Dean’s Statement—2022 Black History/Black Futures Month
Dear DLSPH Community,
Today is the beginning of Black History/Black Futures Month. I’d like to share some events that our School is hosting to celebrate Black excellence and some thoughts about what this time means to me, as a public health academic.
On Feb. 3 at 6:30 pm, I hope you will join us for a fireside chat, in which Prof. Beverley Essue and Prof. Dexter Voisin will discuss several key topics impacting Black excellence and other key themes from his new book: America the Beautiful and Violent: Black Youth and Neighborhood Trauma in Chicago. Spoken-word champion and poet Amoya Reé will open this online event.
On Feb. 7 at 1 pm, join a virtual tour of art displaying the work of Black artists and experiences of Black peoples through exhibits like Fragments of Epic Memory at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Tours led by AGO’s art educators will explore aspects of African and Caribbean life and its diaspora.
On Feb. 16 at 6 pm, join fellow DLSPH community members for a screening of the film It Takes a Riot: Race, Rebellion and Reform. This documentary explores the 1992 march against anti-Black police violence — what’s referred to as the Yonge Street Riot. One of the filmmakers, Simon Black, will join a panel discussing the film and other related topics after the screening.
On Feb. 24 at 7 pm, DLSPH partners with Toronto’s A Different Booklist Cultural Centre to celebrate the launch of Pathology of a Pandemicwith author Canute Lawrence and moderated by writer/storyteller Gayle Gonsalves. The collection documents individual and collective mental health and other experiences during the pandemic.
These events are important way for us as a community to learn together as we explore critical issues of Black experiences that will inform our work in public health and health systems. But I’d like to also acknowledge that equity and anti-racism work should continue all year long, and not just in an EDI context.
This is, in part, why last year we appointed health leads in Black, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ health — to help our faculty strengthen the curriculum and their research, adding perspectives and information that have been omitted for too long. You can learn more about these roles, the leaders in them, and other equity initiatives and milestones of our School by visiting our recently unveiled Equity Hub. Ryan Hinds, our School’s Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will share more about the goals and development of the hub in an email shortly.
I’d also like to situate this year’s Black History/Black Futures Month in the context of worsening public health outcomes for racialized people during the pandemic. Disruptions to schooling can impact graduation rates, which have a major effect on poverty, and ultimately on health and longevity. In public health, we must develop a pipeline of professionals with lived experience who can combat the consequences of these educational disruptions before they take a disproportionate toll on the health and wellbeing of youth of African heritage.
I also believe that everyone at DLSPH shares a responsibility to learn about anti-Black racism and the ways in which unconscious bias can harm Black students, co-workers, and faculty members. To this end, I have enrolled in a Feb. 5 TIDE workshop on unconscious bias for U of T faculty members. I encourage everyone in our community to take at least one anti-racism workshop, webinar or training session this year.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the DLSPH staff, faculty members and students contributing to make this Black History/Black Futures Month an enriching experience for our community.
Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown