Hamilton’s McMaster University hosted a segregated event for non-white employees as part of its Black History Month programming.
The Ontario university, which is also hosting several segregated events for students this month, joins a growing list of post-secondary institutions where racially segregated events for Black History Month are taking place.
The “BIRS Social” was organized by the university’s BIRS Employee Resource Group. The Feb. 9 event featured “amazing food and music” and was open to staff who are part of the “BIRS demographic.” The latter stands for black, Indigenous and racialized staff.
McMaster says the event offered an environment for non-white employees to connect with each other.
In addition to the “BIRS Social”, McMaster’s Black Student Success Centre held an event on Feb. 7 called “Embracing Intersections: Blackness and Disability” that was “open to Black identifying staff, students, faculty, alumni and community members.”
The latter offered “an intimate conversation” with members of the ASE Community Foundation for Black Canadians with Disabilities about “studying, living and working with disability and the work they have done to cultivate access for all through education and awareness, collaborative knowledge sharing, research and policy, and youth empowerment anchored in a national Black Accessibility Knowledge Hub.”
The ASE Community Foundation for Black Canadians describes itself as a group whose mission is “to disrupt disparities at the intersection of Blackness, disability, and gender; driving a cultural shift that supports the collective liberation of our community.”
On Feb. 14, McMaster’s Student Wellness Centre hosted a curated event titled “Black Excellence Fatigue” featuring a conversation about “Black Excellence, fatigue, and navigating black identity and higher education” and “the importance of reclaiming and practicing self-care and finding Black Joy.”
The University’s website notes that the event was “open to black identifying students.”
A “Black Queer Music Night” featuring “karaoke, dancing, snacks, and trivia about Black, Queer music” is planned on Feb. 16. The latter is organized by the McMaster Students Union and is “open to Black 2STLGBQIA+ students.”
Meanwhile, McMaster’s Student Wellness Centre invited “Black identifying students” to decorate doors, describing the activity as a “Decorating and Wellness activity.”
In addition to the events listed above, the description for a Feb. 27 event titled “Let’s Talk About Race: Celebrating Black Faculty” notes that “Black, Indigenous and racialized students, staff and faculty are invited.” The university wouldn’t say whether or not non-racialized people are also invited to attend.
Back in June, McMaster made headlines after it hosted its first segregated graduation ceremony for “Black identifying students”. The ceremony was separate from the main convocation and attendance was not mandatory for black students.
Black Student Success Centre manager Faith Ogunkoya, who organized the ceremony, had told CBC that “the whole day was about celebrating and centering Blackness.”
Other Canadian universities are also hosting racially segregated events during Black History Month, as shown by True North’s Campus Watch reporting. The University of Guelph held an arts and crafts session exclusive to “students who identify as Black” and two events exclusive to black students are planned at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson) this month.
McMaster University did not return True North’s requests for comment in time for publication.