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CONFRONTING ANTI-BLACK RACISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA

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CONFRONTING ANTI-BLACK RACISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA
By: James Nyarkoh, Executive Director - Transition Africa
Confronting Anti-Black Racism and Islamophobia
HISTORIC BLACK LIVES MATTER
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Saturday, September 24, 2022, marked the inaugural conference of the African Canadian Social Development Council (ACSDC) held in Ontario, Toronto. The knowledge mobilization conference dubbed "Confronting Anti-Black Racism and lslamophobia in the Ontario Education System" saw industry players from the government, civil society, and schools participating.

Introducing the conference, the keynote speaker, Dr. George Sefa Dei of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto, elaborated on the broader and structural systems that provide festering grounds for racism and islamophobia in Ontario schools and Canada at large. Dr. Dei intimated how issues of anti-Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Asian, and Semitism have been romanticized in our schools, swept under the carpets, and gone unreported. He indicated that a general understanding of tackling issues requires that all stakeholders, be it government or officials in Canadian schools, must and without any fear or favour, acknowledge and problematize both the existence and the persistence of racism in all levels of the educational systems. He stressed that leaders must have self-introspection and be honest to fight racism head-on.
Dr. Dei called for the decolonization of the education curriculum, including its pedagogy and epistemology, which seeks to order the society like a path to follow through just texts and books.

He further called for creating options to embrace the culture of the climate, the environment, and the socio-organizational lives in schools through work, divesture, resistance, disruption and importantly, the generation of new ideas. Dr. Dei lament­ ed that the curriculum is standardized without specificities and power-saturated and should allow for reimagining through the creation of new features, ideas, and possibilities. These features, he said, are to create an environment for Black students to belong, think and have a sense of ownership of the schools' environment. He said there was the need to galvanize support both within, around, and outside the school systems by tapping into community and street knowledge as resources for education, to increase the capabilities of Black, Indigenous, and racialized peoples.

In addition, Dr. Dei advocated for specific educational measures directed in support of Black and Indigenous learning in the school system meant for all learners. He stated that educational theory must have weapons of change grounded in politics of change where communities must be able to advocate for their own sustainable interventions through collectively generated knowledge reflecting Black cultural perspectives.

In other words, Afro-centric or homegrown knowledge for Black learners and communities. He maintained that the teaching, learning, and administration of education must speak the multi-dimensionality or specifics of the Indigenous, Black and racialized learners.
In his remarks, Dr. Dei made a clarion call for the decompartmentalization of the community school system to bring together schools, school boards, departments, the ministry of education, students, parents, and the local communities to work collectively to address racism and Islamophobia.

He pointed out that, through this, schools and school boards would be presented with new and expanded ideas and the opportunity to prioritize and implement robust anti-racist and equity agendas including the intentional hiring of a diverse teaching force. Adding to this, Dr. Dei stressed that the departments responsible for the anti-racism and equity processes in the schools are woefully underfunded, which limits their work. He called for an increase in resources, including funding, to expand their work.

Linking it to the broader perspective, Dr. George Sefa Dei again stressed that white supremacy and nationalism did not spring up in isolation. He said that they are all connected and embedded in the broader racial structural systems, including the situation of racism in our schools. He brought to light the glaring easy disposal of Black lives, citing that, the Black and Brown tragedies are normalized in both the global and media imagination making the world desensitized about them but outraged when itis a white pain. He stressed the reason Black Lives Matter is that not all lives have mattered. To buttress his position, he cited the Buffalo mass killing in May 2022 where ten Black lives were lost with others being injured; the brutal death of Jaylen Walker by Ohio Police where about 60 gunshot wounds were found on his body; the tragic death of Latjor Tuel, a Blackman killed by the Calgary Police in February 2022; and the horror of a Kitchener school board calling the police on a 4-year-old Black child in November 2021.
Other key speakers at the conference were:
  • Jeewan Chanicka, Director of Education - Waterloo Region District School Board
  • James Nyarkoh, Executive Director -Transition Africa
  • Patricia Eno Falope, Chief Executive Officer - Early Childhood Development Initiative
  • Dr. Jamila Aman, CEO and Managing Director - Premier Canadian Business Solutions Inc.
  • Habeeb Alli, Executive Director - The One Love Family Services
  • Dr. Oasim Hersi Farah Islamic Scholar
  • Fouzia Mahamed, Founder - EduCare - Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Kearie Daniel, Executive Director - Parents of Black Children
  • Charline Grant, Chief Advocacy Officer - Parents of Black Children
  • Nura Aman, Executive Director - Eritrean Parents Liaison Council
  • Timiro Aganeh , Youth Justice Coordinator - Midaynta Community Services
  • Tomisin Osobu, Student/Youth Advocate - University of Toronto
The hybrid conference recorded more than 500 participants. In attendance were officials from the City of Toronto and the Ministry of Education, Directors of School Boards, educators, and teachers. Also in attendance were social workers, students, the media, and member agencies of the African Canadian Social Development Council.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Solomon Kobina Aremu
Solomon Kobina AremuSolomon Kobina Aremu was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa. After completing secondary school, he moved to Nigeria where he studied at the University of Ibadan, completing his BA-Philosophy in 1990.

Following his degree, Solomon worked for Sketch Press Ltd, a group of newspapers at the forefront in the fight to restore democracy in Nigeria after a military dictatorship annulled the June 12th 1993 presidential election. With Sketch Press offices shut and guarded by heavily armed soldiers, its newspapers went underground, publishing from secret locations until it was no longer sustainable.

Solomon returned to Ghana and continued working as a print journalist and in public relations, managing the P.R. account of Guinness Ghana Breweries Ltd., before relocating to Toronto, Ontario, where he now resides.

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