Black History Month is celebrated annually in February. It is meant to honour the achievements of individuals of Afro-heritage across the globe, both past and present. However, many individuals of Afro-heritage will tell you that they commemorate Black Excellence 365 days per year, and simply amp up their efforts during this designated month. Black History Month is celebrated in a variety of ways. The Royal Roads University Afro-Heritage Association (RAHA) chose to do so by hosting two events, one of which was titled, “Black Speaks.” It was an event that fostered an intimate environment embraced as a safe space by the students. The participants were from Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria and shared their viewpoints about various pre-selected topics.
The four topics that were highlighted during the event were: The use of the ‘N’ word; being pro-Black, but dating across cultures; cultural appropriation; and the touching of one’s hair with or without permission. The aim was to change the narrative that the experience of the Black man or the Black woman is always the same. As such, Black Speaks not only raised awareness in our community about the challenges Black students face but also showed that within the Afro-community, there are diverse points of view and opinions.
As the students discussed their perspectives, some could be heard saying that it is inappropriate to be asked to touch one’s hair and disrespectful for it to be touched without permission. It could even be seen as a violation of personal space. Others thought, however, that having their hair touched was not an issue. Additionally, while most thought it was wrong for other races to use the ‘n’ word, there were some students who believed that it was acceptable only if used within the Black community. This view was not unanimous as a few persons shared that it should not be used at all regardless of one’s race.
The setup of the event was that of an open fishbowl limited to Black participants in the central circle. There were a few core participants who partook in all conversations, but there was also a rotating process to facilitate dynamic participation. This gave all the Black students in the room a platform to let their voices be heard without interruption and minimisation. The observers in the outer circle actively listened but also engaged using Mentimeter to post questions and thoughts which were woven into the discussion.
The feedback from the audience following the event was consistent across the board as persons shared how much they learnt from the discussions. The takeaway for most was that there were many thought-provoking and contrasting views among the panelists. This reiterated the posited idea that not all Black perspectives are homogeneous.
PHOTOS BY MOHIT VERMA
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