AfroQuiz offers lessons in black history and excellence — plus healthy competition
The inventor of the Super Soaker, Kenya’s neighboring countries, the influence of Calypso: a selection of topics at the Jeopardy-style AfroQuiz on Saturday afternoon.
It was the 31st year of the annual competition, held in the basement auditorium of the Stanley A. Milner Library in Edmonton. For the past three Sundays, nearly 50 children and youth from grades 1 through 12 gathered to prepare to learn about black history and black excellence.
“We learn about the achievements of black people and what they have done to change this world,” said Osama Adeghe, who has participated in the program for the past three years.
The third grader won the final on Saturday for her age group.
“My favorite things to do are learn, make new friends and win when I can.”
Osama’s mother, Ifueko Adeghe, says she enrolled her three children in the program because it gives them an opportunity to learn and compete.
“I like that and I also make friends within the [program]’ Adeghe said, adding that she also learned from the material the children studied.
The Edmonton-based Council of Canadians of African and Caribbean Heritage (CCACH) operates the AfroQuiz and the AfroCademy program that builds on it.
The current model sees participants organized into cohorts – themed around fictional African kingdoms – within which students participate in sessions that include music, dance and food to provide an immersive learning experience.
Each kingdom also has its own chant, which cohorts performed in front of their friends and family on Saturday.
Karen Richards, chief executive officer of CCACH and MC of Saturday’s competition, said it was good to meet in person after two years of online AfroQuiz due to the pandemic.
“Now we’re back in person and so happy to be here because the vibes are good,” she said.
Richards said the program instills values such as discipline and lifelong learning. She hopes that children will also find themselves in the black luminaries examined.
“We don’t necessarily teach a lot of this material in the Alberta curriculum schools,” Richards said. “So here is an opportunity for them to acquire the knowledge.”
An educational gap
Jeannette Austin-Odina, 73, was one of the founders of AfroQuiz. She said her own education in Trinidad and Tobago was Eurocentric and she didn’t want her Canadian-born children to know about her story either.
“There wasn’t anything in the schools and I didn’t want them to have the same background as me,” Austin-Odina said.
The retired teacher said she and others unsuccessfully approached the Department of Education at the time to include more black history.
“So I said, ‘Well, if they don’t do it, I will.'”
Austin-Odina said she’s proud to see where the program is today, but added that the feeling was bittersweet.
“I think we’re still where we started that we don’t have it as the norm.”
She said some who once participated are now enrolling their own children or grandchildren. Austin-Odina credits AfroQuiz’s continued success to the younger organizers who have since taken the reins and harnessed the power of the technology to its fullest.
“They’ve gotten to such heights now,” she said.
For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.