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"Black students' lives matter": U of G students stand in solidarity with Mizzou and Yale

Last Updated Apr 18, 2017 at 9:53 am EST

Protesters march along Gordon Street in Guelph on Wednesday, November 18th. Photo: Martin Bauman (570 News).

By Martin Bauman

Guelph student Emmanuel Rutayisire deals with prejudice every single day.

“A typical day at this campus is literally being stared at … like you’re an animal at a zoo,” he says. “You go downtown to catch the bus, [and] everybody’s turning, looking at you, watching your every move.”

He and over a hundred other students of all backgrounds marched across the University of Guelph campus on Wednesday in solidarity with students at Mizzou and Yale, banners in hand, calling for black voices to be heard.

Many students shared their stories of feeling marginalized on campus, and feeling as though their concerns are not being listened to. Many more took to social media to share their experiences, using the hashtag #BlackOnCampusGuelph.

“As long as black students are giving money to this university, as long as we’re here, they’re going to listen to us, and they’re going to do something about it, because they have no other choice,” says rally co-organizer Yasmin Momed.

“We’re here, and we’re motivated and encouraged, and we’re going to make some changes happen if they’re not going to do it.”

Momed and fellow Guelph student Savannah Clarke led protesters through campus, along Gordon Street, and into the University Centre, where they marched into the university’s administrative offices and met with both the vice president of academics and the associate vice president of student affairs.

Among their demands are more black representation among faculty and staff and mandatory anti-oppression training for all university members.

“We need to see ourselves in these [administrative] positions,” says Clarke. “And, something as simple as knowing not to put blackface on a projector in front of 200 students at the expense of students in the class like Yas … knowing that should not be hard.”

Rutayisire says for so many years, black voices on campus have been silenced:

“To see such a huge uprising and presence of people talking about what anti-black racism looks like, and [to see] people sharing their experiences, it’s beautiful and empowering to be a part of.”

“I was really moved by the students’ stories, because it’s incredibly imporant to hear peoples’ day-to-day stories about their experiences on campus,” says Charlotte Yates, vice president of academics.

“I’ve learned something, but also from that, we’ll figure out what the next steps are, so that we make sure we support those students, which is a number one priority.”

Brenda Whiteside, the assistant vice president of student affairs, adds that the university has been trying to address issues around diversity for the past number of years.

The rally organizers say it’s not enough.

“I’m waiting for action,” says Clarke.

“I don’t want to hear them say ‘we’ve tried, we talked about that, I’ve only been here for three months’… I don’t care. I want to see action, and until I see action, that means nothing to me.”