Last Wednesday, the Black Liberation Collective held their first event for the academic 2016/17 year, titled Welcome Black. The event welcomed black students to the University of Toronto community, and invited them into the BLC. Discussions revolving around what it means to be black at U of T took place, with attendees detailing their personal experiences with anti-blackness and anti-black racism at the three campuses. There were also competitions and games, such as Black Family Feud.
The BLC is a loose collective of black students, from all three U of T campuses. These students come together to work on issues of systemic anti-black racism within and outside the institution. They also work on how to deal with anti-blackness at the university, and encourage black students to enrich their experience at U of T.
The Medium spoke to Hashim Yusuf, a committee member of the BLC and third-year criminology student, to learn more about the collective.
The BLC was formed when a few students came together to host an event called Being Black at U of T. The purpose of this event was for students to come together and talk about what it means to be black at U of T, and the challenges they face.
But when this event occurred, a lot of students attended from all three campuses, and several interesting and thought-provoking topics were brought up. As a result of that event, the BLC was formed.
Apart from the Being Black at U of T event, the BLC also holds town hall meetings, works on the demands they give to the university, and engages in other activities to eradicate anti-blackness and racism at the University of Toronto.
One of the BLC’s beliefs is that black students have the right to receive an education without having to deal with any anti-blackness or racism. This is a right they believe black students are not given, and as a result, they feel that the current education system is an unfair system. The BLC has come together to change this.
The BLC’s aims for this year are to develop the nine demands they have for the university. According to Yusuf, the BLC believes that if these demands are implemented, they will eliminate anti-blackness and racism from the university.
One of the demands is to increase the funding provided to the Transitional Year Programme. This program was envisioned by the black community of the St. George campus a few decades ago. It is a year-long bridging program that supports students who may not have done well in high school when they transferred to U of T. The program is equity-focused, and aims to support students who may find the transition to university difficult.
However, according to Yusuf, the funding for the program has been reduced repeatedly each year. The program is run out of a building, located at 123 St. George Street, in the corner of campus, with a broken elevator, and is inaccessible to students.
Another one of the BLC’s demands is for the university to introduce an independent African and Caribbean studies department.
The BLC feels this is important because, as of now, courses on African and Caribbean history are mostly taught by white professors. They would prefer these courses be taught by black professors who have a history with these issues.
According to the U of T BLC chapter’s website, other demands include addressing the lower proportion of black students, especially in professional and graduate programs, establishing mandatory equity training for U of T members (including faculty, students and administration), increasing the number of funding opportunities available for black students, and providing free education at U of T for black and indigenous students.
According to Yusuf, the BLC doesn’t have any executives this year, because it’s not an official organization. However, the BLC is run by a student committee made up of students from all three campuses.