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Celebrating Black Excellence and Achievement

The Importance of Black Joy

We acknowledge that our editorial board is currently composed of non-Black members. Due to this, we cannot speak for Black individuals and communities or their experiences. As an allied organization,  the Daily must strive to platform and highlight Black voices and perspectives.

This year, Black History Month in Canada is centred around the theme “Ours to tell.” This theme highlights the need to engage in open dialogue about the histories, successes, sacrifices, and triumphs of Black communities across Canada. The Daily acknowledges that, in publications like ours, these dialogues are too often overshadowed by those of anti-Black racism, violence, and suffering. This Black History Month, the Daily would like to celebrate Black achievements and Black excellence at McGill, in Montreal, and across Canada. 

It is indeed important to recognize the impact of anti-Black racism and violence. Recent events in Montreal have made the prevalence of the city’s anti-Black policing all too clear. In December, Nicous D’Andre Spring, a young Black man, was killed by officers while illegally detained at the Bordeaux Detention Centre. “His life was taken for no reason, absolutely no reason and we’re really tired [of being] treated really messed up in Quebec by the police,” says Sarafina Dennie, Spring’s sister. This is only one recent example of anti-Black policing in Montreal, yet the city refuses to make any meaningful attempt to prevent future harm. In a defense testimony against the Black Coalition of Quebec, Yves Francouer, president of the police brotherhood, spewed pure copaganda, negating valid concerns and lived experiences by implying that cops “protect society.” Furthermore, despite widespread public support for reallocating police funds following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in 2020, police budgets have continued to rise exorbitantly in Montreal and across Canada

Anti-Blackness is systemic. It can be found in both the histories and present-day operations of our schools, workplaces, and government institutions. McGill is no exception: James McGill acquired the university through wealth obtained by the exploitation of enslaved Black and Indigenous individuals, and the university has failed to adequately redress this. For example, a statue of James McGill was only removed in July 2021 after being vandalized, despite Black students and allies demanding its removal since at least June 2020. McGill only started observing Black History Month in 2017 – almost ten years after it became recognized in Canada. The Black community is also severely underrepresented in McGill’s faculty. In 2020, research from the Black Students Network (BSN) revealed that there were only around 12 Black professors and assistant professors out of the 1,707 faculty employed by the university at the time. And despite calls for the creation of an Africana Studies program (which would have a greater focus on diasporic African communities than the already existing African Studies program) since the 1990s, it still does not exist.  

Talking about Black history without acknowledging Black excellence is misleading and inaccurate. Founder of the Black Joy Project Kleaver Cruz explains: “Amplifying Black joy is not about dismissing or creating an ‘alternative’ Black narrative that ignores the realities of our collective pain; rather, it is about holding the pain and injustices we experience as Black folks around the world in tension with the joy we experience in pain’s midst. It’s about using that joy as an entry into understanding the oppressive forces we navigate through as a means to imagine and create a world free of them.” 

At McGill, Black advocacy groups have done essential and groundbreaking work at the university and beyond. The development of McGill’s original Action Plan to Address Anti-Black racism in September 2020 was due in large part to the work of the Take James Down initiative, the BSN, and other Black students, activists, academics, and organizations. From organizing conferences on the subject of decolonization as early as the 1950s, helping to create the Congress of Black Writers in 1968, and advocating for complete divestment of university funds in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, Black McGillians have shaped the university’s history and policies for a long time. Today, advocacy and community organizing by Black students and faculty can be seen across campus. The BSN hosts events such as Black Frosh, Hair Day, and Soul Food Friday for the Black community. They also host a podcast called “Soul Talks” and frequently post about scholarships for eligible Black students on their Instagram. The Black Law Students’ Association at McGill likewise does important work for the community; for example, they recently participated in a survey conducted by the national Black Law Students’ Association of Canadian law schools to compile a ranking of law schools for Black students. Black faculty at McGill have done invaluable work for the university community and for scholarship as a whole. Terri Givens of the Department of Political Science, for instance, has been a leader in McGill’s anti-Black racism efforts, while David Austin of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada has published several important texts on Black history in Montreal and across Canada. 

Black achievement and success has profoundly shaped the Montreal that we know and love today. The city’s nightlife would be nothing without Black pioneers like Oscar Peterson, who helped establish a jazz scene in the early 20th century that attracted the best and brightest in the genre. He was just one influential figure to come out of Little Burgundy, a neighbourhood with a rich history and the historical home of  the city’s Black anglophone community.. Legendary pianists like Peterson and Oliver Jones, the first Black trade union in North America, and the Union United Church were all born in Little Burgundy. Peterson, Jones, and other Black pioneers laid the foundations for the creation of the Montreal Jazz Festival in the 1980s – one of the largest events in the city and one of the most important jazz events worldwide. 

This month and every month, the Daily invites you to celebrate Black excellence and achievement. You can support and get involved with organizations advocating on behalf of the Black communities in Montreal, including the Black Coalition of Quebec, the Black Community Resource Centre, and the Black Theatre Workshop. Black History Month events in Montreal can be found at You can find a list of Black-owned restaurants in and around Montreal from a non-comprehensive list by Tastet. At McGill, you can find ongoing Black History Month events to attend on the equity webpage. BSN has compiled a list of resources for Black students, including professors, hairdressers and barbers, and additional resources.  In addition, there are many organizations and initiatives at McGill supporting Black students and faculty year-round, such as the McGill Black Mentorship Program, the McGill African Students’ Society, and the McGill Black Faculty Caucus.