Teen whose yearbook message was replaced with racist slur gets flood of birthday love, scholarship
Published Wednesday, October 14, 2020 8:38PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 14, 2020 11:34PM EDT
A young man who was the subject of a racist prank that saw his high school yearbook tribute to his grandmother replaced with a racist slur is receiving a lot of love and a big boost to his higher education goals.
Joshua Telemaque had submitted a yearbook message honouring his late grandmother for guiding him through his four years of high school at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering. However when he got his copy of the yearbook last week, he was shocked to discover that the message next to his picture had been replaced with a racist phrase referencing a gorilla that was shot at a Cincinnati zoo.
His aunt took to Facebook to highlight the racist incident, sparking an outcry as well as an outpouring of support for Telemaque.
On Wednesday, some of Toronto's top athletes, broadcasters and others sent messages of support and good wishes for his 18th birthday.
They included Raptors player Ronadae Hollis Jefferson, sportscasters Mark Strong and Leo Rautins and others.
“Stay strong. Remember, the people that are hateful or the people that say ugly things, you know it says a lot more about themselves than about anybody else,” Rautins said in a video message.
Telemaque was offered good wishes, messages of support and sports memorabilia. But the biggest surprise was announced by Mike Hogan of the Toronto Argonauts, who stood outside Telemaque’s home to tell him that the Pinball Clemons Foundation is offering him a full four-year scholarship to a Canadian university or college of his choice.
Telemaque said he was speechless.
“I'm so appreciative, so grateful for this,” he said. “It just touched my heart. It's special to me, it means the world to me right now.”
Tearing up, his mother called the gift “amazing.”
“He always says football is his life and to see he received this award, this scholarship, it's amazing,” Marva Massicot Telemaque said.
“If there’s one issue that gets us fired up, it’s bullying,” Hogan said. “We’re angry about this. We wanted to show him that we have his back. This really hit home.”
A parade of vehicles – including fire trucks and police cruisers – also lined up outside the teen’s home to wish him well.
“We’re all standing with him and behind him. What occurred was just a heinous act and not tolerated in this community,” Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan said from his car outside Telemaque’s house.
Another well-wisher said she came by because she wants Telemaque to know that the community is with him.
“I hate that this happened to him. It hurts my heart,” she said.
Telemaque’s former Pickering high school has demanded that students return all copies of the yearbook and the Durham Region Catholic District school Board has launched an investigation into the incident. The board has also notified Durham police, who are looking into the matter to determine whether any charges may be warranted.