September 15, 2017

Rising for Us

National Women’s Representative

So far, this year has been a rough one for racialized and Indigenous communities. There’s a resurgence of race-based hate extending beyond the computer screen, and taking violent and disturbing action in the streets across our country. I see the mainstream media headlines finally speaking about white supremacy. However, it’s not new: Indigenous, Black, and People of colour (BIPOC) have been enduring racial violence and systemic racism for centuries. It’s a reality that folks of colour experience on the daily, in our classrooms, our workplaces, and communities. Still, I am empowered by the resilience of the racialized and Indigenous leaders of my student movement.

I first became involved in the national student movement in 2014. I was immediately captivated by the critical work being carried out by BIPOC student leaders in the movement. It was a critical time for myself personally: I had already been going through a process of navigating trauma, relearning, and recovering. Looking into the tired eyes of many folks who must continuously fight hate on their campuses in order to pursue an education, I was inspired by the velocity, vitality and power of this movement. I wanted to get involved. I started participating in conversations across the country through spaces like the Canadian Federation of Students’ Racialized Students Constituency, the Circle of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students, my own students’ union, and societies and clubs on my campus.

From these conversations, it became clear to me that a critical shift needed to be made. While students were tirelessly fighting against racism, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, and anti-Blackness, it was apparent that BIPOC folks needed a safe space to recharge and revision their work. We needed to have a place to bring those who hold so much and build a network of solidarity amongst racialized and Indigenous students. We needed to create a place for folks to share lived experiences and knowledge with each other; to invite folks into the movement; and to further our collective work towards equity and liberation.

On November 22, 2015, I had the opportunity to put forward a motion to the 34th National General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students to initiate the first national Racialized and Indigenous Student Experience (RISE). I was there to participate in the discussions, panels, and workshops being lead through the heart. I saw students go back to their schools, homes, communities, and online bringing hope and action.

Now I get to bear witness to another RISE, this September 29 to October 1. I look forward to seeing the result of the planning work done by BIPOC folks from across the country. This year, despite recent atrocities, racialized and Indigenous students from coast to coast will gather to rise once again. Together we will resist and heal.