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From commitment to action: bringing the Scarborough Charter to life

May 11, 2022

Last year, SFU was one of more than 40 Canadian post-secondary institutions that signed onto the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education.

For the first time, the Scarborough Charter created a framework for promoting Black flourishing and redressing anti-Black racism in the Canadian post-secondary sector—and now, scholars across the country are asking: how do we bring that framework to life?

“Now that the Charter has been signed, the question is—how will institutions put it into action? What are the metrics we’re putting in place to make sure that these commitments are upheld?” says Adjua Akinwumi, SFU graduate student and a member of SFU’s Black Caucus.

Adjua Akinwumi, PhD student in the SFU School of Communication

Akinwumi is one of several SFU representatives at Community Making and Black Flourishing Through the Scarborough Charter—an upcoming symposium co-hosted by SFU and the University of British Columbia. At the symposium, administrators, faculty, advisors, students and community activists will discuss pathways for action on addressing anti-Black racism and promoting Black flourishing in academia.

The public symposium is just one part of the inaugural Inter-Institutional Forum of the Scarborough National Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education—a series of meetings that will determine a structure for tracking progress towards the Charter’s goals. 

“I’m excited for the symposium—and for my panel specifically—because we’ll be talking about the importance of centering Black student voices,” says Akinwumi. “The way that universities are structured, existing power dynamics lead to a continued undervaluing of student voices. I see our panel as an opportunity to center Black student voices, the challenges they’re facing, and most importantly, the supports they need.”

Akinwumi is moderating the panel “Fostering a Supportive Environment for Black Students,” which will focus on the structural and systemic changes necessary to create an environment for Black students to flourish.

Henry Daniel, professor in the SFU School for Contemporary Arts

Henry Daniel, SFU professor and member of the SFU Black Caucus, is also moderating a panel at the symposium—this one titled “Negotiating for Black Flourishing Within Academic Institutions.”

“I’m very excited to participate in the symposium and to explore this concept of ‘Black Flourishing,’ which is used several times throughout the Charter,” says Daniel. “I want to know—are universities and colleges really committed to the concept of Black flourishing, and what negotiations are in progress to ensure that institutions are following through on this mandate?”

Ultimately, says Akinwumi, she hopes that attendees will come with the intention of creating change at their respective institutions.

“I don’t want people to show up at this event, sit through it and then leave and go back to business as usual,” she says. “Instead, we’re asking people to attend and to listen well—to really hear us—and then work with us to create real change, wherever they are.”

Community Making and Black Flourishing Through the Scarborough Charter can be attended virtually or in-person on May 14, 2022. You can register for the event here.

Stay up-to-date with SFU’s Black Caucus by visiting their website.