New Concordia initiative to support Black students, faculty, staff and greater Montreal community.
“The university is a very difficult place for people of colour to navigate in general,” said Annick Maugile Flavien, founding coordinator of the Black Perspectives Initiative (BPI).
Funded by the faculty of Arts and Science, the BPI was created in November of last year and is still being finalized. The BPI actively listens to the demands and needs of the community and uses that to forward the initiative.
Maugile Flavien said that if Concordia is talking about being innovative with how they engage with the Black community, and they want to uplift the new generation, extra steps need to be taken.
“The rooting of it is really through understanding the immense relationship Black communities have with Concordia from its very inception,” said Maugile Flavien. “If we look at the Sir George Williams affair, until now, the amount of Black activism that has allowed for this university to grow, the knowledge that’s here, there are so many ways the Black community in Montreal, and across the world, really, engages with Concordia.”
Maugile Flavien described the initiative as a support net and a shield for Concordia’s Black community.
“There’s so many initiatives and projects and amazing work that’s being done across the university, but they’re often not connected, they often need space, and they need resources,” said Maugile Flavien. “So what we do is really be that support network, the web that kind of connects everything.”
The BPI also acts as a shield from administration and media. The BPI was specifically created for that, so the BPI gets to protect the Black community of Concordia from unnecessary labour of speaking to the media for topics that involve race, for example.
“Because they’re Black people they have to kind of take in all this extra emotional, physical labour,” said Maugile Flavien, even if it’s not part of their jobs.
So far, the main activities of the BPI include funding and mentorship, campus and local programming, and networking and dissemination. These services are not specific to the Concordia community, they are also open to the Black community in Montreal at large.
There are three types of funding opportunities available through the BPI; research funding, project funding and student scholarships. Concordia faculty and staff are also eligible for project and research funding. This semester, three students were awarded a scholarship, each for $1,000. For any category of funding, the BPI offers mentorship.
“We don’t just give people money, we follow them through the process, and make sure they have guidance and help to build what they want to build,” said Maugile Flavien.
For the students, BPI doesn’t only offer academic counselling. Every month, recipients meet with Maugile Flavien for an hour, are given support and are connected to opportunities that relate to their studies. “It’s really just been whatever they need to work through, we do that during that hour,” explained Maugile Flavien.
Research and project funding get more practical mentorship, in terms of logistics, or promotion.
Maugile Flavien explained alumni have been reaching out since BPI’s inception and are either wanting to participate in the activities offered through the hub or are asking to donate money directly to Black students.
Other opportunities available through the BPI include their Black mental wellness events. They had one in February, and have two others planned for March and April. Tentatively scheduled for the third week of every month, Black Mental Wellness Week connects students with Black mental health workers in the community. Maugile Flavien explained the BPI hosted a mindfulness practitioner, a psychotherapist for group therapy and a social worker who facilitated a self-love workshop in February.
“[The BPI is] an acknowledgement of the immense role that the Black community plays at Concordia,” said Maugile Flavien. “It’s falling into a wave of the Black community rising up in so many different places in the world, and having the ability to shape what we need and not be told what we need. If this is what we’re able to do from November to March, then the sky’s the limit.”