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

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared this photo of the binders and binders of letters and paperwork she’s received on area roads in the past few years. (Submitted photo)
Cariboo MLAs call on province to fix region’s roads

Minister Rob Fleming said more resources were on the way to the region

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Murray Casey, president of the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre, hosted an online Shuswap language workshop April 27. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
‘Weyt-k’? It’s time to learn Shuswap

More than two dozen participants took part in online class to learn basic Secwepemc phrases

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Most Read