C/O Black Student Success Centre
Officially open as of September 27, the BSSC offers resources, support and a sense of community to Black students at McMaster
On Sept. 27, the Black Student Success Centre officially opened at McMaster University with the goal of supporting Black students and fostering their success.
“Black students across Canadian universities sometimes feel isolated on campuses and are less likely to access student support services. The BSSC exists to connect Black students to the programs, people and resources that will nurture their academic and personal growth,” states the BSSC website.
The BSSC currently offers most of its services online, given that its physical space is under construction. However, it will eventually be housed on the main floor of the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning.
Faith Ogunkoya, manager of the BSSC, explained that the centre was created in response to discussions of racism at McMaster that occurred in 2020. Notably, a review of Black student athlete experiences was published last year, which called attention to anti-Black racism at McMaster. In response to this review, a five-point action plan was released with the creation of the BSSC as a part of the university’s plan to have targeted supports for Black students.
Although the review played a crucial role in the development of the BSSC, the centre’s emergence also builds on years of activism and advocacy work done by Black students, faculty, and staff.
Along with the review, Ogunkoya explained that students and alumni became increasingly vocal on social media about the racism they had experienced while at McMaster. These factors together prompted the university to create a safe space for Black students on campus.
Since the BSSC was created in response to students’ needs, Ogunkoya emphasized the centre’s commitment to representing students and meeting their needs. Thus, one of the centre’s main focuses is to provide general advising services to Black students and to connect them to other services on campus that they might need.
Along with providing individual advising, the BSSC has also partnered with the Student Wellness Centre. The BSSC’s partnership with SWC has allowed them to connect students with Black counsellors and run group sessions that promote good mental health for Black students.
The first of these sessions, called You Belong in the Room, explores feeling inadequate in the context of racism and belonging. Starting on Oct. 13, the session is projected to run for five weeks every Wednesday from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Along with providing services and support to Black students, Ogunkoya explained that the BSSC also strives to educate other members of the university.
“We often feel like we've got two sides to our service, where it's working with Black students and getting them to where they need to be [and to the] services and programs that they need to access, but also that it needs to be culturally informed. So, we will also be providing training, providing some guidance and providing leadership to units and departments so that [McMaster] is an environment that makes Black students know that they belong,” said Ogunkoya.
Overall, Ogunkoya said the goal of the centre is to create a safe space and a strong sense of community for Black students at McMaster.
Ogunkoya noted that many Black students at McMaster are not surrounded by a lot of other Black students in their programs which can lead to feeling a lack of belonging.
“There’s something that follows you around sometimes when there’s only a few of you,” explained Ogunkoya.
According to Ogunkoya, this is what makes the existence of the BSSC so important.
“When you see yourself and you see representation, it can empower you; it can make you feel less alone,” said Ogunkoya.
The past few years have been transformative for society and the fight for social justice. Here’s hoping the development of this much-needed service both empowers Black students at McMaster and helps address the injustices faced by the Black community at large.
With International Women’s Day just behind us, several Hamilton organizations are taking the time to show their appreciation for the women in our community. One such organization is Never Gonna Stop, a youth initiative that is hosting Empower Me: A Women’s Appreciation Brunch on March 16 at the Hamilton Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.
In addition to brunch, the event will feature games, raffle prizes, a variety of visual and performing artists and speakers. The event is open to all ages and genders. It was important for the organizers that this communal appreciation of women be done by not just other women.
“[I]t's really important to have men to support women in our community. Men's voices are heard a lot more than just women’s [so] we're trying to get men to align with women… [W]hen we hear [about] domestic violence, usually it's men doing violence towards women, so… that's what I mean when I say we try to align men with women to support each other,” explained NGS member Gonca Aydin.
The brunch, which is now sold out, is free of cost. Making it free allowed the event to be accessible to everyone in the community. Reducing financial barriers is important for this organization, which is catered towards helping low-income youth.
NGS was created by David Lingisi, Saifon Diallo and Joshua Kiena, all of whom come from low-income backgrounds. They wanted to create an initiative that would provide physical and mental health-related activities for youth from the ages of 13 to 29.
“[W]e've seen how there's a lot of older people… that have talent basically wasted because they didn't have an opportunity… [A]s the younger generation, we basically want to help [youth] out to make their dreams come true. I want everyone to provide a platform for them, to give them an opportunity to… go to the league, allow them to become doctors and [whatever] they want to do,” said Lingisi.
Lingisi was born with sickle cell anemia and has spent his life in and out of the hospital while still working towards his dream of being a music producer. Each of the co-founders have underwent personal challenges, which fuel their desire to help others overcome obstacles. Growing up in immigrant families, they all faced culture shock in addition to financial barriers.
The initiative hopes to provide the support for low-income youth that they feel is missing in Hamilton. They want to support the artistic, athletic and academic talent of today’s youth by providing them with opportunities and the knowledge to succeed.
Since the creation of the initiative last summer, NGS has hosted a youth panel, a holiday food drive, an All-Star weekend basketball tournament and a talent and fashion show for Black History Month among other events. They are continuously planning new events in partnership with other organizations in the city.
They took on the Women’s Appreciation Brunch because it fits within their goal of creating community. NGS is proud to call themselves inclusive to all genders, races, religions or economic statuses. Setting aside space and time to celebrate women and promote the resources that women can access within the city fits within that mandate.
Most importantly, the Women’s Appreciation Brunch delivers the message of persistence directly to Hamilton’s women. They named the event Empower Me because they want women of all ages to know that they can accomplish any goal that they set out to reach.
“[K]eep following your dreams, whatever it is, don't ever stop, don't let anything stop you. You are able to make it no matter what you're going through, it doesn't matter the situation, just keep going as long as you get one more day… I just want to [say] that everybody's a part of NGS. I'm NGS, you're NGS, anybody going through anything but still fighting is NGS,” said Lingisi.
That is why they named themselves Never Gonna Stop. More than a name, it is a movement and source of encouragement for those involved. Knowing how hard life can be, NGS is focused on motivating others to work hard in order to achieve their wildest dreams.