< News | Thursday, May 30, 2024

‘A place to find community’: Interim Black Student Space launches at U of T Mississauga

News Overlay
The interim Black Student Space officially opened on April 10 at U of T Mississauga (Photo by Angelia Baccarella)

A new space dedicated to providing Black students an opportunity to connect, collaborate and form community has launched at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

The interim Black Student Space, an initiative driven by the campus’ Black Students’ Association (BSA), officially opened its doors at the Kaneff Centre in April. 

When Sidoné Grange and Jazzmeyn Barnett joined the BSA as first-year undergraduate students, they were encouraged by outgoing BSA executives to advocate for the dedicated space to host meetings and other BSA activities. 

For the BSA co-presidents, now in their fourth year of studies, the launch not only marks a great milestone for the student group, but a significant step in furthering inclusion on campus.

“Our main goal for the space is to foster a sense of belonging and community on campus. We hope that with a dedicated space, new students will have a place to find community,” says Grange, who is pursuing a honours bachelor of science in biology for health science through the cell, molecular and biotechnology stream.

Located in KN 127, the multi-purpose room – currently loaned by the department of management – features a lounge space for students to rest between classes and tables to study. The BSA plans to utilize it as a gathering place to host programming, events and executive meetings. 

In alignment with U of T’s Anti-Black Racism Task Force Recommendations to promote dedicated spaces for Black inclusion, the initiative was made possible by the support and collaboration of the Office of the Vice-President and Principal, Student Affairs and Services, the Centre for Student Engagement (CSE) and the department of management. 

The team hope the space can play a role in student life and success by ensuring Black students are aware of campus resources and services early in their academic journeys. 

For Barnett, the space extends as a place for cultural refuge.

“Black culture is so vibrant and colourful, but, in some ways, it’s not always represented in a way we want it to,” says Barnett, who is pursuing an honours bachelor of science in biology for health sciences, neuroscience stream.

“When we were opening the space, it was remarkable to see so many Black students excited for it. Having all aspects of ourselves being welcomed is something that helps a lot.”

Deepening inclusive excellence at UTM

The interim Black Student Space is one of several initiatives within the Black at UTM Framework. The framework, grounded on seven priorities, works to redress anti-Black racism, foster holistic Black inclusion, and guide the campus’ initiatives in engagement, policy-making, and people strategy.

The Black at UTM Framework outlines a shared purpose to co-design and co-create Black focused spaces to promote inclusive excellence and ensure Black students have the necessary supports to flourish.

“This interim Black Student Space has allowed the university to position itself as a champion for creating Black spaces where students feel valued, respected, and welcomed,” says Martin Kengo, manager of Black Initiatives in the Office of the Vice-President and Principal.  

“This space lays the groundwork for UTM in addressing anti-Black racism, advancing racial equity, and creating an empowering space for belonging. It expresses the institution’s commitment to prioritizing Black voices, inspiring proactive action, and guiding investment toward meaningful change.”

A space for Black excellence to flourish

The official interim Black Student Space launch was marked by an opening ceremony attended by U of T Mississauga community members on April 10. It featured panels by students, faculty and campus leadership, who discussed its importance in fostering belonging on campus. Panels were followed by a networking event and tour of the space.

Barnett and Grange say that they were delighted to see students settle in the space. In fact, the room was put to immediate use just after the opening ceremony to study and continue to network. 

Construction and renovations underway on campus opens possibilities for a future permanent space. In the meantime, the BSA team look forward to continuing to welcome students to the interim space.

“Hopefully, in a year or so, we’ll have a permanent space on campus,” Grange says.

Recent News

News | Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Marie Goretti Uwayezu, a PhD candidate at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, is a recipient of the 2023 International...
News | Thursday, June 6, 2024
Rosemary Sadlier became president of the Ontario Black History Society, a role that changed how we think about history here,...
News | Tuesday, June 4, 2024
When Theodora Udounwa accepts her Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree at this year’s convocation, she will do so as the youngest graduate...