'Being BIPOC in Canada' virtual event part of Black History Month celebrations
February 19, 2021
With contributions from Debesree Saha, Communications Intern
As part of the ongoing effort to promote inclusivity, diversity and representation at King’s, the King’s Political Science Students’ Association (KPSSA), King’s University College Students’ Council (KUCSC), and the Black Students’ Association (BSA) at Western University collaborated to create an event. It focused on encouraging discussions about the experiences of BIPOC students living in Canada.
“This was an opportunity to bring together a group of diverse students identifying as Black, Indigenous, or people of colour (BIPOC) to discuss their own unique and interesting experiences,” said Zainab Al-Jaiashi, KUCSC Vice-President of Student Affairs.
‘Being BIPOC in Canada’ was a free, virtual event aimed to encourage open and educational discussion. The panel included seven students from King’s and the wider Western community. Audience members were invited to listen to the perspectives of these BIPOC students and were provided with the opportunity to ask questions to the panellists throughout the event. Joe Henry, King’s Dean of Students and Dr. Gillian Balfour, King’s Vice-Principal and Academic Dean attended the event and expressed their support to the BIPOC community at King’s and Western.
The event was moderated by Ombola Fayemi, who is a King’s representative of the Western BSA along with fellow panellist Sunday Ajak. Fayemi is in third year studying Childhood and Social Institutions and Disability Studies, while Ajak, also in third year, is studying Social Justice and Peace Studies. Additional King’s student panellists included Roshaydia Morgan, second year Social Justice and Peace Studies, Victoria Hinkson, third year Political Science, Tia Elkhayri, fourth year Criminology and Rishita Shukla, second year Political Science and English Language and Literature. The panel also included two Western students: Inaara Savani, third year International Relations, and Tesneem Rahhal, second year Fine Arts. While each panellist had their own unique stories, they all shared similar experiences of discrimination.
The panellists discussed problems that they have had and continue to face including experiencing culture shock, identity crisis, segmentation and feeling disconnected from their cultures and histories. They also reflected on how being BIPOC has affected their mental state and the toll that has taken over time.
Morgan spoke about her disappointment in how the recent social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Mi’kmaq fisherman protests did not have a greater impact on changing people’s mindsets. However, she believes that the international protests that took place last summer have made some impact, as people who have long been ignorant about institutional racism and police brutality are now at least noticing it. Ajak elaborated on that point stating that Black Lives Matter is not just a trend and the movement goes far beyond posting on social media for couple of months. “Black lives matter all the time,” he stated.
In terms of the campus experience, the panellists said that in order to feel more included in the King’s community, they want more people of colour to be hired in faculty and counselling positions, to better reflect the student population and allow BIPOC students to feel seen and heard. Hinkson shared her feelings about how having a Black professor at King’s helps her to be motivated as she feels more comfortable to share her thoughts and seek guidance with someone she can relate to.
Overall, the panellists stated they want to be well-represented and respected in the King’s community for who they are, where they come from and where they belong to.