At Waterloo, we like to talk about our student clubs. A lot. The vast 250+ to choose from. The diverse range of interests they cater to. How important they are to student culture.
That’s because being part of a club at Waterloo is about more than just picking an extracurricular to slap on your résumé. It’s about finding a community that you can feel comfortable in, one that allows you to create meaningful connections with likeminded people.
Being a member of a marginalized community can sometimes cause you to seek out those people that have similar lived experiences and safe spaces that make you feel comfortable. At Waterloo, those spaces are abundant and easy to find. Our campus has so many clubs that strive to empower and celebrate Black students and culture; places where you can learn, engage with others, express yourself, dance, eat, make friends, have fun — you name it.
Clubs at Waterloo
If you’re apprehensive about joining a club, I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret. Clubs love new people! Take it from someone who’s been a part of six different clubs over the last two years; I haven’t come across any exclusive communities, or any place that hasn’t been happy to have me as a member. In fact, some clubs go out of their way to recruit new students and cater events specifically towards first years, too. I’m sure you’ve heard of Orientation Week — have you heard of Black Orientation week?
Black Orientation week was a first-year event put on this past fall by multiple Black-led student clubs, and it’s something they’re striving to continue every year. This five-day event was created as a way for new students to meet each other, learn about the Black-led clubs on campus, and familiarize themselves with the awesome communities at Waterloo. The event was hosted by UWaterloo African Student Association, UWaterloo Black Association for Student Expression, UWaterloo Black Medical Leaders of Tomorrow, AfroXDance, and UWaterloo National Society of Black Engineers, and it was jam-packed with fun activities. The week started off with a lip-sync battle, and then there was a trivia night, a bonfire, a fun activities night, a dance class taught by AfroXDance, and it ended off strong with Grill N’ Chill — a BBQ cookout!
Everybody's eager to come in and get to know each other, which we love. We love creating the platform for people to meet each other, that's what we're all about. We find that the first-year communities are very tight and close.
These clubs aren’t just active during Orientation week, though — they have events all year long, and with the diverse number of clubs, you’re bound to have some fun times.
University of Waterloo Black Association for Student Expression (UW BASE)
UW BASE is a club that throws continuous fun and important events. Through outreach initiatives and peer mentorship, UW BASE promotes diversity and cultural enlightenment, providing a heightened understanding of Black people and Black culture. They host educational events with opportunities for personal development through their career and wellness events, and they strive to build community through social events.
Advance, Connect, Empower (A.C.E.) with BASE, their networking event, occurs every fall, and is a great chance for students to create more career opportunities. The event involves a panel discussion from professionals from a variety of fields, including engineering, math, sciences, business, accounting, and more. They strive to cater the event towards students in each faculty, and after the panel discussion students can network with field experts.
One of their other biggest reoccurring events in the winter term is Showcase, a Black History Month event. Showcase is geared towards portraying Black talent from UW and around Ontario, and it involves an evening performance to showcase all the student talent! Their most popular annual event is a huge dance party called Fever, which had over 200 students this past spring term. The most recent Fever event was hosted at Maxwells, with a DJ from the GTA playing mashups of dancehall, soca, Afrobeats, hip-hop, rap, and more great music. "We always love to party, but we don’t get to hear the music that we like to hear all the time. At Fever, there was more of the music we want to hear, and it was just a fun party", says Kayla, a fourth-year Health Science student and the president of UW BASE.
When I joined BASE as first-year representative, it was a way for me to step out of my comfort zone, and a way to meet so many people. Now, I like the variety of events that we do and our general body meetings. I like the way that we try creating our events for lots of different groups of people because, within the Black community, we're not just generic; we have all different kinds of likes and differences and that’s what we cater to. We also try to cater towards other people who aren’t Black, to come in and join our community as well.
University of Waterloo African Student Association (UWASA)
A club at Waterloo that has collaborated with UW BASE for various events is UWASA. This club provides a space for students, primarily of African origin, who promote African culture and interaction among themselves. It’s also open to all students who wish to interact with African students and learn and experience Black culture.
UWASA helped host UW BASE’s Fever this year, creating Fever x Afroheat, and they’ve also thrown a bunch of other fun events. "I attended Fever x Afroheat — it was so much fun! I loved meeting people that were like me and finally dancing to good music. It was sick seeing everyone go on stage and showing what they could do" says Tolu, a third-year English Literature and Rhetoric student, and a member of the creative team for UWASA. In her role, Tolu has been working with others on a short film for UWASA’s annual showcase, The Real African Cultural Exhibition Showcase (TRACES), which celebrates and promotes the talent of Black and African students at the University of Waterloo through performing arts.
Join UWASA! I’ve never felt more loved, welcomed, and comfortable as I have in UWASA and we’re so much fun and absolutely hilarious. We have parties, events, an abundance of creative opportunities, a diverse network, and so much more.
If you like to dance, you’ve come to the right place. AfroXDance is a dance club at Waterloo that provides a fun and engaging environment for you to express yourself through traditional and modern African dance styles. They teach you about the history of dance styles in order to educate, empower, and create a welcoming community for all dance-lovers. At least once a month, they host dance classes to trendy Afrobeat songs, and they even provide you with opportunities to gain public exposure and dance for various external events! Theodora, a second-year Honours Psychology student, and the Public Relations Officer of AfroXDance, says "regardless of your cultural background, our dance community is open to all! The club was created to be inclusive, and we invite everyone and anyone with open arms. Inclusively, we host beginner classes for people who are interested in learning but don’t know how to break it like MJ."
AfroXDance collaborates with different organizations at Waterloo, too — from the Black-led clubs involved in Black Orientation week, to clubs like UWHIPHOP, a collaboration that involves a mixed dance class of Afro styles and hip-hop moves! Overall, the club is incredibly welcoming; "AfroXDance is not only for entertainment, but we serve as a community for people who share a common love and passion for self-expression through dance, or just wiggling your body to a beat. We see dancing as the most powerful form of communication to express communal values and develop relationships. We’re always happy to receive new members" says Theodora.
Association of Caribbean Students (UWACS)
The Association of Caribbean Students (UWACS) is another Black-led club on campus that is dedicated to promoting Caribbean culture and unity. "ACS is a very welcoming and laidback club where we have educational and social events for everyone to come and enjoy. We’re always looking for diverse members, whether you are from the Caribbean, your parents are from there, or you are interested in learning more about Caribbean culture", says Jacinta, a Spanish and Political Science student, and former public relations officer for ACS. As a public relations officer, Jacinta engaged and interacted with current and prospective club members, leading social media and email tasks. During Jacinta’s time, the club hosted many events to raise awareness about and celebrate Caribbean culture. ACS continues to throw a bunch of events, including some during Black History Month, such as Trivia Night, or throughout the term such as Caribbean Christmas Dinner, Heritage Month, and more!
Being a part of this team showed me that there are a lot of communities available to join on campus and there is no need to feel alone or isolated because people can relate to you in some aspect — you can always find a common ground and from there, feel a sense of belonging, not just to that specific community, but in the overall university life.
Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity (RAISE)
RAISE works to acknowledge and address the impacts of racism and xenophobia, using an anti-oppression approach to dismantle systemic barriers and perpetuate equality amongst the BIPOC community. Advocacy director of RAISE, Rachel, shares that almost all the friends she’s made have been through clubs.
Getting involved is scary, but when you find something you’re passionate about the odds are high you’ll find someone that shares that same value. Being part of clubs also helps me de-stress and find balance amid deadlines or exams.
RAISE aims to provide accessible support to Waterloo students, with a library of texts filled with works discussing topics from marginalization to racism to xenophobia, and they also showcase artwork from BIPOC artists. Overall, RAISE is a great first spot to go if you identify as BIPOC or want to learn more about their initiatives.
Current student, Celine, shares her commitment to RAISE and how it’s helped her build her community. She was involved with RAISE as a coordinator for two terms, an advocacy director for another two terms, and as a mentor and volunteer for several terms before that. Celine moved to Canada in 2019 after graduating from high school in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2018.
During my time with RAISE, I connected with a network of Black students past and present. Some of my close friends worked with me during my time at RAISE — they have all now graduated, but they have become family, and we are all still connected!
Getting involved with RAISE allowed Celine to make significant friendships from social events and gave her the chance to work on projects with peers from those roles. "You can find your people and your community. However, that is not always an easy thing to do at Waterloo as a Black student and especially as a Black newcomer to Canada. UW is essentially a predominantly white institution, so adjusting can be difficult. However, I have found that over the years, more and more spaces have opened up for students — particularly Black students — to connect, and that is because of the work that Black-led clubs and services have done to advocate on our behalf", says Celine.
Community on campus
You'll discover community if you set out to look for it, and sometimes, the community will look for you. I, and many others, would encourage all Black students to go to Black-led student events and socials. These are spaces where you can find community. Whether it’s working on campus or joining clubs or advocacy groups or attending a couple of socials; out of the large number of spaces that there are for Black students, there’s a place for everyone. It’s normal to feel apprehensive about joining clubs or meeting new people, but the truth is, there are so many fun, welcoming, and comforting communities on campus that are waiting for you out there. Why choose between quality and quantity when Waterloo has both?