Queen’s Student Diversity Project leads discussion on anti-racism & allyship

University panelists speak about importance of student action

Representatives from clubs on campus spoke about some of the initiatives they have been implementing to assist BIPOC students at Queen’s. 
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The Queen’s Student Diversity Project (QSDP) hosted an online forum on June 13 to discuss how students can take leadership roles related to anti-racism, allyship, and Black Lives Matter.

Several clubs attended the virtual discussion, including Queen’s Rehabilitation Therapy Students Society, Queen’s Formula SAE Team, Queen’s International Affairs Association (QIAA), Freedom from Violence, Queen’s Black Premedical Association (QBPA), Queen’s Women of Colour Collective, Queen’s Muslim Students Association (QUMSA), and Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS). 

The discussion opened with a moment of silence to allow participants to remember the individuals who have lost their lives to racial injustice. 

“Our goal today is to foster a safe space in which Queen’s University and students can better understand how to navigate and support the Black community,” said Roshan Uruthirakumar, QSDP member.

The event continued with a panel discussion from University representatives, including Dr. Kristin Moriah, assistant professor in the department of English, Alana Butler, assistant professor of at-risk learners and student success in the faculty of education, and Dr. Arunima Khanna, cross-cultural diversity and equity fairness counsellor at Student Wellness Services (SWS). 

Yinka Adegbusi, board member of Queen’s Black Alumni Chapter, and Lavon Hood, the University’s ombudsperson, were also panelists in the event.

Each panellist explained how they’re working to create and maintain a more inclusive, equitable environment for BIPOC students at Queen’s through their individual roles.  

Their experiences created a broader understanding of how the University addresses racial injustice on campus through its operations.

Moriah explained, for example, how the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Equity and Diversity Implementation Committee has been increasing initiatives that bring more Black researchers to campus and support the Black studies minor. 

At SWS, Khanna has been advocating for a shift to focus on the sources of stress that racialized students are experiencing at Queen’s. She emphasized that equal treatment is not equity, noting many BIPOC students experience stress from the University’s monocultural environment. 

Adegbusi said the Alumni Network has been working with its members to connect alumni back to the University after graduation to give back to the community they once belonged to. 

However, the panel primarily addressed how students can advocate for BIPOC communities, as well as sharing educational and support resources for students. 

“Students are so important in pushing the University forward in terms of how the University thinks about anti-racism, how the University thinks about supporting Black students, and the importance of having Black professors and courses in Black studies,” Moriah said. 

Khanna said she wants to see student groups connect with one another and questioned how students can cross demographic boundaries to build a “truly integrated” Queen’s community. 

Both Adegbusi and Butler agreed students should become involved in on-campus initiatives like the University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE) and occupy spaces like the Yellow House, which will provide a new stream of programming and advocacy opportunities.

The panelists also touched on the wide range of literature and courses students have at their disposal to become more educated on these topics. 

Following the panel, QSDP led a question and answer period so students attending the discussion could interact with the student club representatives or panellists. 

Many of the questions addressed leadership, allyship, and career development, focusing on the important role allies need to take as listeners to those impacted by racial injustice, rather than speaking for them. 

Representatives from clubs on campus used the opportunity to speak about some of the initiatives they have been implementing to assist BIPOC students. 

QBPA spoke about one of its programs that assists Black pre-med students with their medical school applications. They said that, in the past two years, there have been no Black medical students in the incoming classes at Queen’s. The Association hopes to introduce a program that gives potential Black medical students a separate domain to apply that would provide an equitable place to submit applications, without biases that may exist in the traditional application process. 

Following the question period, QSDP promoted Black-owned businesses in the Kingston and Toronto areas that students can support, including restaurants, stores, and mental health resources. In Kingston, they specifically mentioned Sally’s Roti ShopCher-Mère Day SpaAunty Ann Caribbean/ African Grocery and Beauty Supply, and Queen’s new anti-racism initiatives.

QSDP ended the conference by announcing two fundraisers it’s started for the Ontario Black History Society and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Education Fund. Those interested in contributing can visit QSDP’s Facebook page.

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