Society’s ‘old normal’ must make way for systemic change in a new era, members of Western’s Black Students’ Association (BSA) said Friday during the group’s launch of Black History Month.
The online event marked the start of four weeks of virtual activities to highlight the achievements and culture of Black Canadians.
It is also a time to champion a fight that’s hundreds of years old and continues today, BSA president Angie Antonio said.
“We’re not looking to go back to what was considered normal. Change must be made to create a new normal, a new beginning and a new standard for equality for all,” she said.
The launch event featured singers, spoken-word artists, poets, dancers and a panel discussion celebrating Black history and culture, and proclaiming #BlackLivesMatter.
“It is essential to speak out on these issues,” said BSA political affairs officer Fauzia Agbonhin, “for if change is to happen, one must understand the roots of the problem.”
In a video to help launch Black History Month at Western, president Alan Shepard said, “The month of February is a time to reflect on the struggles of the past and to use the lessons of history as a force for change now and into the future.”
Western must be “a campus where everyone feels like they belong (and) a community where everyone’s contributions count,” he said.
“I know that our students, staff, faculty and alumni are committed to the ongoing work we’ve been doing over the past year to create that kind of community for everyone – important work to address racism and especially anti-Black racism.”
Last summer, Nicole Kaniki and Bertha Garcia were appointed Western’s special advisors on anti-racism. The pair are working to embed equity, diversity and inclusion principles into the university’s institutional structure and lay the foundation for an campus-wide anti-racism strategy.
Also on Friday, BSA, and student newspapers, The Gazette at Western and Fanshawe College’s Interrobang produced a special collaborative issue highlighting – in poetry, story and art – the experiences and culture of Black students.
The BSA Instagram account is detailing events this month that include a social media campaign to highlight Black firsts; Black mental health; international students; allies, advocates and activists; and Black experiences at Western.