Earlier this week, Ontario teen Joshua Telemaque should have had one of the happiest days of his life. His 18th birthday and recent graduation from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School sounded like things any teen would want to celebrate.
But Telemaque’s happy occasion was tarnished by a racist prank. Last week, his intended yearbook quote paying tribute to his late grandmother was replaced with a reference to Harambe, the gorilla killed at a Cincinnati zoo in 2016.
It made for an emotional time.
Telemaque’s yearbook quote was meant to honor his grandmother, who had a profound impact on the young man growing up. He wanted to become someone kind like her.
The original yearbook quote read:
“RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school.”
After a unique experience for his senior year, with the pandemic interfering with normal school life, Telemaque was excited to get his yearbook. However, when he finally did, he was horrified at the replaced quote.
Now, his yearbook quote read:
“Rip Harambe Dooga booga.O”
Telemaque was heartbroken.
— peggy cd🇨🇦 (@56peggy) October 14, 2020
Sweet kid. I wish him much success in University and beyond.
— Wab Kinew (@WabKinew) October 15, 2020
His family was supportive and took the issue to the school. It was discovered some other yearbook quotes were also changed, so the books were recalled.
The district is working with the police on an investigation into the incident.
Durham Regional Police said:
“We assure you that this offensive act of misconduct, disrespect and racism is taken seriously.”
As appreciative as the family is for the investigation, Telemaque said the pain he felt from seeing his tribute changed to a racist insult wouldn’t go away.
Despite that, he is still glad for the outpouring of love and well wishes from everyone.
Some people are so awful. Hope they find whoever is responsible and hold them accountable. https://t.co/hv4ofFGhDV
— Karen Brard (@Karen_Brard) October 15, 2020
This is disgusting. Nobody should have to deal with that. Hope they find the person responsible and take action.
— DarthMac (@Furlious) October 14, 2020
I want the perpetrators prosecuted. Throw the book at those mfs https://t.co/FRtNUmquNh
— 👑Woman King👑 (@Meffstone) October 15, 2020
After the story of Telemaque’s yearbook went viral, many shared their support for the teen.
A long line of vehicles drove down the street for Telemaque’s drive by birthday.
So wonderful to see this. Good triumphs over evil.👌👃💪😊
— Andrea S. (@Puighen) October 15, 2020
From family and friends to strangers to Toronto athletes and broadcasters, all sent well wishes for his birthday.
Mike Hogan of the Toronto Argonauts even presented Telemaque with a four-year scholarship to a university of his choice.
“If there’s one issue that gets us fired up, it’s bullying. We’re angry about this.”
“We wanted to show him that we have his back. This really hit home.”
Telemaque was speechless and grateful for the outpouring of love.
“I’m so appreciative, so grateful for this. It just touched my heart. It’s special to me, it means the world to me right now.”