For Black History Month, the Innovation Hub took February to reflect and attend events in the community. Eli and Paul reflect on the stories they heard after attending events on campus and acknowledge applying their learnings for the future.
Written by Eli Rose, Design Research Team Lead, Honours Bachelor of Arts, Political Science; Paul Kaita, Senior Project Assistant, Master of Education, Higher Education
February was Black History Month and a time to honour and celebrate Black history and excellence through the stories past and present. At the Innovation Hub, our work uses equity-centred design thinking to uplift and recognize the many diverse voices in our communities with care, respect, and justice. For this year, our Innovation Hub team took some time during Black History Month to reflect and learn by attending events happening in our communities. A few of our team members took time to reflect on their experiences.
Connecting to Our Values
Black History Month provides a platform to showcase the power of Black excellence. For Eli seeing his values deeply aligning in the event, it allowed him to feel inspired to apply his learnings to his life and vision of an improved future for the Black community.
“I attended the Poet Laureate Cypher at the Hart House Theatre and found it insightful and joyful. I loved how many speakers and performers mentioned values that closely align with mine: authenticity, vulnerability, and empathy. I left the event inspired, wanting to incorporate storytelling further and continue curating empathy during my professional and academic journey. Even though Black people must navigate daily challenges based on their identity, I am happy Black History Month spotlights the power and possibilities for improved Black futures in a world that fosters and celebrates Black excellence.” – Eli Rose.
Storytelling can be a starting place in imagining a world that is equitable, inclusive, and celebrates the diversity of our communities. Speakers and performers in our community are a continuous reminder of the folks inspiring and empowering others to acknowledge history and create positive change in our lives.
Equity work is an ongoing and continuous process and requires the courage to deeply challenge preexisting societal structures. Through attending a film screening, Paul reflects on building proactive equity work into his practices.
“I saw a screening of Black Ice, a documentary by Hubert Davis at Innis College, which tells a series of stories of Black hockey players in Canada from early hockey history to today. Attending this event highlighted the importance of proactive equity work to build policies and strategies to combat anti-black racism intentionally. What am I doing to actively address and look at practices and policies to ensure that our work is proactive and not reactive to situations? Equity work is a hard, grueling process, but planning that something will come up and ensuring that practices and policies are in place is essential.” – Paul Kaita.
Anti-racist work acknowledges that racism is embedded within society, where an anti-racist approach is an embodied mindset to all aspects of life, from the classroom to the home, to the grocery store, to the workplace, and more.
Continuous Learning & Engagement
Though Black History Month is in February, Black history and excellence must be celebrated and honoured year-round. We urge the University of Toronto community to continue learning and reflecting beyond Black History Month. Whether attending an event at U of T, supporting a Black-owned business, or listening to a podcast, this is a step towards engagement. Below, we have shared a few campus resources as a starting point.
- Connect with the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office for programming, events, and resources.
- Get involved with the Black Students’ Association through their community events and initiatives.
- Access the Black Student Initiative Fund, which offers financial support to Black student groups and individuals to support the Black student experience and foster community.
Over the years, the Innovation Hub has also posted several blogs celebrating Black History month and many of these have great resources. Search our blog archive to find them, or check out these two:
- Participate in the Access & Inclusion Peer Programs: African, Black, Caribbean Student Engagement and connect with mentor navigators to support navigating the student experience.
- Attend programming through Restore that supports community of intersecting racialized identities of student, staff, and faculty at UofT.
- Check out Future Black Undergraduate Students website for various ways to engage prior to entering university and beyond
At the Innovation Hub we recognize that while February is Black History Month, we continue to celebrate and black history and excellence throughout the year.