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Concordia’s new initiative in fighting against systemic racism

by Hannah Tiongson November 10, 2020
Concordia’s new initiative in fighting against systemic racism

President’s task force on anti-Black racism

Concordia takes action and launches a plan to address and to fight against systemic racism in the university. On Oct. 29, President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr announced the Task Force on Anti-Black Racism.

According to Concordia’s statement, “The task force will direct and coordinate the work needed to generate recommendations that will address anti-Black racism based on the experiences of faculty, staff and students.”

Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among others, people around the world began to express their frustration with police brutality towards Black people, and took to the streets to march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In early June, members of the Concordia community came together and wrote a letter with a series of demands and recommendations for the university, insisting that Concordia take action against anti-Black racism. The letter was written after a short period of consultation. The task force is an opportunity for an ongoing discussion with students, faculty members and staff. Over the course of two years, the task force will address systemic racism and have an action plan put in place with different recommendations from its members.

Led by three co-chairs, Angélique Willkie, associate professor of Contemporary Dance, Stéphane Brutus, professor of Management at JMSB, and Annick Maugile Flavien, founding coordinator of the Black Perspectives Office, the initiative also includes a 15-person leadership team. The students involved are undergraduates, graduates, alumni and two members of the Black Caucus of Concordia (BBC). As for the faculty members and staff, they represent eight sub-committees: campus security, anti-racist education, Concordia’s history and relations with Black communities, curriculum and educational resources, student services, faculty development, employment initiatives and fundraising.

The leadership committee is essentially the brain of the task force. In the sense that the leads are the ones working on the recommendations and all,” commented Flavien.

The importance of the student body is highlighted in this initiative as the task force is very oriented towards the student experience. Brutus stated that “The meat of the task force” is found in the sub-committees’ topics. Brutus explained that looking at the eight sub-committees, four of them directly influence the student experience: campus security, anti-racist education, curriculum and educational resources, and student services.

“This task force will aim to do many things for staff, faculty and community members, but a big part of what we want to do is really focus on the student experience in relation to these matters and try to improve the status,” emphasized Brutus.

According to Wilkie, now is really the time to “peel all of the layers of the onion on a wider spectrum.” She highlights that the responsibility of the task force is to take time over the course of two years to evaluate the situation at Concordia and to “dig in” each of the divisions that will be managed by the separate sub-committees.

Flavien stated that over the next years, “There is going to be continuous action put in place depending on what is possible at what time.” She also explained that there are already a lot of changes happening right now; one being inclusion workshops with the Faculty of Fine Arts as well as psychological services that she is leading.

“The task force will look at the demands of the letter with much more in-depth understanding of what is actually happening at Concordia, what is possible to be put into place and what best fits the community as we move forward.”

The task force will finalize the membership of the sub-committees by Nov. 30, 2020.

Amaria Phillips, co-founder of the newly established Black Student Union (BSU), commented on the need of Black students’ representation at the university. Phillips pointed out the necessity for this club especially in a predominantly white university like Concordia.

Phillips also clarified that the BSU is not part of the task force but hopes to be working with the initiative in the near-feature.

“The task force is a really important step. Now Black students really know that there is something holding the university accountable in making sure that Black students’ voices are heard,” said Phillips.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

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