A Canadian teen’s yearbook tribute to his late grandmother was changed to a racist insult before publication.
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering recalled all of its 2019-2020 yearbooks that were distributed over the weekend after the racist message was discovered, reported Durham Region.
“RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school,” read Joshua Telemaque’s original message to his grandmother.
Instead, someone involved in the publication changed the message to: “Rip Harambe Dooga booga” — referring to the gorilla killed in 2016 at Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into its enclosure.
“It made me feel very sad and hurt, I remember that feeling,” Telemaque told CBC. “It was a pain in my heart when I saw it. It felt like my body just froze, I just broke down. Words can’t explain it.”
“For those who don’t know,” said the teen’s aunt, Mayma Raphael, “Harambe is a gorilla at a zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio.”
St. Mary principal Susan Duane insisted the message was “unknowingly published” and recalled all of them for replacement.
“These comments were malicious, hurtful and racist in nature,” Duane said. “These comments are not a reflection of our mission, vision or values as a Catholic learning environment. We sincerely apologize to the school community for the offensive, hurtful and unacceptable nature of these comments.”
The student’s family wants a written apology from the students involved in the racist act, and asked that any teacher who may be involved in the insult to be reprimanded or fired.
“This cruel act echoes the many incidences of racism that many Black Canadian kids experience throughout their time in the education system,” his aunt said. “The school needs to take action to get this situation fixed. Our kids are suffering way too much.”