People of SFU

A powerful voice for the marginalized

February 22, 2023

“I think power matters,” says June Francis, an associate professor in the Beedie School of Business and director of the SFU Institute for Black and African Diaspora Research and Engagement. “I would love to say that it’s not important, but it is. Racism is about power–who has it, who doesn’t, who has the power to decide for whom.”

For the second year in a row, Vancouver Magazine has named Francis to their annual Power 50 list, acknowledging the decision and change makers who play a key role in shaping the cities and communities of Metro Vancouver.

“One of the things that has been characteristic of communities like mine–communities of colour, Black communities, racialized communities–is our lack of access to power,” says Francis. “We’re excluded from and marginalized from decision making, from shaping the direction of the organizations we’re part of, our cities, our countries and the world.”

“I think it is important for people like me to be considered and to be included in the halls of power. It does provide an opportunity for me, and people like me, to bring our worldview, our perspective, our aspirations into spaces that typically we’re not part of and to advocate for those who might not be in these halls.”

With their listing, Vancouver Magazine honoured Francis’s leadership in elevating the Black community and advancing anti-racism through her work with the community, with local governments and in education.

This past fall, the Hogan’s Alley Society (HAS), chaired by Francis, signed a historic memorandum of understanding with the City of Vancouver. Through the agreement, the City commits to redeveloping the former site of Hogan’s Alley and negotiating a community land trust held by HAS. Through the trust, HAS hopes to steward development projects such as new affordable housing, a child care center, business space and the creation of Vancouver’s first Black Cultural Centre.

Francis was also named chair of B.C.’s new Anti-Racism Data Committee, which will collect demographic data to identify systemic racism in the provincial government’s services. The committee will make recommendations to close gaps and dismantle barriers for racialized and marginalized communities in B.C.

“These outcomes will change our presence in this city and our access to making certain decisions. These outcomes are worth celebrating. I take this as a sign of change,” says Francis. “The solidarity that I’m experiencing, primarily with younger people, is exciting. Big coalitions and groups of young people are resisting the anti-Black racism in their own communities and resisting what the older generation is telling them, in order to stand with us.”

“We’re starting to shift the dial. It makes my heart sing.”

Other SFU community members named to the Power 50 list included Tamara Vrooman and Ryan Beedie. Vrooman, SFU chancellor, was acknowledged for her work as CEO of YVR, with the magazine lauding the airport’s growth in service and achievements in sustainability. An SFU alumnus and one of the namesake donors of SFU’s Beedie School of Business, Beedie was acknowledged as a key player in BC’s real estate and housing sector.