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First-annual Black Excellence Conference addresses economic barriers facing students

Emily Wilson, News Reporter

February marks the month of celebration of the Black community and their legacies, past and present. Black History Month allows people all over the world to realize the inequalities marginalized students face in their daily lives.

“As much as our successes can be seen on straight and narrow paths, it’s not straight, we’ve struggled,” said Shay Hamilton, North campus Vice President of IGNITE.

A special event, hosted by IGNITE and the Black Academic Success and Engagement (BASE) program, ended the commemorative month with a bang. The first annual Black Excellence Conference was held on Feb. 19 to raise awareness of the barriers Black students face.

Singers, dancers, comedians, and social influencers were invited to address struggles many people in the Black community experience.

As a woman and a member of the Black community, Hamilton wants to see people together and uniting over culture, music and food while being educated.

“[IGNITE is] a student union designed to bring everyone together,” she said. “We care and we see the importance of Black History.”

Everette Jamie Caine is a BASE Community Outreach and Engagement Leader and a Learning Coordinator at the Harriet Tubman Community Organization at Humber.

He said events like this help boost self-esteem and confidence in members of the Black community. Civic engagement is about uniting people together and talking about the issues that arise within them.

“Regardless of what you look like, regardless of where you come from, we can all relate to the student experience and that brings us together,” Caine said. “I personally feel it is important to have these events and include everyone so they understand and the purpose behind it.”

Inclusivity creates a dialogue everyone can listen to and understand the reasons these issues diverse groups face and what can be done about them.

“Here we’re giving the opportunity to experience more culture that you’re not the most familiar with,” Caine said.

The theme of the event was time and generational wealth, and the guests presented the hardships Black men and women overcome on their roads to success. Hamilton said the event was meant to help students prepare for the “real world” through young experienced voices.

“[The panelists] didn’t grow up with generational wealth. They started from scratch but they did it,” she said. “There are people like you. They’re going to have the same experiences and same struggles and hearing it not from a CEO but from a student makes all the difference.”

In past years, Humber College has faced a number of issues with anti-Black racism and incidents of hate crimes, but Hamilton said the Black Excellence Conference brought people together to combat racism within the community.

“I would say Humber doesn’t have a race problem, I think we have people who have problems,” Hamilton said.

While racial discrimination does happen, Hamilton said the Black community is stronger.

“No-one is going to dim the light on these students,” she said, “I would love to let these people know that no matter what you do, no matter if you write something, yell at us, and protest, as you can see we’re always going to shine.”

A common message of the Black Excellence Conference is how Black history is everyone’s history.

 “It’s really about educating others to better understand each other and how we can move forward together,” said Ras Groundation, Drum Chief and owner of Mother Earth Centre Toronto.

He performed with his drum group to connect participants to the land where they came in a safe, inclusive space.

“We have been separated from our home land Africa, so we try to keep the spirit of Africa alive wherever we go,” Groundation said.

Caine’s hope for the Black Excellence Conference becomes a yearly event to celebrate the successes within the Black community. “Black History Month isn’t just one month, it should be every day and having events like this show who we are,” Caine said.

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