No Small Task : A Conversation With Anti-Black Racism Task Force Members
by: Donneyha Ellis Geohagen
“I am optimistic that the task force will do what it was created to do,” says Anti-Black Racism Task Force co-chair Jessica Bona-Mensah.
What the task force has been created to do is wide-ranging: collect data to best identify and review policies, programs, pedagogical practices, and research about racism on campus. Created in Fall 2020, the task force is made up of racialized faculty members and students and acts as an advisory board to the President.
While approaching the initiative with open minds, task force members are maintaining a critical eye. The University of Windsor’s Students’ Association representative to the task force, Mia Riviere, cautions that “the university appears to be trying to do the work, but it is also up to us to hold them accountable.”
Riviere believes that despite the history of anti-Black racism on campus the creation of the task force can be a pivotal moment for Black students on campus. Bona-Mensah agrees, “There are so many motivated members in the task force that are doing the work, we can only hope the university listens and really takes them into account when the time comes.”
Critics of the process have raised concerns about a lack of transparency in the hiring of the committee’s support staff, that some student activists have been excluded from participating, and that the committee’s work will be just a performative exercise.
Bona-Mensah is aware of the criticism but agreed to participate. “As a Black woman, I felt compelled to take the position as co-chair despite the criticism about the task force because I wanted to be able to evoke change internally,” she says. Still, she admits to feelings of uncertainty about how effective she believes the task force will be. “As co-chair, I am hopeful but as a Black student on campus, I am skeptical – I just know I have to do my part to ensure people who look like we have a voice at the table.”
Riviere added, “we may not like it, but this is an opportunity to see real change at UWindsor.”
Currently, an Anti-Black Racism Strategy based on the task force’s recommendations is proposed for UWindsor in Fall 2021.