Video: OISE Black Faculty in Conversation reflect on the new Centre for Black Studies in Education

By Perry King
February 28, 2022
Andrew Campbell
2022 Black Faculty in Conversation Poster.

Representing many departments and centres within the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, this year’s Black Faculty in Conversation convened with a new educational centre at the forefront of the conversation.

Organized by OISE’s Equity Committee, the chat featured Professor George Dei, Professor Njoki Wane, Professor Lance McCready, Assistant Professor rosalind hampton, Assistant Professor Whitneé Garrett-Walker, Associate Professor Amal Madibbo, and Assistant Professor Linda Iwenofu. Dr. Andrew Campbell moderated the conversation.

The conversation focused strongly on the new Black Centre for Studies in Education, which was officially announced by the Dean’s office on Feb. 8 – after a lengthy organizing process led by OISE faculty.

The attending faculty were asked to explore the significance of the new Centre and how the work they are involved in would contribute to the Centre’s mandate. This is a small slice of what they said. (This text has been edited for length and clarity.)
 

 



Professor Njoki Wane
Chair, Social Justice Education

Program Coordinator, Social Justice Education Program

“When I think of the Centre for Black Studies in Education, I’m thinking of a space where we’ll be able to disrupt colonial logic, where we’ll be able to interrogate and look closely at the work that we do. The Centre will be that space that will be articulating and providing information about Black radical thought. In addition, it will be a space where people can walk in and say, ‘Do you have any information on Black identity,’ because sometimes when we talk about Black identity it’s misconstrued, it’s misunderstood and there is no singularity about it. It is complex and multilayered. This is due to the complexities of our culture, our experience and the heterogeneity of the various identities that we have. 

“Because we are constantly talking about the need to liberate our mind, no one will liberate our mind except us. And we cannot liberate our mind without knowing our history and engaging with that knowledge critically. This knowledge, that is the history of Black people before and after slavery will be archived in the Centre. That means the Centre will be that space, where, somebody can go and say, ‘do you have any information on this, I need information on that, I'm stuck in my thinking.’ Liberating our mind will not come from outsiders, it will come from us. And we have to make a concerted effort to liberate each other in this process of liberating our minds.  

“We have always operated from the margins, we are creating a centre at the margins, a centre that speaks to us, so that we cannot be pushed to the margin because we are already a centre in itself.” 
 



Professor George Dei

Department of Social Justice Education

[Professor Njoki Wane], in her [opening] remarks, talked about the question of the Black space, and that it’s a combination of a long history. This is our story, our Black existence, our achievements and our successes are not just long, but about struggles and resistances. This is very important because history makes certain demands on the past, the present, and the future. And one of the demands to me is how we maintain that institutional critique, we need to maintain that institutional critique. It goes beyond the ‘politics of refusal’, as many Indigenous scholars talk about. I'm talking about what my student Marycarmen Lara Villanueva and I speak about in terms of the ‘spatiology of reparations’, and what it means for our institutions.

“When we have these spaces, we have to hold our institutions accountable, hold their feet to the fire. Just because we have this Centre, does not mean the work is done. In fact, our institutions produce this anti-Blackness culture and all of us have to deal with it. So we call on them for accountability. The work is not done.” 
 



Assistant Professor rosalind hampton

Department of Social Justice Education

“Like many other Black and Indigenous people, and other people who grew up in poor and working class communities, for me university was not an obvious or even anticipated goal. I worked many years before and after pursuing an undergraduate degree. I feel like this indirect pathway to academia really informs how I take up my role as a professor of Black studies – and as an entry point that allows me to remain tethered to really strong concerns about access to meaningful engagements in postsecondary education for Black students, and also the relationships between universities and the local communities within which, and adjacent to which they're situated. 

“This entry point, I think, is a really strong advantage for Black studies – it's how I think about the work that I do, and is also reflective of how many of the students I encounter have also come to the academy. And I want for us to be able to hold space for those students as well at the Centre. I think that Black studies and a Centre for Black Studies in Education can provide us with a really critical scholarly site and tradition to identify with. And in the name and tradition of Black studies, I find space for pedagogical and research practices that, very much like what Professor Dei was saying, really prioritize relationship building, community building, and collaboration, and explicitly work to undermine colonialism and capitalism.”
 



Professor Lance McCready 

Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education 
Director, Transitional Year Programme 

“I’ll speak more specifically about how I want the Centre for Black Studies in Education to really engage in this larger project of Black community development. For me, Black community development is really a process where Black community members come together to take action and generate the solutions around issues and problems that are facing Black communities diasporically – African Caribbean Black communities both locally and globally. And the way I focus that work, and what I want to extend to the Centre for Black Studies in Education is through my Making Spaces Lab. Making Spaces Lab promotes Black community development, through research, program, adaptation, curriculum and training that's creative. decolonizing, restorative evidence-based and transformative. It very much comes out of my own lived experiences as a Black, gay, same gender loving man growing up in New York City.”  

“I want us to understand the work of the Centre for Black Studies in Education; it has a long history as deeply embedded in academic study, not something that students have to think of as off to the side. And for me– my Black studies programs, my African American studies, programs in the United States – really became spaces where I could cultivate that sort of awareness, that sort of consciousness and grow with other sorts of Black students and non-Black students who are committed to this larger goal of Black community development.”
 



Assistant Professor Whitneé Garrett-Walker

Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

“When I was thinking about what I would speak about during this time, the first thing that popped into my mind is my favourite poem, A Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde. I’d like to read the last stanzas:

and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

“Based on this poem, and based on my identity as a Black, Indigenous, and Queer woman, I really think that this centre is going to support so many people – faculty, staff, students, other collaborators, community members – and our ability to reimagine, to unearth the Black radical imagination. The Black radical imagination is all about remembering, right? It's about remembering who you are, whose you are, how you enter, and less about these colonial mindsets of how you want to be perceived and seen. 

“So, the Black radical imagination is a space where we're able to challenge the status quo, challenge coloniality, challenge the ways in which we're seeing the media and textbooks and leadership in teacher education, etc. I also see the Centre as a space for solidarity, centring love, and critical hope. And to do this, that's going to take a lot of work for Black folks, the first step is to come together and undo. 

“You know how you're working on an email, and you go ahead and backspace. Well, there's so much for us to backspace, there's so much for us to release because it's no longer serving us.”
 



Assistant Professor Linda Iwenofu

Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development
Clinical child psychologist

“In thinking about the Centre, and as a Black psychologist – of which there are so few of us in the field – I really want to speak to that factor of bringing in psychology and the discussion around mental health. As part of the work in the Centre, I think that's something that we can contribute in an area where there's so little work that has been done – in Canada, especially. 

“We know there’s a mental health crisis in our Black community. Many others before me have talked about so many different issues that impact our community. We have higher rates of suicide among our children and our kids are among the most distressed of those who seek out crisis supports – and Black kids and youth are still the least likely to engage with mental health supports for a variety of reasons. We know that schools and our education system, fortunately and unfortunately, are often the primary mental health provider for our kids.  

“So having a centre such as this, that can really be a hub for knowledge and community sharing amongst current and future educators, you know, school-based practitioners and educational leaders, is going to be really critical. We also have very few practitioners of colour, as I mentioned. And so affiliating, you know, my work in Black mental health and Black psychology, bringing that expertise around clinical developmental psychology and merging that with the Centre, at the very least, will help increase visibility to some of those issues.”
 



Associate Professor Amal Madibbo

Department of Social Justice Education
Founding Director, Centre for Black Studies in Education

“The Centre is very important for so many reasons, including the ones that my colleagues have mentioned – it is a hub and a junction. It is a point of connections: connecting scholarship, education and practice, connecting community and the university and connecting Black people in terms of the community and continuing to build ties among Black people in Canada, in Africa, the Caribbean and the rest of the Diaspora – and also connections of history, Black history, and the present in order to pave the way for the equitable future. Speaking to the question of how my work will contribute to the Centre's mandate – it also means that the Centre will support my work as it will support our collective work.

“My work contributes to the Centre because – as in the case of the work of my colleagues – it overlaps to strengthen the vision and strategic goals of the Centre. I focus on the intersection between Black studies and Francophone studies, a tradition established by thinkers of Negritude. For example, [Léopold Sédar] Senghor in his book Negritude, a Humanism of the 20th century, stressed that Black studies make the Francophonie more humanistic because Black studies bring rich and enriching history, philosophies and anti-colonial strategies against colonialism and associated anti-Black racism and so on. So, I extended this tradition of the intersection between Black studies and Francophone studies to Canada.

“And since I will continue to pursue my research agenda on Black francophones in Canada, as well as the Sudanese in Canada and Sudan, Blackness and Islam, and will conduct a new project in Louisiana, US, my work allows the Centre to be inclusive to and reach out to many groups of Black people.”

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