Benefits of studying blackness


Hope Eruabor | Contributor

Featured Image: Alysha Campbell is one of many students who have benefitted from the Black Canadian Studies Certificate. | Courtesy of Alexandra Isaac

The Black Canadian Studies Certificate at York provides students with an integrated examination of Black Canada through the historical, cultural and expressive production of people of African descent in the Americas.

It’s a “diverse curriculum that reflects their history and experiences while providing an understanding of their own relationship to the society in which they live,” according to Dr. Andrea Davis, the coordinator of the Black Canadian Studies Certificate and Department Chair of Humanities.

Being a part of the African Diaspora can make it complicated to navigate what it means to be Black in Canada. While Canada prides itself on being multicultural, Blackness seems to be separate from Canadian society collectively. This creates a distorted understanding of how Black people are actually a part of the Canadian historical narrative. Thus, making certificates such as the Black Canadian Studies Certificate necessary.

Aysha Campbell, a third-year sociology student, is enrolled in this certificate. “I’ve learned so much about myself and so much about my people,” says Campbell.

Black history in Canada is often glossed over in schools, focusing on the Underground Railroad and Canada being a saving grace. This creates a falsified image of Black history and presence in Canada.

“Prior to taking the certificate, I didn’t know how long Black people have been here,” explains Campbell.

“I thought that Black presence in Canada was recent. That’s what I was taught in the past, but through the certificate, I learned the contrary. Black people have been here before Canada was even Canada.”

Though we are a part of a school community that has mass diversity, anti-blackness is still prevalent and clearly shown in the lack of Black professors, and in the lack of Black students in classrooms.

“On top of being one of the few Black people in class, you have to deal with anti-blackness from professors, classmates and/or the course materials. The certificate courses are filled with Black people, and provides more opportunities to be taught by Black professors, which can help in the overall academic success of Black students at York,” says Campbell.

The certificate is not about adding Blackness into white spaces, but creating spaces for Blackness. Black people need the freedom to be expressive in spaces that are unique to them. An integral aspect of our identity is our culture and history. Therefore, not having the space to correctly learn this is a concealment of our identity. Our society and education systems cannot continue to apply the same “one size fits all” standard, especially to racialized communities. Our Black excellence deserves to be learned and exclaimed.

“The certificate is the Afrocentric ray of sunshine in the clouds of Eurocentrism.”

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