Brock faculty members worked alongside students to create a space where the voices of the Brock community may be heard in a respectful environment, to recognize the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. The event was entitled, Speak Out: A Town Hall on Racism at Brock and was held on March 21.
The town hall style meeting began with Simon Black, a professor in the Labour Studies department, engaging with the provincial anti-racism strategic plan established by the government.
“I think we can say reading from the anti-racism strategic plan by the provincial government that we have a long way to go, said Black. “It is important to remember that government strategic plans such as this don’t just emerge from the benevolence of governments or any institution for that matter. This strategic plan is very much a product of the resistance of groups who have been organizing around anti-racism, and also of ongoing indigenous resistance. I think it serves to remind us when we are thinking about our own context here at Brock that we can sit at committees and we can take part in various round tables and events like this, but its activism and advocacy that will really drive change here at our university.”
Subsequently, there were opening remarks from faculty members including, Dr. Dolana Mogadime, Professor Sherri Vansickle, Dr. Tamari Kitossa, and Zanab Jafry. Afterwards, the event transitioned into a town hall format, in which students had the opportunity to speak of their experiences at the university.
Professor Dolana, who teaches under the Faculty of Education, followed up saying: “An important thing is around the changing nature of population of students here at Brock University. As we continue to increase it’s diversity we also have to represent that in people that work here, the staff, faculty and even the leadership.”
Professor Vernisckle from the Eel Clan of the Onondaga nation added, “Don’t let them change you, in your anger, be a good person. We must all get along with peace, friendship, and respect. We must have moral growth, and a worldview that encourages, compassion, kindness, and love.”
Following this was Professor Kitossa and he expressed, “You are doing something unique and distinctive at Brock University, this has never happened before to the best of my knowledge, and what you’re doing here is that you are saying to those in positions of power that you demand that the services that you are provided here in this university are distributive in an equal and equitable way and that the color your skin, your sexual orientation, your gender, all of these are simply different dimensions of how we exist. None of those should be the basis for the deprivation of your rights to access services at this institution.”
“Meaningful change must occur at the policy level where racists are held accountable as per policy, as of right now there is no policy on campus which indicate immediate educative or punitive measures for faculty and staff, for these reasons I want to besiege Brock University to do the following,” said Ombuds Coordinator Zanab Jafry. “There needs to be an immediate campus wide inquiry on racism that is fully funded and backed and there needs to be amendments to the respectful work and learning environment policy which holds faculty and staff accountable for racism in a way that is meaningful, educative, and immediate.
“We would also like for the members of the office of the human rights and equity services to be highly trained in anti-racism, anti-repression and the intersectionality of status and power.”
Following the well-articulated and powerful speeches from faculty members were the voices of students at Brock University.
“The Anti-Racism Task Force is a group that is striving for quality and inclusivity. Today we witnessed an amazing turnout with a whole bunch of minorities and people of color coming together to support each other,” said student Elsie Boateng. “By letting voices be heard while unpacking the flaws within our community at Brock, we are creating a conscious anti-racist, and safe environment.”
According to both organizers, faculty and students in attendance, Speak Out: A Town Hall on Racism at Brock was a very successful and empowering event. While the Town Hall meeting was just a small step of progress, Speak Out hopes to bring the Brock community closer together through these experiences.
-Brian Pham, Contributor