Ujima Black History Month 2022 at the University of Waterloo was a collaborative initiative by faculty and staff from the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (EDI-R), the departments of English and History, and the Dean of Arts Office. Our goal was to celebrate Black history in the campus community and beyond, and to celebrate these histories in February and beyond — any time is the right time for celebration and actions.

Visit the Office of EDI-R.

 

Ujima symbol for collective work and responsibility, showing four stylized shovels connected

What is Ujima?

Ujima (oo-JEE-mah) is a Swahili word that represents a principle of Kwanzaa: To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems to solve together. Ujima Black History Month encourages the UWaterloo community and beyond to understand that, though we might differ in strategy and process, progress and liberation is only possible with collective work and shared struggle.

2022 Black History Month events

We planned virtual events and other initiatives with UWaterloo folks and guests speaking to a collective culture and identity, highlighting our shared responsibility for institutional and wider systemic change. 

 

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Black History at UWaterloo

Over the past year, PhD candidate Jonathan Zi En Chan worked with Dr. Christopher Taylor to uncover the history of Black student and faculty experiences at the University of Waterloo.

Read a brief history of Black experience at Waterloo

Learn about the poster series

Making a difference

Read about our students, researchers and alumni who are making a difference.

Re-imagining the histories of Black people in Waterloo region

“In 1833, several families moved approximately eighteen miles north of Waterloo, a small village in Waterloo County, to the southern fringe of yet unclaimed land known as the Queen’s Bush. It is believed that the group included Solomon Conaway, his wife and five children; Lewis Howard, his wife and six children, and Daniel Banks...served as the catalyst for the establishment of a new Black settlement also called the Queen’s Bush.”

The Queen’s Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865, Linda Brown-Kubisch, page 31.

"I have heard white people who lived at Queen's Bush say, that they never lived amongst a set of people that they had rather live with as to their habits of industry and general good conduct."

— William Jackson (Queen's Bush Settler, 1846), Brown-Kubisch, page 190.

"Most of the colored people living here are doing a well, if not better, than one could reasonably expect. Most of the grown people among them are fugitive slaves."

— Thomas L. Wood Knox (Queen's Bush Settler), Brown-Kubisch, page 191.

By Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor

I want us to take the time to reflect, learn, and engage. Together. To start, I'm providing a few quotes for us to re-imagine how we understand the intersecting histories of Black people in Waterloo region.

We have a collective tendency to think of Blackness’ and Black people as perpetual sojourners; individuals absent of belonging to the settler colonial space of what we now know as Canada. We use the 28 or 29 days in February to spotlight the Santaclausification of Blackness and Black History — 28 or 29 days to consume the palatable aspects of Black Achievers, Black Success, or Black Excellence. The stories of Dr. King Jr., Rosa Parks, or Viola Desmond.

I'm challenging us to (re)think and (re)imagine the space and place of Black people. The space and place of Black people in society, our historical narrative, and the one month a year we choose to ‘celebrate’ Blackness and Black people. Not just in Canada, but in Waterloo Region. 

I want us to learn the names of Howard, Jackson, Knox. Of Conaway, Pooley, and Little. I want us to truly think about what it means to be a Black “fugitive slave" (“Freedom Seeker”), to flee to “unclaimed land” (stolen Indigenous land) in the nineteenth century, and how the traumatic echoes of this dual erasure and oppression impacts us as a mosaic of communities that comprise the University of Waterloo in the twenty-first century. How can we take these lessons and apply them to our day-to-day environment to challenge systemic oppression in all its forms on our campus? I want us to do this before January and after March. Every year.

I want us to understand that this push against anti-Black racism and settler colonialism did not begin on May 25, 2020 with the murder of George Floyd. This is a fabric of our history and our contemporary reality. Right here in Waterloo.


Meet the planning team

Christopher Stuart Taylor, associate vice-president, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism

Dr. Taylor is an assistant professor in the Department of History and in the Arts First program. His scholarship includes race and racism, Black Canadian history, Caribbean history, Slavery in the Americas, and Black identity. Previous administrative roles at Waterloo include serving as the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Advisor for the University’s Equity Office, and acting as the Faculty of Arts’ Black Equity Strategist & Anti-Racism Advisor.

Clive Forrester, continuing lecturer, English Language and Literature

Dr. Forrester is an expert in forensic linguistics, which combines aspects of the law with linguistic theory. His research includes courtroom discourse analysis, Creole linguistics, the relationship between language, gender and sex, and language advocacy/policy. A recent study examined Jamaican Creole speaking witnesses in Ontario courtrooms and how linguistic analysis can be used to resolve and/or clarify some of these issues.

Katherine Bruce-Lockhart, assistant professor, Department of History

Dr. Bruce-Lockhart's research critically analyzes the global history of prisons and detention camps, connecting this to contemporary discussions about decolonization and prison abolition. Much of her work is in the field of African History, with a specific focus on Uganda and Kenya. She is part of the Department of History's Anti-Racism Taskforce and is honoured to work with this planning team and the wider community as we celebrate and learn about Black History all year long.

 

Nancy Eleanor Reeves, interim director, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism

Nancy Reeves is a native from West Africa, Liberia and came to Canada as a war refugee in 2000. She has wealth of experience as a college professor, social worker, clinical therapist, and human rights advocate. Her research, teaching and training cover areas such as diversity, cultural sensitivity, anti-oppressive practice, anti- and post-colonial theories, and race relations. She is completing a PhD in Social Work Education focused on the trauma of war and its implication for social work education and practice.

Jermal Jones, manager, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism

I am happy to bring meaningful conversations about Black History to UWaterloo, especially as one of the principles we value at the EDI-R office is collective impact. We all are responsible for celebrating Black History Month. I hope this event brings awareness that Black excellence is not an exception, especially as we welcome ten tenure-track/tenured academics through the Black Excellence hires.

Janessa Good, events and engagement coordinator, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism

Janessa Good supports the coordination of all annual and special events for the EDI-R Office, Indigenous Relations Office and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office. She looks forward to celebrating Black History Month with the Waterloo community through the events and resources the planning team has curated.

 

Wendy Philpott, communication manager, Faculty of Arts

Wendy Philpott has worked with the Faculty of Arts since 2007 and is dedicated to sharing and promoting the research, learning, and positive impacts of its faculty, students, and alumni. She is honoured to work with Indigenous and Black campus members as an ally and collaborator on a range of initiatives.

 
 
 

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Photo credit

All archival photos courtesy of the University of Waterloo Library. Special Collections & Archives, Kitchener-Waterloo Record Photographic Negative Collection and University of Waterloo Archives, Graphic Services fonds.
Special thanks to Danielle Robichaud, Digital Archivist, Special Collections & Archives.
 

I’m challenging us to (re)think and (re)imagine the space and place of Black people. The space and place of Black people in society, our historical narrative, and the one month a year we choose to ‘celebrate’ Blackness and Black people. Not just in Canada, but in Waterloo Region.

— Dr. Christoper Stuart Taylor, associate vice-president, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism