York International hosts Black History Month Panel


Caroline Petrucci | Contributor

Featured Image: The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion hosts events every year for Black History Month. | Courtesy of The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion at York

In its closing Black History Month event, York International hosted a panel on Friday, February 28 to discuss racial issues and racial identity.

The panel hosted two professors: Pablo Idahosa, a professor in African Studies and International Developmental Studies, and Andrea Davis, professor and Chair of the Humanities Department. The panel also included several York students who spoke to the issues individually.

During the event, the panellists explored topics like systematic racism on campus, the importance of understanding Black history, and what it is like to be a Black woman at York.

The event was coordinated by fourth-year culture and expression studies student Ira Famarin. She is an international student from Singapore and a member of York International’s student staff.

“I think one of the key things is that growing up in Asia I wasn’t taught about Black history and I always feel like you cannot have an opinion about something that you don’t fully understand. Coming to Canada I feel like there’s so much black history that I am not aware of,” says Famarin.

“When we were brainstorming ideas about the panel, about what we can do for Black History Month, it was a lot about how we can introduce black history to international students in a way that we can help each other be accountable. So how we can move from being non-racist to anti-racist, and not just be bystanders,” adds Famarin.

A wide variety of races, ethnicities and backgrounds of study attended the event that took place in York Lanes. First-year music student Samira Yeo says events like these are significant for black students on campus.

“I think it’s important because it reunites a lot of Black people who may not necessarily be seeing each other around campus. So it kind of gives us that little ‘hello’, or that little reminder that there are so many other people who are like us around campus,” explains Yeo.

“It’s such a diverse campus, but sometimes it feels like there’s a mainstream overall kind of culture that overtakes, so just to acknowledge the individuality and peoples differences and stuff like that when it comes to culture is really important,” says fifth-year psychology student Nora Idris.

The two-hour panel was completed by a question round, in which various students asked engaging questions to the four panellists. This was the last of eight Black history events hosted at the university this month.

“Everyone can be a friend to everyone like they the panellists said, our issues are not monolithic, our issues overlap and sometimes just really take the time to understand one another,” says Famarin.

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