QBAS celebrates Blackness this Black History Month

Student association adapts events to a virtual setting

QBAS in 2019-20.
Journal File Photo

This month, Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS) is celebrating Blackness and fostering productive discussions about Blackness at Queen’s.

There are a series of virtual events happening on campus to celebrate Black History Month (BHM) this year, many of which were organized by QBAS. 

QBAS hosted Food for Thought on Feb. 18 in collaboration with Queen’s University Muslim Student Association (QUMSA). The two associations went live on Instagram together, cooking cultural Muslim food and discussing the intersectionality of being Black and Muslim.

“I think too often we neglect to understand that when we look at things like Islamophobia or […] anti-Black racism, there is a place where these two come together,” Catherine Haba, president of QBAS, said in an interview with The Journal. 

According to Haba, both the QBAS and QUMSA representatives who ran the event self-identify as both Black and Muslim. They went through the recipes step-by-step, so students could follow along.

Viewers were encouraged to participate in the discussion even if they didn’t wish to cook. Haba said the event saw “good” turnout and that students commented that they identified with the topics being discussed.

“It was mainly an opportunity for us to celebrate [this intersectionality] by having a discussion about these different topics and the experiences of Black Muslim students, which is not often spoken about,” Haba said.

QBAS hosted a Soul movie night on Feb. 20, along with Queen’s Collage Collective and ResLife. The event took place over Zoom, and students could watch the movie while collaging.

“We really wanted to watch a movie that didn’t have any kind of traumatic representation of Black narrative or Black story,” Haba said. “We just really wanted to go for a feel-good movie.”

After the movie, the organizers held a discussion about the representation of Blackness in Soul and in film in general. For example, they discussed how the Black narratives most commonly represented in film are tropes, like the slave narrative. 

“It’s only in the last few years that we’re starting to see more positive representations,” Haba said. 

“And […] in some animated films, the Black characters only live within their Blackness, or their physical, representational Blackness, for only a small period of time, and then they’re turned into animals. So an example of that is Princess and the Frog. For the majority of the movie, they’re frogs.”

QBAS and Queen’s Reads will be hosting a discussion forum Feb. 27 over Zoom on remembering Blackness and anti-Blackness at Queen’s.

The event will feature a panel of five undergraduate Black student leaders discussing their experience with, and the history of, Blackness and anti-Blackness at Queen’s. After the discussion, attendees will be able to ask questions to the panelists.

“They will be welcome to [explore] the erasure of Blackness which has occurred in part because of the quick turnaround that happens, and the limited amount of time that we’re able to be on the campus, and also in part by the fact that the University can choose what they remember and what is forgotten,” Haba said.

She also said the discussion will work to “resist this idea that Queen’s is a white space only” and “really create a space of learning.”

According to Haba, QBAS anticipated decreased student engagement in their events this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but they were “really okay with that.”

“Because we work for the flourishing of the Black community, the kind of engagement we get doesn’t necessarily matter, and we make sure in terms of who does come to our events that we provide an environment that adds value and provides that community,” she said.

QBAS expanded their programming for Black History Month through the whole month this year; usually, it’s contained to one week. They’re also focusing on amplifying other events hosted by other groups on campus this month.

In addition to these bigger events, QBAS is working on small projects and initiatives this month. For example, they started the Love QBAS initiative to deliver free wellness packages to self-identifying Black students in the Kingston area. 

QBAS is also working with MUSE Magazine, a student-run campus publication, to create a zine that hopes to amplify Black voices and function as a collection of Black thoughts, celebration, creativity, and artistry.

“One thing also that this COVID time has taught us is the fact that Black History Month and celebration is not limited to being in person, and that Black creativity, Black joy, remembrance of Black contribution, transcends the physical and geographical bounds, and is something that is still being celebrated […] despite not being able to see each other in person,” Haba said.

She added a major theme QBAS is focusing on this month is wellness, specifically ensuring Black students receive the care and support they deserve from the University. QBAS is also focusing on “taking a moment to recognize and situate Black contributions.”

“We’ve tried to encourage people to really take a moment to celebrate Blackness and to recognize that this month and the celebration should not be limited to the month of February, and is something that should be ongoing,” Haba said.

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