Black Excellence Day below.

You’ll also find links to purchase black shirts to support both movements below.

What is Black Shirt Day?

Black Shirt Day began in 2021 and was started by the Anti-Racism Coalition in Vancouver, Canada. The organizers started Black Shirt Day after speaking to their children and realizing the only thing they were learning at school during Black History Month was slavery.

Black Shirt Day commemorated the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and was both a day of education and remembrance. It was an invitation to a necessary conversation about racial injustice.

Canadians were asked to wear black shirts and use #blackshirtday to commemorate the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights fought by Black and racialized Canadians.

What is Black Excellence Day?

Black Excellence Day was founded in 2022 by Kamika Williams, president of the Ninandotoo Society. Williams was involved with Black Shirt Day’s initial year. However, after consulting with several community members, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish AffairsVancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and BC Human Rights Commission, it was brought to her attention that the words “black shirt” and seeing people march wearing black shirts could have brought up traumatic experiences for some Holocaust survivors.

“Being anti-racist is about inclusion for all, and Black Excellence Day was born. Despite moving away from “Black Shirt Day,” the meaning of Black Excellence Day remains the same: acknowledging the ongoing civil rights struggle of Black and racialized Canadians and fighting for a mandatory curriculum on Black history.”

The province of British Columbia officially proclaimed Black Excellence Day on January 14, 2022 and then again in 2023 on January 13th.

Black Shirt Day and Black Excellence Goals

  • Raise awareness around struggles that #BIPOC faces here and worldwide.
  • Speaking up and out against racism where ever it shows itself.
  • Being actively anti-racist.
  • Preparing for Black History Month.
  • Fighting for our future generations.
Martin Luther King Jr.

How Is Black Excellence Day Currently Serving the Community?

Black Excellence Day 2023

The second Black Excellence Day event will occur on January 13, 2023. The Ninandotoo Society and the Burnaby School District have created an online event highlighting Black Excellence in our communities. You can view the lineup of speakers for Black Excellence Day here.

Creating Resources

You can view this list of resources if you are an educator or parent looking to help educate your children on how to be an upstander for Black Excellence.

Advocating

The people behind Black Excellence Day are passionate about fighting for mandatory curriculum on Black history to be included in our schools and highlighting Black Canadians that are excelling in their fields.

To Wear a Black Shirt Or Not?

Black Excellence Day doesn’t include wearing black t-shirts in their celebrations. However, I think there is a tremendous impact in seeing people united for a cause. I love dropping my kids at school and seeing a yard full of kids wearing black shirts. I love that finding our shirts and making a point to wear them creates meaningful conversations in our home and community.

Although the schools have decided to move towards Black Excellence Day, my children and I will still be wearing black shirts on January 13th to show our support and commitment to being an anti-racist family.

Read How to Be An Anti-Racist Family Here

Black Excellence Day and Black Shirt Day sell t-shirts to help fundraise for their movements.

If you want to show your support in honouring the Black people in your community and to work towards an Anti-Racist world, you can purchase a black shirt from one of these local black-owned retailers.

Where to Buy Black Shirts for Black Excellence Day

This Black Excellence Day Shirt was designed by a 16-year-old student named Dieulane Miller. The shirt is available online in a full range of sizes from youth small to adult XXXXXL.

You can purchase from the Black Excellence Day Website, here.

Black Excellence Day Shirt design created by student Dieulane Miller, age 16

Where to Buy Shirts to Support Black Shirt Day

This black shirt comes in youth large, and adult sizes, small to extra large. You can purchase the shirt through the Black Shirt Day website, here

Click here to purchase this Martin Luther King, Black Shirt Day design. This shirt comes in sizes Youth Large and Adult small through XL.

Click here to purchase this Black Shirt Day design. This shirt comes in sizes Youth Large and Adult small through XXXL.

As parents, it’s our job to create an anti-racist environment for our kids. We are not expected to be experts or always get the answers right. Still, by encouraging curiosity and learning, we can help educate ourselves and our families to leave the world a better place than we found.

Click here for to read: How to Raise An Anti-Racist Family.

Christine Coughlin and her three children standing on the porch wearing black shirts for black shirt day in 2021
2021 Black Shirt Day, Family Photo

If you know of black owned businesses that sell Anti-Racism shirts please email me. I’d love to include their businesses in this post.

XX C


About the Author

Christine Coughlin blogger and writer
Christine Coughlin
@IAmChristineCoughlin

Christine lives on the West Coast of Canada with her husband, their three kids and approximately one million plant babies.

She is in the exploratory “In-Between” phase of rediscovering herself after being a stay-at-home mom for the last decade. She loves all adventures on the water or in the forest and connecting with other open-hearted, lifelong learners.

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