Emily Ferguson, the SA president, gave a speech at the college’s Taking a Stand: Disrupting Black and Indigenous Racism event.

On February first, I had the opportunity to speak at the Taking a Stand: Disrupting Black and Indigenous Racism event for the college. I was joined by past SA President, Deijanelle Simon, who shared her experience as a Black woman. Since this is Black History Month, I want to share with you my portion of the speech with you:

I’m a proud member of the Algonquin College community. We strive to be diverse, inclusive, and we work to live out the messages of caring, learning, integrity, and respect.

We’ve all watched the rise of the anti-racism movement over the last year, and I’m happy to see so many young people leading the way towards a more accepting and inclusive world.

We’ve seen Greta Thunberg speak out for climate change. We’ve seen Malala speak about education for girls and women, and we’ve seen so many young people speak to end Black and Indigenous racism. I encourage all young people to add your voice to this fight for equality.

Be brave and correct people when they make a racist comment or share a microaggression, or when you witness racial gaslighting. We can change this with education and dismantling what has been engrained in us from childhood.

Algonquin College is committed to fair treatment for all and is a wonderfully diverse community. The Algonquin Students’ Association has been, and continues to be, committed to Indigenization of our campuses and has even made it a priority to research developing general education courses in Algonquian.

This year, when the SA Board of Directors made our list of priorities, we knew Indigenization would be a main focus for the SA, as it has been for many years. We made the priority “model the college’s commitment to Truth, Reconciliation, and Indigenization” our second priority.

The Students’ Association recognizes and has actively participated in the tremendous efforts to Indigenize the Ottawa campus. We have beautiful spaces, gardens, rooms, murals and other artwork. I want to share an opportunity to the college community. The SA would love to see the same level of Indigeneity at our campuses in Pembroke and Perth.

We would love to begin having productive conversation toward creating beautiful, and meaningful spaces and artwork on all Algonquin College campuses. Students who choose to study at a regional campus should experience the rich and beautiful diversity and celebration of Indigenous culture that those who study in Ottawa see every day.

Finally, I mentioned earlier that the college is a diverse community, and we are all lucky to be a part of it. Let’s consider that it is not enough to simply be a part of such a community. We all need to do our part to protect it and to make it safe for everyone. Please, learn, have difficult conversations, hold yourself to a high standard and commit to being actively anti-racist.

I want to end with words from Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Day poem, “The Hill We Climb”:

“When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”