Since the 2020 Black Lives Matter surge, Concordia University’s initiatives to create a welcoming space for Black students and minorities alike have picked up steam
The world is now nearly three years removed from the massive wave of civil unrest sparked all around the globe by George Floyd’s tragic death. The sorrowful event also kicked off Concordia’s long-term commitment to creating a more welcoming and safe environment for minorities on campus. Today, student services like the Black Perspectives Office (BPO) are finally starting to find their footing within Concordia’s environment.
Designed to connect and advocate for Black communities, the BPO came into effect in October 2020. The service is a way for Black students to find mentorship, support and funding opportunities to accompany them through their academic endeavours.
Most recently, the office underwent a change with the arrival of its new manager Maurice Riley Case, who was appointed in January. Riley Case has a long history of advocacy for minorities and social work all around the country.
“I hope to bring an even greater attention to the diversity and intersectionality of Black identities,” said Riley Case. “My colleagues and I look forward to collaborating with various units in order to design and sustain the conditions for Black Concordians to flourish across the University.”
Black students are a minority at Concordia. The BPO aims to help Black students reinforce and recognize their identity while connecting them to other members of the community. Riley Case calls this “Black Flourishing,” the celebration of range of experiences of the Black community.
The BPO manager explained that the establishment of a “Black-specific student Resource and Success Centre” is essential for Black students, faculty and staff. The reform at the head of the BPO is only one of many signs that the future is bright for Black flourishing. A Black Student Centre is also set to open in the Concordia Hall building in Fall 2023, which will create a space for Black students to connect on campus.
The President’s Anti-Racism Task Force also aided the creation of a positive environment for the Black community, a group created after Black Concordians demanded the University address systemic racism against Black people. With the task force’s two-year mandate now over, several recommendations have been submitted to the University.
Concordia Professor and former task force member Dr. Jacqueline Peters explained that the problems encountered by the task force were somewhat similar to the struggles for black people at Concordia.
“Getting information is hard. Getting numbers of how many of us there are here[…] those were some of the things that we were sort of stuck on,”Said Peters.
According to Peters, the task force’s work was hindered by the severe unavailability of ethnic statistics, complicating the possibility of locating Black faculty, staff and students to conduct a thorough examination.
Despite the difficulties, the task force had a positive outcome, according to Peters. “We did word of mouth, we put out notifications which also worked well,” she said “One of the most positive aspects of working on the task force was all the Black people that got to know each other. Most of us have been here for many years and have never seen each other.”
While the creation of an inclusive environment is still a work in progress at Concordia, the sense of community among Black Concordians is starting to find a positive rhythm.