This year, the theme of Black History Month at USask is Celebrating Black Experiences: Arts, Literature and More. Together, we will embrace our power to collectively shape the future by exploring and celebrating the unique contributions of the Black community across all disciplines. We will educate ourselves and each other about the lived experiences of the Black community in our country and strengthen our commitment to uplifting and amplifying their stories.
As a U15 university in Canada with an aspiration to be what the world needs, we recognize that our campus, our province, and our country have a duty to support and uplift the Black community in Canada and beyond. USask remains committed to building a more inclusive future for all. We are guided by the principles of our University Plan 2025 and our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy, which states that the university community must take responsibility to “foster a culture that embraces equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging.” To be the university the world needs, we must continue to build safe and supportive spaces that are representative of all people.
In 2023, the Provost’s Advisory Committee – Scarborough Charter (PAC-SC) was created to provide USask’s provost and vice-president academic with advice on priorities and actions stemming from the commitments to action outlined in the Scarborough Charter, a document that supports and commits to Black inclusion in higher education that was signed by USask and over 40 partner institutions in 2021. The Provost’s Advisory Committee is made up of faculty, staff and student leaders, and will make recommendations on institutional strategy to assist USask in achieving a more respectful, accountable, equitable, diverse and inclusive community.
USask students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members are integral to honouring and sharing the stories of the Black community. The Black Faculty and Staff Caucus, established in 2022, was created to provide support and guidance to Black faculty and staff at USask, and to increase their visibility and engagement on campus. Various student and community groups also provide information, resources and programming open to both domestic and international USask students. We are grateful to have a campus community willing to share their expertise and knowledge to support our mission to make our university a more inclusive place.
This month, make time to reflect and engage with the many stories, events and learning opportunities that are planned on campus throughout the month of February. I invite you to join me today at the launch event of Black History Month to kick off our learning journey together. You can also visit spotlight.usask.ca for a full list of events and resources available to you throughout the month.
Black History Month learning resources can also be found at the University Library, such as in the Black History Month research guide, curated to help you learn about the importance of Black History Month in Saskatchewan and Canada. You can learn about the historical contributions of Black Canadians in fields such as education, where Marlene Lynatte Johnson became the first Black school teacher at the first Black settlement in Saskatchewan located near Maidstone, Sask., and in health care, where Marlene (Williams) Johnson and Vera LaFayette are believed to be the first two nursing graduates of African descent from Saskatoon and Weyburn nursing schools. You can learn more about these leaders and about others preserving and creating Black Historyin the Prairies in all disciplines. You can find stories of how the Black community at USask is leading the way at news.usask.ca.
As we embark on this journey together to educate ourselves on the past and learn from the present, I invite you to participate in this important time of reflection and learning, and to be a part of building a more diverse and equitable future for all.
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Saskatchewan