Each year in February, Canada recognizes Black History Month. It aims is to educate people about the history of Black Canadians and their achievements and contributions to Canada.
According to a report on race equity in education from York University, there were many educational concerns expressed by Black students in Toronto and surrounding regions, such as a lack of racial diversity among teachers, a lack of representation of Black history and people on the curriculum, a tolerance for racist incidents in schools, harsh discipline for Black students; streamlining Black students into courses below their ability; and discouragement from attending university among Black students.
Tiffany Barrett and Nathisha Barrett are sisters in their first year studying Early Childhood Education at Sheridan College. “What I would like to see for Black History Month is more exposure. I feel like there’s less representation of the Black community here in the school, even with teachers or students. A lot of times I find that I’m the only Black person in the classroom and that’s out of 30 students. So just representation and more exposure for Black people I feel is needed,” said Tiffany.
“It’s really odd to still be this deep into education and not even see that type of diversity,” said Nathisha.
According to a 2018 study by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, on diversity & equity among Canada’s post-secondary education teachers, Black professors make up only two percent of all university teachers across Canada.
Anyike Vaughn is in his second year of photography at Sheridan. He wants to raise awareness of racial stereotyping, saying that Black males are often stereotyped as more suited to sports than academics.
Stephanie Garrick, is a Sheridan graduate and the founder of Sheridan’s Black Students Association (SBSA). The association, which was formed in 2020, aims to build a stronger presence and sense of community for Black students at the college.
Stephanie said that the main challenges Sheridan’s Black students are facing are racial profiling and racial bias in grading.
SBSA took a poll on the needs of Black students. They found out the most pressing need was access to safe people of colour who work in guidance and counselling services because it gives them the confidence to talk to someone with similar backgrounds.
According to Garrick, one of the biggest things Black students wanted was more representation and diversity in faculties.
“It seems they [Sheridan] have been taking steps toward addressing each of those issues,” says Garrick.
According to Sheridan Centre for Equity and Inclusion, the College has undertaken many initiatives to meet the needs and wants of Black students at Sheridan. Among them Sheridan, in partnership with Black Mentorship Inc., implemented the Sheridan Black Mentorship Program, an initiative that engages alumni to share their insights and experiences with students. In this program, Black Sheridan students can learn and receive support in a safe and comfortable environment. Sheridan has hired two new counsellors who identify as Black, Indigenous or racialized, to better serve learners’ needs. Sheridan also launched the Black Students Bursary, along with the Sheridan Indigenous Bursary, which continues to be offered annually.
NBCUniversal and Sheridan have designed a partnership to provide bursaries and creative project grants to support students in Sheridan’s Bachelor of Film and Television program. The grants will support students who identify as Black, Indigenous and/or from a racialized community. Grant recipients will also be mentored by an industry member or a member of Sheridan’s alumni community.