Concordia commemorates the Henry F. Hall Building as the site of Canada’s largest student protest against anti-Black racism
Concordia reaffirmed its commitment to recommendations from the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism at an event in the Henry F. Hall Building on February 6, to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Sir George Williams University student protest.
Concordia President Graham Carr, Anne Whitelaw, provost and vice-president, Academic, and Angélique Willkie, special advisor to the provost on Black integration and knowledges, spoke to students, faculty and staff who gathered to witness the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the site as the location of Canada’s largest student protest against anti-Black racism.
The presentation of the plaque stems from recommendations included in the task force final report and references the apology offered by Carr on behalf of the university in October for the 1969 arrest of 97 students. The incident had dire consequences on the lives of Black and Caribbean students and their supporters who stood up to the systemic racism they experienced at Sir George Williams University.
Permanent plaque to be installed in the Hall lobby
The plaque serves as a temporary facsimile of the permanent plaque that will be cast in metal and installed in the Hall Building lobby in the coming months.
Guests applauded as Willkie revealed the plaque, which was followed by two other key announcements from the president and provost.
“Plaques convey something about place, people, time and moments in time. And ideally, they inspire people to learn more and reflect more deeply about the meaning and lessons of historical events,” Carr said.
“And, I’m certain that this will be the case, as people look at this plaque, not just this year, or the next, but in five, 10, 15, 20 years down the road.”
Website commemorating the 1969 student protest
Carr announced the launch of a bilingual website focusing on the student protest, which will continue to grow and evolve as people share their thoughts, memories, documents and mementos from the pivotal events of 1969.
The site delves into the historical context surrounding the protest, a timeline leading up to and following the 1969 milestone, its aftermath and impact on student lives; it also includes a host of educational resources.
Whitelaw added: “The plaque and the website chronicling the relationship between Concordia, its founding institutions and Black communities in Montreal and beyond, are two examples of recommendations that are being finalized, but there is more.”
New minor, Black Student Centre
Whitelaw announced that a process is underway to start building a program in Black and African diaspora studies in the Canadian context, and that Concordia is moving forward on the recommendation to create a Black Student Centre.
The student centre is being made possible by a partnership with the Student Success Centre and will serve as a gathering place for Black undergraduates and graduates from across the university.
The space will be open throughout the week and will have computers, coffee and tea, an academic counsellor and culturally relevant programming. It will also build on the student-focused programming now being offered through the Black Perspectives Office.
The centre, slated to open in fall 2023, will be housed in the Student Success Centre in the Hall Building.
Whitelaw also announced the launch of a survey to allow Black students to weigh in on the design and amenities of the space, and a contest to find a name for their Student Centre. Details are available on the home page of the Black Perspectives Office website.
In closing, Whitelaw expressed her appreciation to Willkie for leading the task force and for her invaluable contributions in benefit of past, present and future students, faculty and staff.
“Thank you, Angelique, not only for your work and leadership, but for your continuous and unstoppable energy in reviewing and planning the implementation of the task force’s final recommendations.”
What’s next for Concordia
The work of combatting anti-Black racism and implementing the recommendations of the final report proceeds, and Willkie will continue to provide counsel and guidance to the provost on the adoption of the task force’s final recommendations.