February marks Black History Month, and a few members of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Academy have been proudly doing their part to celebrate the past, present, and future.
After a series of events at Burnaby Central Secondary School organized for black students, Joy Kimwemwe, Nyema Ingleton, and their fellow students and teammates decided to come together to do something bigger.
And that was the start of the Black Excellence club (BEX), which also includes Whitecaps FC Girls Elite players Iba Oching and Jaime Perrault, among many others.
“We get together with other black students and share in our culture, food, clothes, and we organize events,” explained Kimwemwe, president of BEX.
The club is a way for students to share common ground, but also as a platform to educate and inform others who may not be aware of black history.
“Some people are ignorant, maybe not intentionally, but they maybe aren’t aware,” tells Ingleton. “As black people, a lot of our history was erased, through slavery, so it’s important to educate people and bring awareness to what we’ve done and what we’ve contributed.”
BEX regularly take part in the morning announcements at Burnaby Central, engaging other students with quizzes through the Kahoot! app, with questions on historic figures, moments, and facts, keeping score and giving out prizes.
Earlier this month, they also held their first Black Out Rally.
"We are very proud of Joy, Nyema, Jaime and Iba," noted Daryl Goeson, vice-principal at Burnaby Central. "The Black Out Rally was awesome. They wore traditional clothing at school for the event. Joy emcee'd and our gym was packed. All the Whitecaps players were there to support their teammates. It has been great to see the students so involved in our school and I think that the BEX club is responsible."
Kimwemwe comes from a Congolese family, who immigrated from their native Democratic Republic of Congo.
“My family is Congolese through and through. Our music, our food, our language – we speak Swahili and French at home. Only my sister and I were born in Canada. So I stay in touch with my African roots.”
Vibrant and charismatic, Kimwemwe has a talent not only on the soccer pitch, but also to bring people together, bring out smiles, and foster relationships.
So when Burnaby Central was presented with an opportunity to speak to the Burnaby Board of Education on Black History Month, Kimwemwe was a natural fit to take the lead for the Black Excellence club.
“It was a bit nerve racking at the start. I had to write myself some notes, but then the words flowed.”
Ingleton has also been a leader in driving BEX. Her talent on the pitch may only be matched by how calm and collected she is off of it. She is well spoken beyond her years. Her dad hails from Antigua, and her mom from Jamaica, and they instilled in her the importance of understanding history.
“Growing up they always made sure that I knew about people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.”
This year Ingleton will be graduating from Burnaby Central and heading off to play soccer at West Virginia University. Kimwemwe has one more year of high school.
Both players would like to see the Black Excellence club continue.
“I hope to keep it going,” noted Kimwemwe. “I would like to formalize some positions and pass it on to the next generation to keep it going.”
Black History Month: Girls Elite players Iba Oching and Nyema Ingleton talk to Tosaint Ricketts