AMS collaborates with University to introduce Black History Month Grant

$5,000 to be allocated to black student groups for event programming

Journal file photo

Available for the first time this year through the AMS Social Issues Commission, the Black History Month Grant is available to black student groups on campus upon application. Created in October, the purpose of the money is to provide tangible support for Black History Month programming on campus.

With the Social Issues Commission setting aside $2,500, Deputy Provost Teri Shearer’s Office matched the AMS contribution for a total of $5,000 that black student groups on campus can apply for. Funds will be allocated to groups based on their financial need. 

“Although this was a project that I have the privilege in this role to put forward, it was really black student groups that are benefitting from it and making this happen,” Commissioner of Social Issues Ramna Safeer told The Journal in an interview on Monday. 

Safeer said the criteria outlined in the application will leave the grant open to as many black student groups as necessary. “[Applicants must] answer some really general questions and outline how much is being asked for,” she said. “The granting committee sits down and has a conversation about each of those applications and we just allocate accordingly.” 

According to Shearer, she was approached about the creation of this grant shortly after the final report was released from the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion.

 “Black History Month is probably our biggest opportunity to showcase black culture and history to the Queen’s community and historically in some partnership with Kingston community organizations,” Shearer told The Journal.

Shearer’s office draws their $2,500 contribution from the Diversity and Inclusion funds set aside by the University administration in their 2017-18 budget. She hopes to see the grant allocated in a fashion that bridges the gap between the Queen’s community and the rest of Kingston. “The more people who can engage, the better,” she said.  

Along with AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Palmer Lockridge, Safeer presented the written statements of several black student groups to Shearer at the beginning of the semester. 

“Increasing awareness of black history and culture is essential to combatting anti-black racism on Queen’s campus and in the Kingston community,” Shearer added. “I’m looking forward to the types of events that will be proposed.” 

Although Safeer began to plan the grant this summer, she said student groups on campus like the African Caribbean Students Association and the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS) truly spearheaded its implementation. 

“One of the first things I did was reach out to the past executives of [those clubs] to understand their needs and find out how something like this would address a lack of funding around Black History Month,” Safeer said. 

For Safeer, the most beneficial allocation of the grant would involve making Black History Month events free and inclusive for students. “Another element of our conversations was ensuring the complete agency of black student groups that have planned Black History Month programs in the past maintained control regardless of whether we were giving them funding support or not,” she said.

Safeer added it’s important to recognize that groups on campus have annually-planned Black History Month events. She said the AMS contribution would be a tangible support of a project generally spearheaded by the black community at Queen’s. 

“What we do to address anti-black racism here should be particular to black groups at Queen’s,” Safeer remarked. “The idea came to recognize that and recognize when we talk about anti-blackness and the steps we take to address that, it should be tangible, and we should start by tangibly supporting the work that's being done on campus by black groups.” 

Current QBAS President Asha Gordon believes the grant will allow black groups on campus to provide more events during the month. 

“While student groups try our best, with a lack of funding, it is often difficult to offer as many additional events and learning opportunities outside of the opening ceremony,” Gordon wrote in an email to The Journal. “I was pleased to see that the AMS and Queen’s administration are making a consistent financial commitment towards the support of the time and efforts that student groups exert.” 

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