By Sarah Krichel
The Black Liberation Collective (BLC) and the Indigenous Students Rising (ISR) led a rally on Nov. 28 in Eric Palin Hall, protesting the school of social work’s lack of action on acknowledging both open letters addressed to the Ryerson community.*
On Oct. 28, the BLC sent an open letter to Henry Parada, former director of Ryerson’s school of social work. The collective demanded that he resign after an alleged incident of anti-Black racism and misogynoir after accusations that he walked out during a Black instructor’s presentation.* In an email sent to students in the school of social work on Nov. 16, Lisa Barnoff, dean of the faculty of community services, announced that Parada stepped down from his position. A reason was not given for his resignation.
On Nov. 15, the ISR also sent a letter,* addressed to the office of Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi, the office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), the faculty of community services, the school of social work and other faculty and students. In the letter, they made 11 requests to Ryerson, including incorporation of land acknowledgements at the beginning of each semester in every classroom and increasing Indigenous hiring and teachings.
An Indigenous student held a smudging ceremony outside of Eric Palin Hall to cleanse the space, then invited other students to participate. As students entered the building they began chanting, “If social work don’t do it, shut it down.” The chanting was led by Pascale Diverlus, an organizer of Black Lives Matter Toronto.
Danielle Sinclair, an Indigenous student, then addressed the collaboration between the two collectives and called on those who have not experienced marginalization to make space for those communities who have.
“It’s important that we all remember that we’re all relatives, and we can’t move forward without our relatives,” Sinclair said.
The ralliers marched into room 222, where social work faculty were having a meeting. Diverlus and Phyllis Mckenna, another Indigenous student whom the ISR approached and asked to speak on their behalf because they said no voice is prioritized within the collective, spoke about the lack of action in regards to both letters. During the speeches, the crowd of protesters continually said “shame.”
Photos: Alanna Rizza, Sarah Krichel
“The school of social work, you have a lot to be ashamed of,” Diverlus said. “For weeks we’ve been waiting for answers. We released a statement to y’all, and instead of confronting us and talking to us, you host a pizza party. Do you really think that’s addressing our needs?”
The faculty members sat in silence.
“You let us know, all of us, that you don’t care about Black students. You don’t care about Black faculty. You don’t care about what happens to us when we walk through these halls and down this entire campus,” Diverlus said.
“Between your two sentences, this pizza party and lack of public apology, your ongoing anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity, racism follow us to come back, show up and shut down,” Mckenna said. “Be it in your classroom meetings, ceremonies, hallways, we will continue to show up for our communities.”
The ralliers exited the room while BLC members distributed indictment posters with photos of faculty members as they shouted “you’re indicted for anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism.”
As they continued to march through the halls, security was called. Moments later, the rally concluded and the collective supporters left the building.
Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi will be meeting with the BLC this Wednesday to discuss the school’s next steps. He will also meet with the school of social work, and dean of faculty of community services, and Denise O’Neil Green, assistant vice president and vice provost EDI.
“We are definitely here to have a serious dialogue about any issue they may have with us, and we value and respect the diversity of knowledge, views and experiences that reflect the different groups that we have,” Lachemi said.
Chrys Saget-Richard, a member of the BLC, said that the collective will continue to fight anti-Black racism on a systemic level.
“[The action] is going to continue all across campus,” Saget-Richard said. “We continue to build capacity, build up the Black students and do some education work. So that’s really what our main focus is going to be; managing what happens post-action, which is a normal reaction, but also working on getting Black students involved and building those educational and healing spaces.”
With files from Sidney Drmay.
Corrections: In a previous version of this article, The Eyeopener incorrectly reported that the rally happened in response to the BLC letter. This is incorrect. The rally happened in response to two open letters, one sent by the BLC and another sent by the ISR. The Eyeopener also incorrectly reported that the ISR sent their open letter in conjunction with BLC. Instead, the ISR stands in solidarity with the BLC.
The Eyeopener also provided a quote that contained an incorrect fact regarding the alleged incident of anti-Black racism and misogynoir.
The Eyeopener also incorrectly associated a person with Indigenous Students Rising.
The Eyeopener also incorrectly identified the ISR as the IRS upon second reference.
The Eyeopener regrets these errors.