A Foundation for Change: Anti-Racism Seminar

Every year, the Bishop’s Student Representative Council (SRC) holds an Orientation Week for incoming students to help them transition into university life. This year’s orientation was a little different, in more ways than one. Amidst adapting for pandemic health and safety regulations, one of the new events included this year was an anti-racism seminar, mandatory for all incoming students. To help shed some light on this initiative, we spoke with Izzy Audet, Vice President Student Life of the SRC.   

The initiative was sparked in early summer when acts of racism that occurred in the United States erupted into protests for human-rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. “As we observed how our own inequality in the SRC contributed to systemic racism, Amelia Krallis and our team were approached by a recent Bishop’s alumna, Natalie Hickey, who really wanted to see an anti-racism seminar introduced at our university during Orientation Week,” explains Audet. “We immediately felt this was a project we had to make happen, and enlisted the help and consultation of student leaders Alicia Moore-Iseroff, Shawna Chatterton-Jerome, Natalia Muñoz-Gómez, Sabrina-Binta Koné, Sufia Langevin, Filder Achan and Wilton Burgos.” 

The decision to incorporate the seminar into Orientation Week was made in part with the hope that all new students could feel welcomed and included. “Students have expressed that Orientation Week, along with many other events, aren’t very diverse. There is not much that students from visible minorities can identify with,” says Audet. They also hoped that by introducing the seminar in the very first week of a student’s university experience, it would, “lay a foundation for our incoming students for the next four years, and be the start of a change in culture in our student body.” 

The anti-racism seminar was given by UBUNTU – Mobilizing Central Alberta. This organization’s mission is to act as a bridge in connecting and mobilizing communities in racial and social justice through engagement, advocacy, and community building, both individually and systemically. “Sadia Kahn and Dieulita Datus, the founders of this organization, are two incredible activists and shift-disturbers with lived experiences,” explains Audet.  

As the SRC was aware that decades of systemic racism could never be unpacked in a three-hour session, what they aimed to do was introduce an Active Anti-Racism Intervention, which consists of identifying and defining racial micro-aggressions, as well as types of microaggressions. “The committee hoped to bring awareness surrounding the common occurrences of microaggressions and explore the outcomes associated with the experience of them. Students participated in an exercise of spotting microaggressions, tips on recognizing, checking in with yourself and holding yourself accountable to address microaggressions in our community and abroad.”  

Overall, understanding the different ways that racism and discrimination can manifest and equip students with the tools they need to do their part in breaking it down was the hopes of the committee. “We want to set the precedent that racism has no place at Bishop’s, and ultimately to continue the conversation and take actions to work to make this truly an inclusive community,” concludes Audet.  

The SRC is hoping to have two more sessions with UBUNTU this year on the topics of microaggressions and navigating dinner table conversations about racism. Make sure to follow the SRC on their Facebook and Instagram pages to be kept up to date on all of their upcoming events!

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