Laurier Association of Black Students host events for Black History Month

Photo of model Imani van Gaalen holding a Laurier bag, by Michael Manful.
Photo of model Imani van Gaalen holding a Laurier bag, by Michael Manful.
Contributed image

Black History Month is an annual observance in February where people across Canada participate in events and festivities to honour and celebrate Black people. 

“I think the significance of Black History Month definitely revolves around Black resistance,” Gilene Graham, director of marketing at the Laurier Association of Black Students (ABS), said.  

Graham explained how resistance and solidarity does not only come in the form of protesting. 

“[Being in resistance and solidarity with your Black peers] can be done through expression through art, expression through professionalism and giving people the resources they need to be successful, that is one way to resist white supremacy,” she said. 

Graham outlined some of the barriers that are present for Black empowerment – especially regarding professional experience for students. 

“We have noticed that some of the barriers to Black empowerment [are] literally just access to resources, specifically professional development resources,” she said. 

She explained how the Black Students of Lazaridis for business administration students highlights Black students and provides resources for professional development, while ABS is targeted for Black students in all faculties and programs with a similar mission of empowerment and resources to help students advance their careers.  

“For ABS this month, it’s going to be really important for us to personify what Black professionalism is for our students and our general members and equip them with the resources they need to be successful, whether it’s academically, financially, professionally,” Graham said. 

“Everyone’s capable, they just might not have the same accessibility to the same resources as other people of different ethnic backgrounds that have those resources that are able to excel.” 

ABS will be running multiple Black History Month events and initiatives throughout the month: 

Feb. 3: Career Workshop Day 5-5:30 p.m. 

Feb. 5: The Basement Live Valentine’s Episode with Radio Laurier. 

Feb. 9: Beating the Odds conference for high-school students. 

Feb. 12: Valentine’s Day movie night 8.p.m-10 p.m. 

Feb. 13: Candygram fundraiser in the concourse. 

Feb. 17: Black Market carousal for Black businesses 12:15-4:30 p.m. 

Feb. 28: General member meeting 8- 10p.m. 

Furthermore, ABS is selling tote bags starting February, with more information on the @abs_laurier Instagram. 

Graham also outlined ways in which non-Black students, faculty, and constitutes of the University can support Black students.  

“One way that non-Black students and faculty can support ABS is just listening,” she said. 

“A lot of the discourse around helping Black people as a non-Black person is white saviorism in the sense that ‘they have to give them these accommodations, they have to give them special treatment, they have to throw money at them, they have to do this and that and they have to isolate them as a different thing than the rest of society in order to help them,’” Graham said. 

According to Graham, this kind of approach, although not necessarily completely wrong, has not been proven as effective in predominantly white spaces in an anti-oppression framework. 

“Something that would be helpful is just listening to Black students about what they need, instead of assuming ‘I know best and I’m going to push what I think is best for you, on you,’” she said. 

Graham explained that Laurier has become more diverse than it was in the past and there are more Black students now.  

“As that demographic changes, our minds have to change, you can’t apply the same approach from 20 years ago, when the demographic of students was not the demographic it is now, 20 years ago,” she said. 

She also explained how people have to be open to changing their mindsets to help students; 

“If the goal at the end of the day is to help Black students and to help ABS to feel empowered to do good things and be successful, then we have to start with listening to what Black students need and not approaching it with our predisposed opinions or ways of what we know to be right…,” Graham said.

As Black History Month commences, it is important to understand its significance in Canada. For more details on each event hosted at Laurier this month, visit the ABS Instagram account. 

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