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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Toronto university students and faculty set to strike against systemic racism

Amid a growing international movement calling for an end to systemic racism and racial injustice, a collective of Indigenous, Black, racialized and allied students from across the GTA are planning a massive university strike.

The event, called All Out September 30, will be held as a virtual strike as a result of rising COVID-19 cases, and a number of webinars will be hosted by student organizers throughout the day next Wednesday.

"Black and Brown bodies are, and have been, under attack — and that doesn't stop once we get to campus," Kien Saningong Azinwi, one of the organizers of the strike, told blogTO.

"Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black racism is extremely prevalent in our academic institutions, and we did not feel right staying silent as our administrations made shallow solidarity statements about Black lives, while simultaneously perpetuating the same racism that causes so much harm. We needed to take action, we needed to show up, we needed to make demands. "

The strike also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which was created to bring awareness to Canada's residential school system and the impacts it has had on Indigenous communities.

The event is set to start off with an Elders address and an Orange Shirt Day teach-in, followed by panels with grassroots community organizers and activists. There will also be a townhall for students to discuss the issues they are seeing on their campuses and what changes need to happen.

Along with the one-day event, organizers have a list of demands for concrete action they want to see.

Their demands include: 

  1. A free and accessible education for all — with increased grants and bursaries for Indigenous, Black, and racialized students. 
  2. The implementation and prioritization of specialized programs including Indigenous language courses.
  3. The implementation of race-based data province-wide.
  4. The recognition and implementation of Orange Shirt Day province- and campus-wide.
  5. The immediate removal of the Egerton Ryerson statue at Ryerson University.
  6. Defund the Police. Demilitarize the police.
  7. Decent work, decent pay on campuses and in communities.
  8. More Black and Indigenous faculty, teachers and staff.
  9. More services, programs and supports for Indigenous and Black students.

"Conversations around anti-Indigeneity and anti-blackness are nothing new. Oftentimes we find ourselves trapped in a circle of conversations without actions," said Azinwi.

"We have every intention to accomplish all of our demands. A strike is simply the beginning, a signal that Indigenous and Black faculty, staff, students and allies have had enough of the racist practices and failed message boxes our institutions traffic in."

Several GTA schools and organizations have already endorsed the strike and indicated that they will be participating, including the York Federation of Students, York University Faculty AssociationRyerson Faculty AssociationUTM Black Students AssociationExpose UWindsorCanadian Federation of Students - Ontario, and more.

Anyone interested in participating in the planned strike activities can register for free online, and a full list of the day's events can be found on the Facebook event.

"We should stand against racism anywhere and everywhere. We cannot work to dismantle white supremacy by ourselves, we need allies, crowds and communities. Liberation is not given, it is earned, and making your dissent heard is crucial in working towards brighter futures," Azinwi said.  

"If you have ever felt voiceless, strike with us. If you have ever faced racism in the classroom, strike with us. If you have ever been discriminated against by your employer, strike with us. If you think racialized students matter, strike with us. After all, it's all of us or none of us. When we fight for Black and Indigenous students, faculty and staff- everyone wins."

by Mira Miller via blogTO

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