Laurier’s DEO offers safe space

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As a response to the police brutality against black people in the United States, as well as the increased presence of racialized violence in the media, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Diversity and Equity Office, along with other campus partners, created a safe space for students this past Monday.

Laura Mae Lindo, executive director of the Diversity and Equity Office, explained why offering this space on campus was necessary.

“The Diversity and Equity Office staff members had been talking to some of the executive team members in the Association of Black Students really over the course of the middle of last week until [now], and we had a number of them come to us about wanting to do a mental health panel that’s focused on the impact of racism on racialized communities on campus,” said Lindo.

Although this panel will occur in January, in collaboration with the Diversity and Equity Office at the University of Waterloo, the Laurier DEO found it necessary to do something for Laurier students now, as the connection between racism, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety is becoming more prevalent.

“We thought one thing that we could do is provide a space. We’re keeping it open pretty much for as long as they need the space to be there and provide an opportunity for the rest of the Laurier community to speak to black lives, to remind black communities that they’re loved, that they’re cared for at Laurier,” Lindo said.

In addition to this safe space, a graffiti board has been put up in the DEO office and students are invited to write a “Love Letter to Black Lives” and post it on the board.

“It’s actually linked to a real project we got funding for. The idea is that we know that black lives matter. We know there are people from our campus [who are part of] the Black Lives Matter movement. We know that those aren’t just black students or racialized students, [they are] also allies that are a part of this movement and are trying to remind people that if it’s true that all of our lives matter, we have to recognize that treating black folks like this is not showing that you love them,” Lindo explained.

“As a consequence [Humera Daved, education and inclusion coordinator at the DEO] decided that one of the best ways to challenge racial violence is with love, so writing love letters and reminding people how much they add to campus, how much they’re valued, but even if they’re sad and hurt and angry, that it’s okay. They should be. It’s racism.”

Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group also played a huge role in providing this space to students, as LSPIRG made room at the Rainbow Centre’s picnic on Monday for students to contribute a letter to the graffiti board. The Rainbow Centre’s involvement helped influence that the issues arising aren’t just black issues, as intersectionality plays a part in oppression as well.

“[This] is such a clear and beautiful example of what ally-ship and critical ally-ship looks like [on] campus,” Lindo said.

With the stresses of racialized violence happening so early in the semester, Lindo said that the DEO has been in contact with several university groups, deans and faculty members, as the stresses of starting a new school year may be impacted by the stresses of the prevalence of racism.

Overall, Lindo has been very happy with the support and involvement of the Laurier community in response to the recent tragedies.

“I just want to say how proud I am of Laurier and being at Laurier. Many people that are in roles like mine that are also having to figure out how to support racialized students at a time where racism is so vivid in our everyday experiences don’t have the same kind of support that I’m having while I’ve been here.”

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