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The BM Vision

Everyone should have principles to live by and goals to strive for. These are ours!

Excerpted from: Charmaine A. Nelson,

Toppling the ‘Great White North’:

Tales of a Black Female Professor in Canadian Academia,” The Black Professoriat: Negotiating a Habitable Space eds. Sandra Jackson and Richard Gregory Johnson III (New York: Peter Lang, 2011), pp. 108-34.

In contrast to the USA where African-American and Black Studies programs, departments and institutes have proliferated since the latter half of the twentieth century (i), there is a decided absence of Black or African-Canadian Studies in Canadian academia. This academic absence has a direct impact on when, where, how, and how much, black-focused Canadian scholarship can be delivered in Canadian universities. Rather than departments with designated staff, or programs that can provide degree requirements, Canada’s paltry infrastructure of Black Canadian Studies usually takes the form of research centres or more insignificant or underfunded structures, many of which do not have stand-alone faculty or even access to knowledgeable professors that they can borrow from elsewhere on campus on a regular basis.

As such, while they have been exciting and impressive sites of academic conferences, public fora and even courses, they are not able to consistently offer enough credits in a timely fashion to allow students the option of a degree specialization, a minor, major or honours degree in Black Canadian Studies.

Therefore, questions remain about our existing programs and resources. What is their real material capacity for education in terms of professors, courses, resources, and curricular frameworks? In 2004, one hundred and forty (140) of the four hundred (400) Black Studies programs or departments in the USA offered undergraduate degrees, twenty-four (24) MA’s, and five (5) PhD’s. (ii) Comparably, within Canada’s few Black or African-Canadian academic resources (none of which are constituted as departments with a significant level of designated, full-time faculty) zero degrees were offered.

J. C. Stadler after George Heriot, Minuets of the Canadians, from Travels through the Canadas, containing a Description of the Picturesque Scenery on some of the Rivers and Lakes; with an account of the Productions, Commerce, and Inhabitants of those Provinces. To which is subjoined a Comparative View of the Manners and Customs of Several of the Indian Nations of North and South America (London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge-Street, Blackfriars, 1807), engraving, 23 x 36.7 cm., M19871, McCord Museum, Montreal.

i. Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley and Claudine Michel, “Introduction” The Black Studies Reader, Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley and Claudine Michel eds. (New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 1-2.
Bobo, Hudley and Michel trace the beginnings of Black Studies in US higher education to initiatives at Merritt Junior College in Oakland, California where a course entitled “Negro History” was proposed. Although it failed to meet the standards of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, their organizing efforts led to the establishment of the Soul Students’ Advisory Council, an organization which provided a template for later Black Student unions.

ii. Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley and Claudine Michel, “Introduction” The Black Studies Reader, Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley and Claudine Michel eds. (New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 2.

  • Support

    Recognizing the normalcy of institutional racism in Canadian academia, BM strives to support black academics working in Canada, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, discipline, field, or specialization.

  • Remember

    BM acknowledges the heterogeneity and complexity of black Canadians, not only as a recent fact, but as an ongoing historical reality, which began at least in the seventeenth century. The expulsion of blacks from the Canadian national imagination is produced in part through the unhinging of Black Canada from broader Transatlantic histories of slavery and the Black Diaspora. As such, BM seeks to recall, to remember, and to celebrate the centrality of peoples of African descent within the Canadian experience.

  • Promote

    BM strives to promote critical research on Black Canada which is constructively produced by academics, scholars, community historians, cultural workers and others.

  • Advocacy

    BM advocates for the proper maintenance of existing Black Canadian, Black Diaspora, African, Caribbean, Latin (and related) studies academic units in Canada. Furthermore, BM encourages the creation of a national university infrastructure of Black Canadian Studies, capable of consistently providing courses, undergraduate degree concentrations (i.e. minor, major, honours) and graduate degrees.

  • Employment

    BM acknowledges the strategic institutional barriers, which impede black scholars from full and fair access to academic employment, retention, and promotion in Canada and elsewhere. The building of a national university infrastructure of Black Canadian Studies cannot be accomplished without the employment of black Canadian and other scholars. Therefore, BM seeks to positively intervene in the unjust employment practices of Canadian academia to influence the diversification of Canadian faculty. BM also acknowledges the recent practice of BIPOC or black-specific cluster hires, but also notes the stark absence of significant institutional reform which can guarantee the appropriate support, mentorship, and protection of black faculty in historically white and racially hostile workplaces. Without such reforms many recent hires will not survive the tenure process and will leave or be dismissed prior to attaining employment security.

  • Curriculum

    BM acknowledges a universal deficit of knowledge about Black Canada that permeates the Canadian education, popular culture, and media landscapes. Advocacy for a national university infrastructure of Black Canadian Studies is not sufficient to counteract this deficit. As such, BM also supports the development of curriculum, accessible across Canada, which engages with histories of black Canadians at the elementary and secondary school levels.

  • Research

    BM acknowledges that certain disciplines (mainly History and English) have dominated the Black Canadian Studies landscape. While still supporting these areas, BM encourages research in under-represented disciplines and fields (especially the arts – art history, fine, expressive, material etc.) and the use of under-explored and overlooked archives, collections, and sources.

  • Collections

    Noting the bias of archives, museums, and other sites of cultural and historical collecting, BM seeks to encourage the collection, documentation, and preservation of all art, and visual and material culture of relevance to the study of black people in Canada. BM also encourages a reassessment and activation of existing cultural collections (or parts thereof) as relevant to Black Canadian Studies.