Round-up: Black History Month at Queen’s

Co-president of African and Caribbean Students’ Association sits down with The Journal

Amanda Parris addresses the audience. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Elorm Vowotor

For African and Caribbean Students’ Association (ACSA) co-president Elorm Vowotor, Black History Month is a time to highlight “the stories, the history, [and] the struggles” of Black individuals. 

This year, their theme for Black History Month was “Resilience,” which the student-run group on campus hoped to channel through events and lectures open to all members of the Kingston and Queen’s communities. 

According to their mandate, ACSA was “formed for the purpose of advancing issues of importance to students of African and Caribbean descent.” 

“I can’t pick a specific part of [Black History Month] that is important to me because I believe every aspect of it is important,” Vowotor said in an email to The Journal. “It is important to hold these types of events because people like to think we have progressed as a society to a point where racism is not an issue. But current events will disagree with that notion,” she continued.

In partnership with the Queen’s Black Academic Society and members at large, ACSA hosted a Black History Month opening ceremony to kick off the month’s celebrations, lectures and cultural festivals.

CBC’s Amanda Parris, host of Exhibitionists, was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. Parris spoke to an audience of students, staff, faculty and the general public about themes of strength, courage and vision within the context of Black history. 

ACSA also held a cultural food festival with the goal to share culture and promote unity through food. “The cultural food festival involved us making food from our various cultures and sharing it with the general public,” she wrote.

This year, students expressed a clear focus on the experiences of Black medical students at Queen’s. In 1918, the University implemented a ban within 

the Queen’s Faculty of Medicine that forced many Black students already enrolled to find new schools. A small group of students, however, graduated from Queen’s at the time, pursuing successful careers across the country. 

Assistant Director of Queen’s University Office of Partnerships and Innovation Edward Thomas presented the lecture titled “Ghosted Legacies,” in Robert Sutherland Hall on Feb. 15. “He revealed the forgotten lives and legacies of those students and what happened to them here at Queen’s and after they left Queen’s,” Vowotor said, reflecting on the event. 

Following the month’s celebrations, Vowotor told The Journal she felt that efforts made by ACSA and other groups were successful in celebrating the significance of Black History Month. 

“Now that the month is over, we are definitely feeling confident about all the progress we made especially regarding the black medical students,” she wrote. “Their’s is a story that is never talked about, so we were extremely proud to be able to bring their stories to the light.” 

Vowotor said events on campus that allow students to celebrate the history of their ancestors 

at Queen’s is integral to creating a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere at the University. “These types of events help give us a voice,” she said. “They make us heard and they provide a space for us to be free and truly express ourselves.”

 

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