By Judy Pham
Black Lives Matter Toronto was praised for its activist role in the community at a
Black History Month Symposium last week at York University.
The two-day symposium on ” The Evolving Meaning of Blackness in Canada ” held on February 17 and 18, explored Black identity in the Canadian context.
The symposium took place at the Founders’ Assembly Hall on the Keele campus and was presented by The Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Confederation in Canada.
Associate Professor and Director of Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, Dr. Rinaldo Walcott specifically highlighted the role of Black Lives Matter Toronto as moving the Black community forward into freedom.
“In recent moments of Black resistance to the Canadian state no better example comes to mind than BLM TO” said Walcott in his address.
Walcott explains that “in their articulation of what might be at stake for Black life, BLM Toronto has cast a net that recognizes Black difference at the same time that it articulates a strategic politics of Black commonalities.”
He credits Black feminism as ” a major foundation.”
“This method of political action demonstrates how in fact Black feminist politics despite never being given its full credit has come to be a significant foundation of our activist present, and often until now unspoken debt owed to liberal and radical Black women alike” said Walcott.
Dr. Jean Augustine, the first African Canadian woman first to serve in the federal Cabinet, was present at the symposium
In an interview with The Caribbean Camera, Augustine described the various panels at the symposium as “rich with information.”
“Really good research was done on the topic of Blackness,” she said.
“I walked away with my head swimming with thoughts on Canada reaching 150 years since Confederation, with Black folk here since the 1600s. As a community, we need to understand and ponder the information they presented as we move forward to an equitable, inclusive society” she added.
Toronto social activist and lawyer Kiki Roach who was one of the speakers at the symposium, praised Augustine for creating the Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora.
In an interview, Roach said “Jean Augustine has done a great service in establishing this chair in the community. She has given an opportunity to come together and talk about the broad range of issues affecting African Canadians.”
“We had a chance for lawyers, academics, students, social workers, other community workers, to exchange in a forum that is pretty unique. We don’t have that opportunity in one Symposium often. It brought richness, and allowed us to get valuable information that is not covered in mainstream media. It provided a forum for us to educate ourselves about our own history” Roach added.