This Black History Month (#BHM), McGill Desautels hosted a lineup of events that not only promoted equity in the workplace for Black people, but also highlighted uplifting aspects of Black culture through enterprise. February’s exciting series of in-person and virtual events, co-sponsored by the Desautels EDI Team and the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics (LCBE), were themed Black Flourishing: Nurturing Excellence in Business." Read ahead for all the details and join us in continuing to celebrate Black excellence year-round.
Ethical Vigilance: The convergence of Race, Identity and AI
In this conversation with Renée Cummings, Assistant Professor of the Practice in Data Science at the University of Virginia School of Data Science, she discussed the convergence of race, culture and identity when considering the implications of AI in the technology industry. Cummings engaged in a lively question and answer period unpacking ethical considerations around language, justice, and the implications of biased algorithms.
One of the many striking examples she shared was within the child welfare system: if the algorithm is taught that waffles are part of a good diet, then families from other cultural communities for which this is not part of their diet will more likely be called up to child services. Attendees were challenged to imagine thoughtful pathways into this conversation and to consider the importance of questioning data practices.
Critical Race Theory in Conversation with EDI Strategic Plans
Dr. Wesley Crichlow, Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities and former Associate Dean of Equity at Ontario Tech University, engaged attendees in a dialogue about the intersection of critical race theory and the effectiveness of EDI efforts in strategic planning. He shared his perspective on the challenge of establishing EDI as a singular effort, paying particular attention to the need to think critically about equity, diversity and inclusion in separate terms.
Crichlow highlighted the need to provide training and support around university governance and policy to EDI practitioners and the importance of pursuing initiatives which center around sustainability and long-term development of relationship. Crichlow thoughtful approach to intersectionality and its relevance to enacting EDI efforts was well received by members of the McGill community.
Remembering Africville: A Film Screening and Discussion with Dr. Sabrina Jafralie
A screening event was held for the documentary Remember Africville, directed by Shelagh Mackenzie. The film tells the story of the community of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which the city elected to bulldoze in the 1960s. After the screening, Dr. Sabrina Jafralie, an award-winning bilingual educator and activist, engaged in discussion with participants.
During the deeply engaging discussion, which continued for 20 minutes after the event was slated to end, she shared that one of the many things that made Africville special is that it was more than a location, it was a community. Dr. Jafralie is currently working on building an online museum which tells the story of this community, which includes members of her own family. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the annual Africville reunion, which will take place at the end of July. One attendee shared their gratitude for such an impactful event.
“I felt honoured and lucky to be on the receiving end of Dr. Jafralie's wisdom.”
Demanding Diversity: HR, Recruitment and Retention in the Corporate World
Panelists Samantha Bateman of Integria Consulting, Kamal Aderidigbe of BNP Paribas and Leslie-Anne Lewis, Director Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CN, shared their reflections on the effects of George Floyd’s death on hiring practices today. Although some organizations have made public equity statements and updated some policies and practices, HR and recruitment professionals are still grappling with challenges related to unconscious bias, establishing meaningful practices which will impact under-represented groups in meaningful ways and countering long-held beliefs about success and meritocracy.
The event also included opening remarks from the Honourable Christopher Skeete, Minister for the Economy and the Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism, and Professor Terri E. Givens, the Provost’s Academic Lead and Advisor (PALA) on McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism (AP-ABR).
Carnival is Mas, Movement and Music
To close the month, the teams hosted an event to celebrate Black culture and showcase celebratory cultural traditions. Facilitators from the West-Can Folk Performing Company led a mini workshop during which participants had the opportunity to design their own carnival headpiece and learn about some of the customs and traditions of carnival. After making their headpieces everyone donned them and were guided through the paces of two songs!
Learn more about the Initiatives and Institutes and upcoming events
Photo (top of page): Dean Yolande E. Chan, Minister Christopher Skeete and Professor Terri E. Givens. Photo by Owen Egan.
Event photos by Nikita Boston-Fisher.