Community rallies around Pickering teen targeted by racism

When student athlete Joshua Telemaque's yearbook quote was hijacked, people from all walks of life responded with love on his 18th birthday
Yearbook quote Photo 7842451 © -

Joshua Telemaque had every reason to be excited lately. The Black teenager had recently graduated from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering, Ontario, just east of Toronto. He was a star football player, full of natural talent. And his 18th birthday was just around the corner.

Then he discovered last week that his graduation quote in the St. Mary's yearbook had been changed. Students often use this quote to deliver a meaningful message that says something about their time in high school or their future to come. Joshua had used his quote to pay tribute to his late grandmother, who was a huge part of his life growing up. But instead of this loving message appearing in the finished book, the quote was changed by someone to a racist message directed toward Joshua.

After this discovery, Joshua was devastated. "It was a pain in my heart when I saw it," he told CBC radio this past Wednesday in an interview where he discussed the experience. He said that this pain would likely never go away. But he also pledged to move on and inspire others as his grandmother had him.

And based on the response of hundreds of people in his community and beyond, he has already become an inspiration.

Responding with love

By the time of his 18th birthday—October 14—Joshua Telemaque's story had begun moving not only across the city, but across the country. And the positive response was huge.

People drove past his front door to offer their love and support. They all wanted to let him know that they rejected racism and were in his corner. And in one case, he was given a truly life-changing birthday gift from the Toronto Argonauts Football Club.

You can watch it all unfold in this Global News report below.

If you'd like to join further in the celebrations, you can also watch a VidHug video that was put together to wish Joshua a Happy 18th Birthday.

The video is full of friends, strangers, sportscasters, and athletes (including five Toronto Raptors!). It is long, but it really shows the sincere way people can come together—and how a simple gesture of wishing happy birthday makes a difference!

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