February is a time to reflect on the history of Black people in Canada and to celebrate historic and modern achievements. Two Black students majoring in business economics at the USask College of Arts and Science talk about what Black History Month means to them.
The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Azee Amoo, fourth-year College of Arts and Science student
From Calgary, Alta., Azee Amoo is a fourth-year College of Arts and Science student majoring in business economics. Amoo’s extensive extracurricular activities include leadership positions such as being a Student Recruitment Ambassador for the College of Arts and Science, director of advocacy and volunteer co-ordinator for UNICEF USask, director of marketing for USask Menstrual Project, and the director of marketing for CommUniLink. She also volunteers with Peer Health USask and has an interest in other student groups such as the Black Student Mentorship Association at USask.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Amoo: I like to do a lot of different things. I tend to be really crafty. I also collect a lot of books and try to read them. Recently, I’ve been hooked on the show Criminal Minds. I really like volunteering and getting involved in the community.
The first two years I was at USask, I was primarily online because of COVID. When I came back, I was kind of shy to get into things but now, in my final year, I really found the flow and rhythm. I’m involved in lots of different groups and leadership positions.
Q: Why did you choose USask?
Amoo: It was a chance to move out, live on my own and find myself in that way ... I’ve grown a lot academically and explored a lot of interests. If I told myself in high school that I’d be studying business, I’d laugh. I was like, “Oh, money is so boring.” In high school, I thought was going to become a computer or software engineer. After first-year engineering, I transitioned to computer science and then to applied computing with business concentration and then business economics.
I’m also taking an online course with the University of Calgary—an introduction to social work because I hope to enter that field.
Q: You mentioned that you’re thinking about entering social work. What was it about social work that drew you to it?
Amoo: I’m doing business economics and I enjoy it. I enjoy studying economics more than the business side, but I couldn’t really see myself working in finance or the banking industry long-term. I really, really like working with people and I wanted to be part of the community, maybe work in the non-profit sector—so (I decided on) social work.
Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?
Amoo: For me, I think it’s a chance to reflect on our history – the hardships we’ve been through and of course to celebrate our culture and the fact that we’re still here and we’re still thriving despite the forces that worked against us.
It’s bittersweet because you don’t want to forget the past and the stuff that we had to go through. But it’s also amazing because it’s a chance to be like, “Yeah, we’re doing great!”
To Black students on campus, I’d like to say it can be hard to maintain your culture, or your identity and there’s (pressure) to fit into what’s the status quo. But I just want to say that there’s no wrong way to be who you are, no matter what your culture. Cultural identity is part of you, your history is part of you. Your background is part of you, and you can’t wear it the wrong way.
I’ve had trouble with that in the past, and I’m like, “Do I really fit in?” This goes to not just Black students, but every student from every background. You can’t lose your cultural identity, it’s just who you are.
Teniola Bolaji, second-year business economics student
From Nigeria, Teni Bolaji and her family moved to Saskatchewan in 2021. As an international transfer student, Teni is majoring in business economics, with a minor in French. Bolaji is a Student Recruitment Ambassador for the College of Arts and Science. She is also part of the Pan-African Student Association at USask and Economics Student Group.
Q: Tell us about yourself–what do you do in your downtime?
Bolaji: As a university student, I always believe that someone should practice self-love and always have time for yourself. During the month, I have dates planned out – this would be like a solo date. I also like going out with family or shopping when finances are there.
Q: What made you decide on a business economics major?
Bolaji: I have an interest for financial markets and how they impact business. Business economics allows me to explore dynamics from the business point of view and from an investment and financial point of view as well.
Q: What made you decide to become a Student Recruitment Ambassador at the college?
Bolaji: Because of my application (to USask). I had so many questions regarding my application, so I reached out to someone (at USask). Even though the person didn’t answer every single thing, the person made me feel more at ease because I was so anxious about the whole application process. The person just helped me with whatever I needed and just gave me links on what to do as well. When I came in and saw I that I could also do that, I was like, “I would love to do that for someone as well.”
It’s so nice because it’s like I’m helping (other students). I’m part of their journey in a way because obviously moving here is a big change for someone, especially as international students. Helping them a little bit at all, “Just look at this link, or do this, do that.” I’m also helping people in their journey.
Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?
Bolaji: It means the time to reflect and also the time to appreciate how people fought [to end] slavery. Also to appreciate and be proud of the people that are moving forward, and seeing so many Black people being so successful in whatever they’re doing.
(At USask) there is the Pan-African Student Association and during Black History Month they have a gala. We also have global fairs, global villages where you can see different booths, different small businesses.
Q: Do you have any advice for Black students on campus?
Bolaji: I would just say that they should love themselves because, obviously, it gets overwhelming. Aside from being a student, which is overwhelming for everyone, it’s especially for people that moved here. I was fortunate to have my parents – I’m staying with my parents, so I don’t have so many burdens on myself, but people still have financial burdens on themselves, and they have school and everything. It’s stressful but they should also take time to care for themselves and prioritize themselves.
For more information about Black History Month, and how it is being recognized at USask, visit spotlight.usask.ca