By Dylan Freeman-Grist
Fourth-year journalism student Pascale Diverlus brought her activism work to a national stage on Nov. 24.
The former RSU presidential candidate, current vice-president of United Black Students at Ryerson and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto presented her experience and insights as a black activist during a workshop at the 34th General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students, a gathering of elected student leaders from across the country.
The workshop was meant to give student leaders from coast-to-coast the tools and insights they needed to address instances of anti-black racism on their campuses.
Diverlus shared the story behind the beginning of Black Lives Matter Toronto where, upon a grand jury declining to indict Daren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, herself and around 20 other black community members at Ryerson gathered in a room on campus to mourn the senseless loss of a member of their community.
It was then she recalls noticing the majority of those around her were students — a realization which inspired her to help mobilize the Toronto chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“School is supposed to be my magic answer,” noted Diverlus, referring to the common myth that black folks are able to overcome systemic racism by simply “doing the right things” — like going to university and getting a job. “I know it ain’t.”
She walked the conference through a series of Ontario based rallies that stood in solidarity with occurrences at the University of Missouri and Yale, including Ryerson’s own rally held last week where she spoke about her experience with anti-black violence at Ryerson.
She also made the point to criticize the CFS and in general the student activist movement in Canada, which has historical instances of being tied to anti-black organization.
“What do you do when black students every single day have to prove their intelligence and place in these institutions?” she said to the delegates gathered in the hall at the Hilton Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Que.
Diverlus shared the stage with other prominent black activists, including american student-activist Josh Odam , feminist and muslim activist Sakinna Gairey, and internationally acclaimed artist and writer Kim Katrin Milan.