TORONTO – Organizers of a graduation ceremony for black students at Canada’s largest university say the event is meant to acknowledge the barriers that remain for people of color pursuing academia.
The ceremony is being held Thursday at the University of Toronto after two students took it upon themselves to organize the event for black students completing degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
While the event is organized and run by students, it is going ahead on campus with the university’s blessing and financial support.
Co-organizer Jessica Kirk says the event, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, will give about 80 black graduates a chance to celebrate the accomplishment of overcoming systemic barriers unique to racialized groups seeking higher education.
She says black students face subtle racism in the classroom, contend with societal obstacles that make it harder to pursue their studies and often lack the benefit of black faculty members and senior academics to offer guidance and mentorship.
She also says that the special event, which will take place in addition to traditional convocations, seems appropriate in light of the students’ extra efforts.