Black Graduate Archive wins 2022 Equity and Inclusivity Award

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Inaugurated in 2012 by the Faculty Association’s Equity Committee (then the Status of Women & Equity Committee, or "SWEC"), the Equity & Inclusivity Award recognizes a group, member, or affiliate of the University of Waterloo community whose actions have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to improving equity, inclusivity, and/or diversity at the University of Waterloo. The award has recently shifted to emphasize supporting continued equity work, rather than providing a reward for past work.  

The Black Graduate Archive (BGA) is a perfect example of an initiative that will advance Equity and Inclusivity through a specific project, and this year's award will fund this future work, in part. 

The BGA is a new group on campus that was formed to complete a singular purpose—to create a photo archive of Black undergraduate students who managed to graduate despite the difficulties of studying during the pandemic. Though the BGA does not have its own history of equity work on campus, the three students who are a part of this group— Ola Idris Ali, Joy Adeyemi, and Safyya Cissé—are all equity champions in their own way.  

Black Graduate Archive founders Safyya Molami Cisse, Joy Adeyemi, and Ola Idris Ali

Photo: The creators of the Black Graduate Archive are Safyya Cissé (back left), Joy Adeyemi (back right), and Ola Idris Ali (front).

Ola, Safyya, and Joy are all past presidents of student organizations—Ola is a past president of the UW Black Association for Student Expression (UW BASE), and both Safyya and Joy are former presidents of the African Student Associate (UWASA)—where they conceptualized and executed several projects designed to foster an environment of belonging for Black students on campus. Most notably, they’ve played instrumental roles in organizing and participating in “Traces” the annual talent showcase for Black students, put on by UWASA, which returned this year. They have also partnered with other equity-seeking groups on campus, such as the Black Faculty Collective and other student groups, to bring awareness and action to issues affecting Black and other racialized students on campus, and were instrumental in creating spaces for dialogue during the George Floyd protests of 2020. 

The BGA project in a way serves as a parting “love letter” from these three phenomenal students who want to highlight the hard work of their peers who managed to make it to graduation during the hardest two years for any student at the university level. It is their way of saying: we were here and we made it; you can too. 

The Equity Committee of FAUW recognizes and appreciates the work of these students, and hopes that the award can help support this important project.

The Black Graduate Archive is expected to be completed and ready to share in August 2022.