Following the Black Liberation Collective’s call to boycott UTSU for being “anti-black”, UTSU scheduled a “Town Hall to confront anti-Blackness within the UTSU” event with the BLC.
According to UTSU’s president Jasmine Wong-Denike in an email to The Medium, the purpose of the meeting is to “address anti-blackness within the UTSU because of the concern that the UTSU is perpetuating anti-blackness in its operation, outreach, and services.”
“We want to hear from our members ways in which we can be doing a better job to represent them, and to hold the UTSU accountable,” stated Wong-Denike.
“Their response to one of our demands to hold this town hall meeting shows how anti-Black they are,” stated BLC to The Medium. “UTSU decided to post this event right before their annual AGM with zero consultation from Black students in order to deflect any criticisms that do come up in the meeting about their anti-black racism.”
“Black students are not a priority to this executive team in any sense since they have taken office,” the BLC also said, adding that Black students are being “tokenized once again with no meaningful inclusion or consultation to redeem their public image.”
“While a town hall was decided on, certain logistical details were confirmed shortly before the AGM, hence why the event was posted beforehand,” said Wong-Denike.
UTSU has spoken with Black student groups before creating the event, according to Wong-Denike. She added that the town hall will be “part of a series of events to critically analyze the UTSU to make it more accessible, including looking at our annual general meetings and the accessibility of our elections.”
Wong-Denike also stated that there will not be an agenda in the event.
“There is no predetermined content beyond confronting anti-Black racism within the UTSU,” she said, “Because it’s a space for students to air their concerns and to have an honest discussion on how to move forward.”
In their statement to boycott the union back in October, BLC had also demanded UTSU to drop its lawsuit against UTSU’s former executive director, Sandra Hudson.
As previously reported by The Medium, UTSU filed a lawsuit against former president Yolen Bollo-Kamara, former VP internal and services Cameron Wathey, and Hudson for $277,508.62 for “amounts improperly paid” to Hudson before her employment was terminated last year.
“Till now, they’re still pursuing a racist lawsuit against a black woman [Hudson] who has dedicated over 10 years to the student movement and creating UTSU to be what it is,” BLC told The Medium.
UTSU had released a statement on their Facebook page also in October, stating that the management of the “ongoing litigation” is the responsibility of the executive committee, and the board of directors has the authority to “initiate and to settle litigation on the recommendation of the executive committee”, but not the role of managing the case.
BLC stated that they have collected over 500 signatures, and have gained the support of over 50 student groups and community organizations since they launched the call to boycott UTSU in October.
Last Friday, an event hosted by UTSU called, “AllLivesDONTMatter: Confronting Anti-Blackness” was cancelled, and while BLC said the reason was that “the facilitator declined the event in solidarity with our UTSU boycott,” Wong-Denike stated that the event was cancelled because “the originally-scheduled speaker unfortunately chose not to attend the event”.
The Facebook event description of the town hall mentions that the media “should not” attend. Wong-Denike told The Medium that media will be allowed access into the meeting if they request to attend in advance and “are respectful of the space.”
The town hall event is expected to take place this Thursday.