XAO challenges privilege, supports black lives

Turnout lower this year, but student opinion poster fills up with comments


A panel called “Black Lives Matter” addressed how black people are treated at U of T on Friday.

The panel, part of the month-long eXpression Against Oppression event, featured three speakers who shared their experiences as black people in Canada and at U of T.

Each speaker was given 15 minutes to speak and 10 minutes for questions.

George Dei, a teacher, researcher in anti-racism education, and PhD from U of T’s Department of Anthropology, talked about the costs of being black and the need to fight for identity and community.

“It’s about resistance. It’s about salvation,” he said.

He said urged the building of communities and not only the pursuit of degrees, because black people must “become not just academic scholars, but academic warriors”.

The second speaker, U of T student Lincoln Anthony, talked about the Transitional Year Program, an eight-month program to help adults who do not formally qualify for admission gain access to university.

Anthony said TYP had given him his life back and condemned the fact that the former office of the TYP had been shut down by the university and moved to a smaller place.

Sandy Hudson, the current executive director of UTSU, spoke next.

Her topics included an argument education should be free and that “grading is racist”. She said that some institutions in the U.S. have stopped grading, because it is “not fair to grade a person’s own thought”.

Hudson also criticized U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs for lacking African studies in its graduate school.

According to UTMSU accessibility coordinator Tasneem Abdelhaleem, XAO this year sought to challenge privilege.

“The idea is just to get students aware of what they have, understand that access to resources and things within the system [are] due to socioeconomic status, race, and gender, and not because they belong to a society,” he said.

Abdelhaleem said the turnout was lower this year than last year and surmised that it was because students think their voices do not make a difference or because of the TA strike having reduced the number of students on campus.

But the closing event at UTM, a Skype session with UTM alumna Shefa Obaid, had the largest turnout.

Obaid talked about her experience at a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan. She had also started a fundraising campaign with the XAO team for Syrian children.

Other XAO events at UTM included a workshop by the Health and Counselling Centre on five habits that lead to a healthy lifestyle, a talk by faculty and students about diversity in the university, and a discussion on the interface between religion and LGBT.