OCDSB’s Black Student Forum speaks to resilience, resistance and excellence

Image of a digital poster. Orange, Pink and yellow illustrations of eyes on a blue background. In the bottom left quadrant of the poster is text that says, The Black Student Forum was hosted on May 27 and featured workshops tailored to Black students’ needs. Photo courtesy of the Black Student Forum.

Community, Education, Justice

As the school year nears its end, the 2021 OCDSB student forum provided an opportunity to celebrate Black excellence in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB).

Despite COVID-19 barriers, the Black Student Forum took place this year online. Over 250 students tuned into the YouTube livestream on May 27.

Sparked by the murder of George Floyd (May 25, 2020), the past year has had heightened attention on the Black Lives Matter movement and the police abolitionist movement. The theme for this year’s Black Student Forum was “A Year of Resistance & Resilience: Moving forward with clear vision.”

“With the power of social media, we have witnessed instances of anti-Black racism all across the world,” Uyanda Mntambo, one of the hosts of the forum, said during the event. “Through these tragedies that are still prevalent in our society, we have received the 2020 vision that we were all asking for.”

The vision Mntambo is referencing is the vision of the injustices that Black people face. Another host of the event, Ramla Ahmed, continued Mntambo’s sentiment and spoke about how encouraging the raising awareness is.

“Many non-Black people have opened their eyes to racism and injustices and have continued to educate themselves to be allies to the Black community,” Ahmed said.

The Black Student Forum is one of multiple events OCDSB has committed to hosting in order the remove barriers to success for marginalized students. The forum fulfills the need for student support and programming that was highlighted in the 2020 “Indigenous, Equity and Human Rights Roadmap” written by OCDSB.

Faith Aqiqi, one of the organizers of the forum and the third host of the event, said that this year, the goal was not only creating support for marginalized students but also to build connections.

“One of the things that we really wanted to emphasize was connecting,” Aqiqi said. “And making sure that we as a class set the tone for students graduating and moving up into higher grades.”

Aqiqi said she hopes the forum provides Black representation that is lacking in the school board.

“Students are not always able to connect with other people and find the resources they need,” she said.

Aqiqi said that she is glad to see this forum continue to happen annually, and she looks forward to future progress towards equity.

“Our school board, the OCDSB, has been making changes to be more accommodating towards BIPOC youth,” Aqiqi said. “These things have been disregarded in schools for the longest time and finally students are finally speaking up. When students come together, we are so much stronger.”

Aqiqi said she was happy with the success of this year’s event and was overwhelmed by community response. Her emails were flooded with thank you notes from people who felt seen and educated after the forum, Aqiqi said.

The Black Student Forum should not only reflect on the Black struggle but also on Black excellence, Aqiqi said. She added that Black excellence is often overshadowed by the injustices Black people face.

“The African diaspora is not properly taught or expressed,” Aqiqi said. “All minorities in some way can relate to having the oppressor speak for them on their behalf and not telling the entire truth… We have been focusing on celebrating Black excellence because for so long it has been ignored.”

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