Maurice Riley Case is Concordia’s new manager of the Black Perspectives Office
Maurice Riley Case joined Concordia’s Black Perspectives Office (BPO) as manager on January 16.
Well-known as an instructional designer for inclusive pedagogies at the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), he also brings decades of experience to Concordia in Black flourishing and advancing anti-Black racism in academic settings.
“Maurice’s leadership skills, clear vision and novel approaches to ensuring that Black students, faculty and staff have every opportunity to thrive in academia and his attention to the diversity and intersectionality of Black identities is a tremendous asset for the BPO,” says Lisa White, executive director of the Equity Office.
“His knowledge and experience in Black flourishing spans academic admissions, hiring, retention, teaching, learning and working environments. These perfectly position Maurice and the BPO for a wide range of exciting collaborations across disciplines.”
While working at the CTL, Riley Case provided guidance on inclusion and advising to faculty who sought to include anti-oppressive and anti-racist pedagogies in their classrooms and research. He also developed training, facilitated workshops and provided one-on-one consultations to faculty, graduate students and staff.
Prior to joining Concordia, Riley Case worked as an independent anti-oppressive pedagogy consultant and held a managerial position on the equity team with the Peel District School Board in Ontario, responsible for implementing directives of the Ministry of Education on anti-Black racism.
He was also an instructional coordinator for Black flourishing in the Peel District School Board’s Department of Indigenous Education, Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Community Partnerships Support Services and was a teacher with Cawthra Park Secondary School. Riley Case holds a Master of Education from York University and a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.
‘Black flourishing is defined by breadth and depth because Black people are diverse’
Can you tell us about your philosophy on inclusion?
Maurice Riley Case: My commitment to inclusion stems from my personal and professional experiences. I identify as Black, queer and trans, and I have routinely navigated spaces that were not built to include me, particularly in educational institutions. This originally fuelled my passion for creating and sustaining safe and inclusive spaces where Black people can flourish. Moreover, I believe that when institutions are intentionally built with Black people in mind, everyone benefits.
Because educational institutions mirror inequalities in society at large, it is also critical to promote institutional cultures that are anti-racist, anti-oppressive, anti-colonial and accessible. I am interested in how educational institutions can move from being potential sites of oppression to being emancipatory. This requires a cultural shift — where inclusion is part of a broader project of transformational change.
Why is intersectionality vital to Black perspectives?
MRC: First, intersectionality is vital to initiatives that foster Black perspectives because Black people are subordinated differently, often according to social classifications of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability, which affect Black experiences. Kimberlé Crenshaw submits that any analysis of struggle that does not take intersectionality into account cannot address important sources of oppression.
Second, Black people are not a monolith, which means that Black perspectives are intersectional. People identify and express themselves in intersectional ways. Black people and communities are plural and dynamic. This richness is often overlooked by institutions. However, Black flourishing is defined by breadth and depth because Black people are diverse.
bell hooks suggests that transgressions move us beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable to create new visions. Intersectionality is necessarily transgressive because it requires us to confront oppression and implores us to create new educational visions — ones where Black people can and do flourish.
What would you like people to understand about Black flourishing?
MRC: The report of the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism draws on an initiative called the Scarborough Charter that identifies Black flourishing as one of its fundamental principles. Redressing anti-Black racism means removing institutional and structural barriers to fully realizing the inherent potential of Black people to thrive. Black flourishing is this positive state of fulfilling potential.
So often, Black people are socialized into resilience — we are told to expect resistance to our being and are praised for our ability to withstand oppression. But what would it mean if we shifted our collective focus and energies toward removing systemic barriers, the worst conditions, rather than adapting to them? What if we also celebrated how Black people have always already flourished? What possibilities lie there?
In your work as an educator, instructional designer and advocate of inclusive environments, have you noticed greater openness toward institutional transformation?
MRC: Openness has ebbs and flows. What I’ve learned is that an institution’s openness to transformation is often informed by the knowledge and positionality of the people who make up the institution. By positionality I mean each person’s intersectional experiences of precarity or security in the settler-colonial context of Turtle Island. A person’s willingness to bring about institutional transformation requires critical awareness of their positionality. But awareness is not enough. Systemic change requires a deep commitment to collective action.
It’s encouraging that Black and Indigenous students, faculty, staff and their allies are having conversations not only about the need for institutional transformation, but also about how to achieve it. Blueprints have already been created at the community level, and social movements are a source of inspiration. Applying these already-existing blueprints can facilitate the realization of our full humanity, now, and will continue to bear fruit in the longue durée. While I am heartened by the progress being made, there is still significant work ahead.
Find out more about Concordia’s Black Perspectives Office.