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A message from President Michael Benarroch on Black History Month

February 4, 2022 — 

During Black History Month, UM joins with others to celebrate the richness of the achievements of Black communities in Canada and around the world, and to reflect on the issues and difficulties that were faced—and continue to be faced—by the Black community.

The UM Black Alliance, UMBA, is hosting a virtual event on Feb. 16 that I encourage everyone to attend. The event’s theme is Acknowledging a Black Past, Embracing a Black Present, and Envisioning Black Futures, and it will feature a keynote address by Tamari Kitossa, a professor at Brock University, as well as a town hall exploring the complexity of Blackness.

These are ideas we must continue to engage with year-round. Racism is deeply entrenched in society’s policies, practices, and institutions, and we must disrupt and eradicate it. That is why UM signed the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education, Principles, Actions, and Accountabilities.  

Upholding the value and principles of this charter will fall to us all, and implementing the recommendations of this charter will be driven by the newly established Anti-Racism Task Force, which will hold its first meeting in February 2022. This task force is being led by Naomi Andrew, Vice-President (Administration), and Catherine Cook, Vice-President (Indigenous), and it will work in concert with UM’s inaugural and recently announced Executive Lead (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), Distinguished Professor Tina Chen.

We welcome the opportunity to do this important work and to look honestly at our past and present, so we can create a better future.

Our students recently told us that there are too few Black and Indigenous professors on our campus and that they continue to experience microaggressions. Right now, work is underway to change this at UM—to create new programming, hire more diverse faculty, and create more targeted financial help.

This is why the Scarborough charter, which UM helped inform, is so important and why I must stress that the urgency, principles, and values of the charter exist outside of Black History Month. This charter is a call and a guide for institutional change.

-Michael Benarroch, President and Vice-Chancellor

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