By Adele Lusuka
Lugging books, posters, and other decorations from room to room, the Racialised Students’ Collective (RSC) celebrated their new space to the tune of Megan Thee Stallion.
After careful advocacy at several Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) meetings, the RSC—the collective that saw the most people coming in and out of its office—was finally moving out. Feb. 7 marked the day where collective and community members swapped their small white-bricked room for a bigger one, with large windows, more couches and an abundance of storage space. What started as a film screening developed into a celebration of a small, but necessary win. Gone were the days of people balancing on armrests or standing awkwardly in the midst of passionate conversations when more than six people were in the room—there was now space to welcome everyone.
After settling down, we could finally relax, with everyone on a chair or couch letting the night burst into acapella renditions of Beyoncé’s Party (à-la Homecoming), unofficial pizza parties and multiple rounds of “Two Truths and a Lie.”
Now in my third year of journalism at Ryerson, heading to the second floor and straight into the RSC in between and after classes is like second nature to me, and looking back, it was inevitable that I would find myself there.
As one of four Black girls in my high school graduating class, I spent years carefully choosing what to share and what not to, holding in my experiences and opinions about Blackness close to my heart.
As one of four Black girls in my high school graduating class, I spent years carefully choosing what to share and what not to, holding in my experiences and opinions about Blackness close to my heart. Starting J-school only made it worse, as my social anxiety spilled into my coursework, as well as any opportunities I had to talk to my peers. I couldn’t handle a simple streeter interview, let alone make small talk with the kids I saw on a weekly basis. I was desperate for somewhere, for someone to talk and express myself.
Over time, the RSC became that space for me.
I can’t remember what went through my mind the first time I stepped into the Shadd room for an RSC meeting, but I do remember what made me stay: the promise of an enclosed space, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of campus, of pizza with toppings chosen by whoever showed up and most importantly, of other racialized people.
When I felt my loneliest, I could rely on the sound of Shaquille’s distinct laughter bouncing off the walls, the nonsensical rants about TV and film with Ashley, or the way Cassandra effortlessly weaved care and honesty through her words to get me through it. The RSC taught me it was okay to decompress, complain, let loose and have fun. It compelled me to join their Queer and/or Trans People of Colour (QTPOCC) events and embrace my sexuality in ways that I hadn’t let myself in high school.
I had never been able to understand why I felt so uncomfortable when my non-Black friends told me about the racism present in their families, or why I couldn’t relate to my queer white friends’ crushes. With the folks at the RSC, I was given the space to not only question these situations, but also know that I wasn’t alone in my experiences. My Blackness had always been an afterthought, a footnote to the person I am, and when I finally had the chance to center it, it was overwhelming and beautiful.
“My Blackness had always been an afterthought, a footnote to the person I am, and when I finally had the chance to center it, it was overwhelming and beautiful.”
The RSC being a huge part of my growth is exactly why the politics around the current student union worries me. Seeing Facebook threads and Twitter memes hating on the student union as a whole has really hurt, reminding me how few people recognize the work that RSU-funded collectives like the RSC are doing, despite a complicated executive team.
There’s a certain vulnerability and honesty about the people of the Racialised Students Collective that I have yet to see adopted by the RSU executive team. After years of going to RSC events, I can only name a handful of times where folks from the executive board came down from the third floor to join events, or came down to simply chat and joke like the rest of us do on the daily. Last semester, with an executive board comprised mainly of people of colour—of Black people—I can only name one person that I’ve seen talking with community members or coming to events.
Despite that—and whatever the future of the RSU holds—I hope it prioritizes the folks behind the RSC. I hope they listen to the people who’ve taught me to grow and be better. I hope they learn to join us on our grey couches, to laugh at the ridiculous reenactments of racist professors and students, to hold space to criticize and share our experiences and worldviews.
The RSC was the first place I went to when news of Ryerson divorcing itself from the RSU hit, the place I went to celebrate Black History Month and they’ll be the first place I go to once school is deemed safe from COVID-19. I’m not sure what the future holds for the RSC. All I know is that despite everything, I will find myself there again.