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)

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

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after cancellations on Friday due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read