by Cherie A. Daniel & Festus Ajayi
We started out small and ended out big! What started as a vision of connecting Black graduates across Canada has become the National Black Graduate Network. We (the collective “we”) have faced a year that has been unprecedented with COVID-19. While that may have changed the way we launched the NBGN (in September of 2020), it did not break our ability to support each other. Hence, we would like to thank our members for taking the time to recruit new members and to attend the many events that were held this year.
In the Fall, the NBGN hosted a book discussion for Dr. rosalind hampton’s book – Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University. The format was roundtable style with NBGN members Mariba Douglas, Marcus Singleton and Cherie Daniel in conversation with Dr. hampton.
We were fortunate to have Festus Ajayi, a Ph.D. candidate from MUN, join our team and Festus has greatly assisted with planning events, outreach and speaking on panels.
Also, in the Winter term, our “Chill & Chat” series was born. The event is meant to bring Graduate students together in a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere to discuss important issues. It is a monthly gathering featuring guest speakers, notably Black professors and practitioners from different walks of life.
At the maiden event of the Chill & Chat in January, we welcomed Dr. Julia Rackal. Who tackled everything ranging from health to social justice, personal care, and even dating.
Dr. Alana Butler was our next guest and spoke on topics ranging from forming a coalition in academia and positioning oneself using community networking, and ways to access support as a Black scholar in predominantly White university spaces.
In March, Dr. Christopher Smith joined us and answered questions about his research journey, the challenges Black professionals face, and offered suggestions on navigating the Ph.D. process through a global pandemic.
Also in March, Dr. Andrew B. Campbell joined us for a session in which he emphasized the need for Black Graduate students to place a premium on themselves and their work, and not forget the importance of self-care, especially in these current uncertain times. As someone who had reaped the benefits of being involved in community, Dr. Andrew stressed to our members the importance of being actively involved in a community, especially a Black community.
The emphasis on community at the last Chill and Chat in March set the stage for our final Chill & Chat of the year at the end of April. The event was premised on showcasing the research and talents of members of the NBGN community. over the past year. We were joined by Dr. rosalind hampton, who began by speaking with us about the importance of community involvement among Graduate students and keeping grounded in our academic pursuits. Next, Emmanuel Rutayisire a recent Master of Arts Graduate guided us on the process of methodology and writing a thesis. His Master’s thesis titled “Sensuous Clothing – Cultivating a Hidden Fashion Curriculum that Moves and Bends with Living Atmospheres” focuses on the many ways clothing and fashion can be a site of critical knowledge. We also had a very practical discussion with Sarah Mason-Case around being a Graduate student and contract course instructor. Sarah provided insight into managing the pressure of being a racialized body in these spaces. Lastly, Catherine Grant, a first-year Ph.D. student in History, read a beautiful reflective poem of the times we are in and what she has been thinking about.
This winter, we also participated in two collaborative events, the first with the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS), in which NBGN members Tricia Alcendor and Tisha Nelson sat on a panel to discuss issues affecting Black Graduate students. The second with the Centre for the study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE) with members Tricia Alcendor, Marcus Singleton, Maxine Malcolm, Festus Ajayi and myself. Hosted by Summer Cowley, this panel tacked many topics surrounding the short-term goals and the long-term vision for the network, what supports are we creating to enhance research collaboration on Black Studies in Canada and highlighting the experiences of our members within the network.
At this point, we would like to thank Professor Creso Sá for support of the NBGN through CIHE and providing a platform and space to promote our network. We are hoping to continue joint ventures with both CAGS and CIHE again in the upcoming school year.
Over the summer, we plan to have supportive “check-ins” online with our members who are completing their MRP’s or master’s theses, Ph.D. theses and those undertaking Comprehensive Exams. We also have recently connected with the Black Graduate Studies Association at the University of Alberta. We are working on a collaboration event in the Fall with the new executive.
With this year’s activities and 170 members and growing, the NBGN has a solid foundation and is off to a great start! The incoming coordinator will be able to continue to engage the members and build our nationwide community. I hope to remain involved in the network and to work behind the scenes to support the new coordinator. I also look forward to continuing to work with Festus and other members who have indicated they have some time to volunteer to continue our organizing and outreach with graduate students across Canada (including medical and law students at all levels).
Best of wishes for the Summer, and we look forward to engaging with everyone in the Fall. Please stay safe and remember the importance of self-care.
Cherie A. Daniel, 2020-2021 NBGN Coordinator (PhD student, University of Toronto)
Festus Ajayi (Ph.D. Candidate, Memorial University)
The National Black Graduate Network (NBGN)