By Kiara Rudder
Black History Month at Ryerson University was based on actions from dedicated students, and lacked initiative from the university, according to student activists.
“I think I would describe the work that Black students put into Black History Month being one that actually creates spaces for us that are radical and transformative… that’s been good,” said Josh Lamers, co-founder of Black Liberation Collective (BLC).
Black History Month is a time for celebrating Black people, honouring their legacies, and recognizing their achievements. This is traditionally done through festivities and events to help celebrate the history of Black people from the past and present.
The BLC hosted their second annual “Black in your faculty” exhibit during Black History Month, to showcase the creative and academic work of Black students at Ryerson University.
Lamers said he reached out to the university for support when running the exhibit.
“We emailed all the deans to share this with their student lister, for students to submit, but many of them didn’t,” Lamers said. “Goes to show they don’t want Black students to speak about how inadequate Ryerson is when it comes to supporting, and uplifting, and creating spaces for Black students.”
As a result, many students were not aware of the opportunity to have their work showcased in the exhibit.
Black people are rarely ever acknowledged unless we’re acknowledging ourselves
The United Black Students at Ryerson (USBR) also put together some events and created spaces for Black students during the month of February. Their event roster included, the Black masculinity workshop, The Kissing Teeth Live Podcast, Black to the Future: open mic night, a paint night and many more.
“It’s important because Black students need safe spaces, and Black History Month needs to be more recognized around campus,” said Smyrna Wright, member of the United Black Students at Ryerson, at the Black love paint night event.
However, only one of the events that the USBR hosted was promoted on the Ryerson University’s event page.
“If it’s not the Black student groups doing it nobody else notices it…Black people are rarely ever acknowledged unless we’re acknowledging ourselves,” Wright said
Along with the lack of students not being aware of the events going on during Black History Month, the absence of the university’s initiative also let students down.
“Me being a first-year student, and coming from Nova Scotia….it’s very different, because our Black history month looked a little bit different,” said Kardeisha Provo, first-year Ryerson student, and member of the BLC said. “My expectations were higher, coming from a dominant Black community, it felt pretty disappointing [coming to Ryerson].
Although these events took place at the university, they were run by students and Ryerson did not play an active role in these events, nor acknowledging Black history.
“Ryerson is very committed to community, engagement, action inclusion, equity and diversity… as such we run a number of programs and events throughout the year to support and engage Ryerson’s black community, including students,” Mohamed Lachemi, president of Ryerson said.
During Black History Month 2019, the office of the Vice-president of the Equity and Community Inclusion featured stories of black students, staff, faculty and alumni of their accomplishments.
“Black history month at Ryerson was very Black student-led, I didn’t see much from the university level that was university initiated, other than the students doing their best to showcase events that cater towards Black people and the atmosphere,” Provo, said.
“We need the university to be proactive… and stop using the students to do things that they know they should be doing,” Lamers said.
“If any member has any suggestions or feedback, on how we can enhance programming during Black History Month, I would say their best interest would be to contact the office of the Vice-president of Equity and Community Inclusion,” Lachemi said.
The ECI did not respond in time for publication, however, they did have events throughout the month like the Viola Desmond award ceremony and the film screening of Paris is Burning.