More than 90 participants from diverse backgrounds gathered at Brock’s Pond Inlet last week to interact with an esteemed panel of scholars who shared their experiences of addressing anti-Black racism in academia.
Hosted by the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (FAHS) Anti-Racism Task Force, known as the ART initiative, the Jan. 20 event brought together the University’s senior administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members.
Brock panellists included Professors Anteneh Ayanso, Goodman School of Business; Dolana Mogadime, Faculty of Education; Beatrice Ombuki-Berman, Faculty of Mathematics and Science; and doctoral student Nwakerendu Waboso, Faculty of Social Sciences.
Joining the panel from the U.S. was John Singer, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University; and Kwame Agyemang, Associate Professor of Sport Management at the Ohio State University.
“This event was so important because it centres the lived experience within various levels of scholarship, which I believe is important for an enriched understanding of the prevailing systems and insights into what aspects bear further attention,” Waboso says. “Last Friday’s event also humanizes our experiences in a way that centres compassion and empathy.”
Some common themes that emerged throughout the discussions were the direct, interpersonal and systemic anti-Black racism experienced by panellists and participants, their lack of Black cohorts in the academic environment, the parallel impacts of colonization on both Black and Indigenous communities, and the role for allyship.
“One of the big takeaways came from the telling of various experiences of racism on campuses,” says Brock Human Resources’ Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), Culture and Education Trecia McLennon, who moderated the panel.
“Some situations were clear, overt acts of racism while others are more nuanced, like micro-aggressions and oppressive systems that siphon off time and energy that should be spent teaching, learning, doing research and innovating for excellence.”
While the panel composition was balanced between men and women faculty members, organizers acknowledge there were important voices missing from the conversation, including from disabled Black people, university staff and the 2SLGBTQI+ community.
“It is important to recognize the experiences of anti-Black racism on campuses conveyed at last week’s event, which was an opportunity to highlight the overlapping experiences and identities of groups who have also been historically excluded and work together toward inclusion and away from siloed approaches,” McLennon says.
At Singer’s prompting, conversations about allyship making a difference to individuals became action-oriented and geared to the idea of creating coalitions to build excellence.
“It takes courage, self awareness and respect for our common humanity for non-Black people to stand up and do the right thing when Black people are not in the room,” McLennon says. “Brock’s signing of the Scarborough Charter represents its commitment to a framework that facilitates concrete, meaningful action to address anti-Black racism and promote Black flourishing in Canadian higher education.”
While visiting Brock last week, Singer and Agyemang also guest lectured on “Addressing Anti-Black Racism in our Research” during the FAHS Graduate Seminar Series and met with FAHS leadership to share more insights.
“I look forward to further discussing a number of the actionable items summarized by Bradley Clarke (Brock’s Interim Associate Vice-President, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and our international guests, in addition to connecting with groups across campus to continue moving forward the work of the ART Initiative,” says Kirsty Spence, FAHS Associate Dean, Teaching and Undergraduate Studies.
These events are part of a larger Faculty goal of creating and facilitating action-oriented initiatives toward more inclusive, equitable and just intellectual spaces for BIPOC-identifying FAHS students, staff and faculty. They also reflect the University-wide strategic priority of fostering a culture of inclusivity, accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization.