Florence Mudzongo, a registered social worker at the USask Student Wellness Centre, works with students every day to help them navigate life’s challenges. Now, she is leading a project to help Black students and alumni share their personal meanings of joy and wellness with the world through a photovoice project – a research method that uses photographs and narratives to translate experiences into knowledge.
Entitled ‘The Mosaic of Black Joy and Wellness’, the project took a unique photovoice approach, where participants were asked to submit photos that depicted what joy and wellness mean to them and what it looks like in their everyday lives, along with a written reflection.
“This project was focused on centering voices that are not traditionally heard,” said Mudzongo.
The project, supported and funded by the USask Student Wellness Centre, Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, and SaskCulture, highlights how Black students at USask and the Black community in Saskatchewan embrace joy and wellness in their lives.
“Embracing and celebrating Black joy helps us to cope with the racialized emotions, and the physical and mental health effects of racism,” said Mudzongo, who is also the founder and president of the Saskatchewan Association of Black Social Workers (SABSW), and a founding member of the USask Black Faculty and Staff Caucus. “It helps the Black community stay connected to their humanity and continue to move forward with hope. Joy is one of the many pathways to heal, shield, and trauma-proof ourselves from the harm of anti-Black racism and discrimination.”
Mudzongo collaborated with the SABSW and Uzma Danish, an interdisciplinary social research student and a faculty member from Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., to conduct the project. Mudzongo said Danish’s dedication, support and research guidance throughout the project shows how important it is for the Black community to work together with other racialized groups.
“For society to be equitable, collective efforts and actions are necessary and desirable,” said Danish of the importance of the project.
For this collaborative and community-based research project, Mudzongo’s team – which included Student Wellness Centre intern Aastha Tripathi, and the study participants – the “aim was also to honour and celebrate the diverse experiences of Black Joy among individuals of various Black ethnicities.”
“This photovoice project was also a way for us to celebrate and raise awareness of diverse Black ethnicities in Saskatchewan,” said Mudzongo. “The photovoice exhibits are also a positive way to generate and share knowledge about Black wellness and nurture the inclusion of culturally significant wellness resources and activities for diverse Black ethnic groups in Saskatchewan.”
Meet the USask students and alumni who participated in the project below, and browse a vibrant selection of their submitted photos. A full photo display will be available for public viewing at an event held at the North Concourse of Place Riel on Feb. 6 at 10 am as part of USask’s Black History Month and will be on display until Feb. 9.
Meet the USask community behind the photos
Precious Samuel Oluwabemiwo, graduate student
“I promote joy and wellness in my life as a student at USask by prioritizing balance in my daily schedule. I understand the importance of maintaining a balance between academics, social activities, and personal interests.
Engaging in this research project was important to me, as it presented an opportunity to contribute to the preservation and understanding of my cultural heritage. My participation is driven by a desire to not only showcase the cultural richness and diversity within the Black community but also to educate others about the nuances and depth embedded in our traditions.”
Aisha Adela, graduate student
“I promote joy and wellness in my own life as a student at USask by connecting with people, taking part in activities and volunteering to make the most impact in any environment I find myself in.
Participating in this research project was important to me because participating meant that I had an opportunity to express myself authentically, staying true to my roots, and representing myself and my people. It allowed me to share and express everything that matters to me, knowing that though I am part of a very diverse community, I can still stay true to my origin.”
Audrey Oluwafunmilayo Ajose, Bachelor of Arts in psychology student
“I promote joy and wellness in my life while a student at USask by being a student facilitator at Peer Health where I facilitate a group called Cultural Wellness. I also spend time with my family and friends and take time doing hobbies which include reading, eating and baking and participating in new activities and projects like the photovoice project.
Participating in this research project was important to me personally and culturally because as a psychology student, I am always interested in projects that facilitate student wellness and creativity. Additionally, as a Black Nigerian female student, I take any and every opportunity to promote representation. I believe it is very important for us to advocate for ourselves and break barriers.”
Azee Amoo, business economics student
“I like to promote joy and wellness by being part of the campus community. By volunteering and getting involved, I feel like I’m contributing to something bigger than myself. It just feels good to be able to put out positive energy.
A lot of media featuring Black people tends to centre around struggles of racism, slavery, and systems of oppression. While these stories are incredibly important and need to be told, I wanted to contribute to the library of media that promotes Black joy — especially the kind that can be found in the simple and mundane every day.”
Empress Welch, Bachelor of Science in psychology graduate
“I promoted joy and wellness while at USask by intentionally seeking out and participating in programs that interest me like the student exchange program (I went to the University of Essex for a term), the Building Intercultural Resilience Mentorship (BIRM) program, and the peer mentor program. These programs have provided me with invaluable experience and contributed to my joy and wellness.
Participating in this program was a delight for me personally and culturally because I got the opportunity to be heard and seen. As a part of the minority, sometimes we can be lost in the crowd, but this program has created a designated space for us, and I appreciate that. As a past and soon returning student of USask, I am proud to say that the university embraces and promotes diversity.”