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A Commitment to Solidarity

Photo Credit: Miles Astray
November 5, 2020

As each Social Connectedness Fellow focused on their research in the Summer of 2020, it was impossible to ignore the powerful wave of worldwide rallies happening both online and in the streets in support of Black Lives Matter. We felt compelled to support and heed the call of this global phenomenon in response to the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and many others. We wanted to come together, to position ourselves within this pivotal global movement (the largest in U.S. history), and to utilize our platform as Social Connectedness Fellows in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.  

Although each of us come from different places – geographically, culturally, socially, and ancestrally – together we forged an online alliance, Fellows in Solidarity, to discuss how we can commit ourselves to the movement.

 Throughout the summer, the Fellows in Solidarity met on a weekly basis, to learn from each other, have worthwhile discussions and share knowledge, resources, hopes, and more. We found a common ground in our meetings and discussed how each of us could incorporate and take into account Black voices in our work. In addition, we invited the Samuel Centre staff to be witness to our meetings and hear our suggestions. As such, we generated a list of recommendations and called upon the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness to enact the following:

  • Compiling a resource kit for future Fellows composed of BIPOC created educational resources like workbooks, literature, relevant creative pieces etc., to support the fellows’ continued education in solidarity with Black lives. 
  • Including more Black and POC perspectives within the Fellowship. 

However, this is only the beginning.  

Education and research is steeped in anti-Black racism. As Fellows, recent graduates, and researchers, we recognize how the very platform we are using to raise awareness is the same platform that has contributed to state-sanctioned oppression against Black people and communities. It is more important now than ever to think critically about whether future research is contributing to Black healing, empowerment and liberation, or if it perpetuates systemic racism that dehumanizes and disempowers Black people and communities in the process. As such, we recognize that it is imperative moving forward that we all continue to take into account Black voices and raise them in our work. 

We also recognize the imperative to acknowledge and account for Indigenous voices and research methodologies in any research going forward.

Just as we consider the alternatives to policing, we must also consider the alternatives to education and research. We must consider the process of dismantling the structures that continue to violently silent Black voices, stories, and perspectives. We must commit ourselves to work in solidarity with Black communities and we must always ensure Black people are in positions where they are not only centred in decision-making but are the decision-makers

As we spent the summer exploring different thematic areas, it was important to recognize the overlapping social identities in particular, racial identities, within our individual work. Many fellows identified differing experiences that racialized individuals faced within their thematic areas. Hannah Melville-Rea identified the disproportionate impact of air pollution on vulnerable communities in the UAE and how Black people in the US face higher exposure to particulate matter. In Bianca Braganza’s report on Violence, Trauma and Healing in Toronto, she notes that “community violence in Toronto is racialized and disproportionately affects young Black males, and in particular, young Somali Canadians.” Recognizing the intersectionalities and differing experiences of racialized lives is imperative not only within our thematic areas but within all areas of work. 

From Toronto to Johannesburg to Cairns, we feel accountable to our own responsibilities as Social Connectedness Alumni. We hold ourselves accountable to enact the following:

  • Continue meeting with the Fellows in Solidarity group to further our engagement with the Black Lives Matter movement and to continue educating ourselves on BIPOC lives and how we can support them in our professional and personal life. 
  • Compose a creative zine which acts as an artistic composition of our expressions of solidarity for the BLM movement. This will be published soon on the SCSC website.

We hold ourselves and the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness accountable to a future where Black Lives Matter. 

In Solidarity,

-Social Connectedness Fellows 2020.