The office offers mentorship, scholarship, and wide-range supportive opportunities for Black students
Having started off as a pilot project, Concordia’s Black Perspectives Office proved a success in 2019 and was permanently installed as an advocacy and support office for Black students at Concordia.
Three-time Concordia graduate, Montreal Black activist and author Annick Maugile Flavien is the founding coordinator at the office, which aims to address and challenge systemic racism by representing, connecting, and supporting Black perspectives.
“Our students, our faculty, our staff need spaces to connect with one another,” said Flavien during an interview with Concordia alumni Josie Fomé, Montreal journalist and podcast host featured in Concordia’s 4TH SPACE in December.
In this space, Black students can freely express themselves. Flavien said, “We can kind of talk about their actual issues, or like what they really want to talk about, because they don’t have to check their Blackness at the door.”
Advocacy, funding Black student projects and education, and creating new resources for Black students is part of the work done in the office. All scholarships and funds, which range from $300–$2,500, include consistent mentorship with Flavien to help students fulfill their goals.
Last year, the office began plans to build the Black Mental Wellness on Campus project: a new bilingual mental wellness website, which will include different year-long programs on wellness education, such as skillshares, workshops, and events.
The website says the project will integrate and work with practitioners and individuals “who are dedicated to anti-racist and holistic mental wellness.”
This term, the focus will be towards creating a mentorship program with Concordia alumni, and improving mental health services, by hiring from the Black community into the university and helping students find the resources they need.
Like everything else, the BPO services have moved online, and while that has presented many challenges, Flavien said students are working on innovative new ideas for Black initiatives.
“It’s been really exciting because students have a lot of energy and want to engage and are coming in with their ideas,” said Flavien.
One of these new projects was Concordia’s Black Student Union (BSU), which began at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester.
Historically, Black student unions began as a way to fight racism and discrimination on campus in the 1960s. Concordia’s BSU aims to continue that legacy, along with celebrating Black excellence, and supporting Black voices and initiatives on campus.
Flavien’s vision for the office is similar to the decades-old practices of BSU: to create a culture and system similar to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States.
“It was just about creating a space in which I could be myself, and I could meet people from my community; I could collaborate with them, I can innovate with them,” said Flavien.
“I think that long term vision, I see the BPO being a theoretical as well as a physical manifestation of that dream.”
Screenshot of the Black Perspectives Website