Melville was an advocate for equity in education


Activist and educator David Melville was an advocate for equity in education long before the phrase was coined and became fashionable.

The former Black Heritage leader and instructor, poet and writer passed away in Vancouver just a week before his 73rd birthday on June 1.

Born in Montreal, Melville lived in British Columbia prior to re-locating to Toronto where he was a teacher with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for 24 years before retiring in 1999.

“I met David in the 1970s when he was with the TDSB at a time when we as a school board were beginning to come to grips with the question of race and racism,” said Lloyd McKell, the board’s executive officer of student and community equity. “During that period, racism was perceived as something that happened in the community but not in the school system.

“David was one of those teachers and activists who were conscious of racial stereotyping, racism and discrimination against people of African descent and he began to initiate discussions among us about the various forms of systemic racism in the school system. In that regard, he was a pioneer. The discussions that followed around the issue of racism and how it affected Black youths and parents was a result of his initiatives in promoting that discussion.”

Melville and Oscar Brathwaite founded the Canadian Association of Black Educators (CABE) which is hosting its annual two-day conference this weekend at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.

“We went to a National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) regional conference in Detroit in 1979 at the request of the founder who was encouraging us to form an organization here to address some of the challenges Black educators, parents and students were facing,” recalled Brathwaite. “After attending a Black educators conference in Halifax in November that year, we came back to Toronto and held a number of meetings and out of those emerged CABE.

“David was a very passionate educator who has made a significant contribution to the education system in Toronto at all levels. He was always conscious of the issues that affect African descendant people in the educational system.”

CABE will pay tribute to Melville during its conference that starts tomorrow.

“He was a pioneer and visionary,” said CABE president Kirk Mark. “He will be missed.”

After retiring from the TDSB 11 years ago, Melville spent a few months in California contemplating pursuing Law before heading back to Vancouver where he became a member of the international committee of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) and Justice for Migrant Workers. He also followed his passion as an artist and animator in the B.C. community.

During the time he was with the TDSB, Miller also served as an adjunct professor and Principal-on-Call. In addition, he supervised the afterschool and heritage languages programs and co-authored the Black Cultural Heritage program curriculum.

A graduate of Notre Dame University College in Nelson, B.C., Melville was a member of the University of Toronto’s Governing Council.

He’s survived by his partner Susan and five children.

In lieu of flowers, individuals can contact to find out how they can make a contribution in his name to further his work.



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