The Black History Month Committee at UTM held several themed events that commemorated Black History Month and provided a space for black students to share their experiences.
The first week featured the opening ceremony and a political discussion, “Grieve Tonight, Rise Tomorrow,” about North American police brutality against black men and women.
At “Existence is Resistance,” a forum that addressed relevant topics in the black community, students distributed questions among the audience to generate discussion. “There was a discussion on unity within the black community,” says Melissa Theodore, Univerity of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) vice-president, equity. “We’re black and regardless of where we come from, racism still hits all of us the same way.”
“Our mere existence is resistance,” says Theodore when asked to explain the title “Existence is Resistance.”
“Anti-black racism is a fulcrum, a lever, of white supremacy… this whole society is not made for us. It was not made for us by us. We’re just brought here as commodities,” Theodore adds.
The second week featured “Buy Black,” an opportunity to support local black businesses, as well as an open mic night and an art show.
The art show featured work by Ifunanya Paulinus, a UTM student. Paulinus’ work–character studies set in a Nigerian village–highlighted people not typically featured in Western media.
The last week featured a movie night and the closing ceremony, the Black Excellence Ball. “We want to watch a movie that will instill some thoughts in people’s minds so that we can have a discussion in the end,” says Ebi Agbeyegbe, UTMSU vice president external, adding that the executives chose between Dear White People and Selma.
The ball was a relatively lighter event with food, dancing, a fashion show, and spoken word performances.
The committee consisted of four student groups: the UTMSU, Caribbean Connections, Erindale Campus African Students’ Association, and the Somali Students’ Association. “We didn’t want four different groups hosting different events; we’d rather have all participants in a room together,” says Hassan Havili, UTMSU president.
According to Theodore, the month-long series of events highlighted love, inclusion, freedom, and education. “As a committee, we sat down to choose which words would represent each letter. Love, we have to stand together and love one another to build unity. Because if we’re not united, we can’t stand up against our oppressor, which is white supremacy. Inclusion, it’s imperative that we include everyone and everyone’s voices are heard in the black community to combat sexism, homophobia, and transphobia… Freedom, we’re still not free. Freedom to live our lives, freedom to succeed, freedom to prosper economically… Education is a tool. With education, we can empower our black people. The whole point of Black History Month is to educate people on black history,” Theodore says.
“But the fact that we have this month is disheartening, because why can’t it be included in regular history?” Theodore adds.