A call for change and message of overcoming systemic racism rang out in the halls of Laurier Brantford this week as SOUL hosted its annual celebration of Black History Month.
Over a 100 students gathered in the RCW lobby at 10pm on Wednesday to discuss racial identities and honour the need to diversify Canada’s historic identity.
While introducing the event Tashna Wahabu is a co-ordinator of SOUL, a campus organization that works to discuss unity and connect the black community on campus.
This year, SOUL was embraced by Laurier Brantford’s department of student life and engagement, opening the organization up to greater funding opportunities and support from the university.
According to Rhinda David, lead co-ordinator of SOUL, each group involved in student life and engagement works to address their own unique concerns, “I think that celebrating the different types of people and types of interests is important.”
To highlight some of the issues that affect black students at Laurier Brantford and the kind of topics discussed during SOUL meetings, Wahabu showed the crowd a series of videos selected by co-ordinators:
(The language in this video is NSFW)
Patrons were invited to dine on African and Caribbean cuisine, including rice and peas, roti, plantain, coleslaw, jerk chicken, fried chicken, ox tail and curried goat.
As participants ate and mingled, a fourth year Criminology student, who prefers to be called Cashmere performed a DJ set filling the room with music by black artists ranging from Bob Marley to Biggie Smalls. A slideshow played in the background, highlighting famous black figures (like the first black billionaire Robert L. Johnson), African and Caribbean landscapes and celebrations like Carnival.
“A lot of students have a lot of talent,” explained David, who designed SOUL’s Black History Month event as a platform for students involved in the group to have their talents and passions showcased amongst their peers.
Tyche Kasweka, a third year Criminology student at Laurier Brantford sang the hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow, crooning to the audience, “I sing because I’m happy/I sing because I’m free.”
Edrianne Crisostomo, a student at Laurier Brantford, performed a piece of spoken word called “This is Not a Poem”, asking listeners to choose kindness over judgment.
Twin sisters, Kayle and Kayla Allydice, performed a song they wrote together called Mirrors.
Braxton Wignall, a Laurier Brantford student who produces the Dream Nation Collective, performed an original song called Balance, reflecting on his frame of mind during his fifth year of high school. (NSFW language.)
Kevan Davidson, came to the event from Toronto to perform a spoken word piece. Speaking to the realities of inner city life in Canada, Davidson’s performance was met with a standing ovation.
According to David, the event grew from last year. “That’s progress,” said David, explaining that she is pleased to see the event developing and reaching more people.
“I think there was not even 10 people in the original group,” she said. “There’s definitely been a change with inclusivity campus-wise.”
“As far as Brantford, and the bigger scheme of things, I feel like there could be a little more to be done to celebrate diversity.” says David.
David describes Brantford as being in a phase of “culture shock”, “Even just having the university here, this is a change for them, a huge change for Brantford… I think they’re slowly starting to adapt to the university and seeing different faces from all over Ontario and Canada.”
The City of Brantford did not proclaim Black History Month 2015, and very few events were held in the city this year, a marked contrast to the efforts made in years past.
How students at SOUL’s Black History Month Celebration responded to the question, “Why is black history important?”: