Young, Black and Educated (YBE) hosted “Say Her Name: Black Women’s Lives Matter” on Nov. 3 to raise awareness for the issues that marginalized groups, and more specifically black women, are facing.
Pascale Diverlus, a fourth-year Journalism student at Ryerson University, talked about the disproportionate violence and murders against black women and the importance of hearing the voices of the most marginalized people in our society.
“I am astonished as to how I can march for hours for [Mike Brown] but as soon as I see the name of a black woman, let alone a trans-black women, it’s an entirely different matter,” said Diverlus. “We can’t fight racism if we don’t fight sexism and transphobia. None of us are free until all of us are free.”
After Diverlus’ speech, Kattawe Henry, fourth-year Sociology major at Brock University, spoke about the stereotypical way black women are portrayed in our society, talking about the simultaneous hypersexualization and desexualization of black women. At one end of the spectrum, they are depicted as sexual objects and on the other end they are reduced to specific body parts, thus removing any individuality.
“We need to seriously address issues of sexual harassment,” said Henry. “We need to redirect the message and tell it from our perspective. We need to rewrite our education system.”
The event was sponsored by the Centre of Women’s and Gender Studies at Brock and the Council for Research in the Social Sciences. Margot Francis, who teaches WGST 2P98: Sexuality Studies as well as other courses related to gender and indigenous studies, also helped organize the event.
“When you look at who is most subject to violence, racialized women are in the foreground and people who cross sexual boundaries. They’re targeted and people don’t stand up for them,” said Francis.
The issue of violence against black women is a very real one, though one far too often left unpublished. The “Say Her Name” movement addresses the problem that the names of black women are often left out of official police reports and public documents. This issue is particularly disconcerting because of how unaware the general public is concerning the amount of violence and murders committed by the police against black women and then left unpunished.
Similarly, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is a call to solidarity and a response to racism against black people. The movement was founded in 2012 after 17-year old Trayvon Martin was killed, and his murderer acquitted. The movement focuses on all black people including women, trans, queer and disabled, and strives for a world where they are no longer the targets of systemic racism.
Diverlus is the founder of the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter and is passionate about spreading awareness and starting conversations.
“I experience [racism]. Nothing that I talk about is new to me, in that it’s surprising. I know the effects of living in an anti-black world. It’s dehumanizing, it’s awful,” said Diverlus. “My goal is to leave this life a little better [for my future kids]. My heart is already breaking for my children.”
At Brock, Henry founded the Young, Black and Educated chapter as a safe space on campus for black women. Her goal is to continue raising awareness for black women and to have their message create an even bigger impact.
“I thought that there was something missing on campus,” said Henry. “I want [black women] to feel important and that their voices matter.”
This sentiment was expressed by two of the audience members at the “Say Her Name: Black Women’s Lives Matter” event.
“I feel visible,” said Nona Badr, a third-year student.
“I feel important,” added Lydia Collins, a third-year English major.
In the question period that followed the speeches, Diverlus and Henry briefly touched on the concept ‘Reversed Racism’, which was raised by one of the audience members.
“It doesn’t exist,” said Henry. “You’re diverting away from the main issue. Why do you have to revert the concept to come back to you? Why is it about you?”
“Oppression doesn’t work two ways,” added Diverlus.
Although the “Black Lives Matter” movement is a call to action against violence, one of the key points reiterated by both Diverlus and Henry is that the movement needs to be done with love.
“We can’t be just like, we hate this white supremacist world, and change it. We need to work together in love, and we need to hold people accountable. Because that’s love too,” said Diverlus.
The second key point repeatedly expressed was the importance of education.
“Take the time to educate yourself,” encouraged Henry. “Try to understand oppression other than your own. Recognize that there’s a lack of representation and that this gap needs to be addressed.”
“It’s essential to know about these issues because you’re going to face them for the rest of your life,” said Diverlus.
With students like Henry and Diverlus courageously stepping up to raise awareness, it’s up to the rest of the student body to take the time to inform themselves about these social issues and do their part to make a difference.
For more information about Young, Black and Educated, visit