TRUSU hosts a Breaking Bread event for Black History Month.

Attendees had the opportunity to discuss topics concerning anti-Blackness in higher education

Dr. Funké Aladejebi spoke to a group of TRU students on the ongoing anti-Blackness in higher education. (Kyra Grubb/The Omega)

Thompson Rivers University Students’ Union (TRUSU) invited students, faculty and staff to participate in a virtual discussion for Balck History Month on anti-Blackness in higher education on Feb. 9. 

University of Toronto Assistant Professor

, a twentieth-century scholar specializing in Black-Canadian history, facilitated the conversation with the help of TRUSU Campaigns Committee Representative Shantelle Bishop and Campaigns Coordinator Leaf Douglas. 

The conversation was part of TRUSU’s Breaking Bread series, which looks to bring both students and community leaders together to share perspectives, foster connections and build community. 

Aladejebi was the perfect candidate to facilitate the discussion. Her research and teaching interests focus on oral history, the history of education in Canada, Black Canadian women’s history, and transnationalism. 

Her forthcoming book, Schooling the System: A History of Black Women Teachers, explores Black Canadian women’s importance in sustaining their communities and preserving a distinct Black identity within restrictive gender and racial barriers. 

Her writing frequently explores how legacies of race, gender, and migration influence the contemporary educational encounters of Black Canadian communities. 

“I talk a lot about the intersections of gender and race, particularly in educational institutions… and the historical legacies of those things,” said Dr. Aladejebi. “So, for example, how did we get to this moment where we are having conversations around what does anti-Blackness look like in Canada, why there is this continued eraser of Black Canadian experiences, and so on.”

“A lot of my work is to try and uncover this long and rich history of Blackness in Canada, partially as a way to, of course, understand myself in this space but also as a way of helping my students better have a language to talk about who they are as people and human beings.”

Aledejebi explained that her work is crucial because it “thinks through education on multiple levels” while, comparatively, the breaking bread conversation she helped to facilitate looked to think through the topics presented through further education as well. 

“I specialize, of course, in Black teachers… but more so broadly, in the history of education, educational structures and why it is that, for example, in post-secondary institutions, we do not have many Black faculty members or designated Black History courses,” she said. “Why it is that we do not have Black Candian programs of study or even certificate programs that students could participate in to understand themselves and their histories better.” 

She went on to express that she was “really looking forward to the [breaking bread] conversation,” which gave those in attendance the opportunity to have “real, honest conversations about the things that they had likely been sitting with for many months.” Noting the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the notable unjust deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the USA.

She added before diving into the topics discussed within the virtual event “this is, of course, a safe space to debate and think through some of the issues you all are curious about as long as it does not recreate harm or force someone to explain their own existence.” A sentiment in which all participants honoured. 

TRUSU’s next breaking bread event looks to cover topics concerning urban planning in indigenous communities on Thurs., Feb 25. All who are interested are welcome to register through TRUSU’s website.