WOLFVILLE, N.S. – An African Nova Scotian student support worker in Kings County is hoping Acadia University’s black student advisor position will be one that’s able to achieve real change.
Krishinda McBride is the co-ordinator of Race Relations, Cross Cultural Understanding and Human Rights (RCH) for the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education. She says she is proud of the university’s first-ever appointment of an advisor for black students and calls it “a great start in providing a visual role model” for black students that should “foster positivity between our schools and the university” for AVRCE students.
But McBride says she hopes the position will “not just be about words and will be able to take direct action” in improving black students’ experience on campus and across the Annapolis Valley.
“This acknowledges systemic issues on campus and also a need for greater education. But the semantics are interesting – it doesn’t say it’s promoting blackness. So, it will be interesting to see what happens, but again, this is a great first step,” says McBride.
University communications executive director Scott Roberts says the position “is intended to be full-time” and was created on recommendations from discussions with the school’s Black Student Association last year.
Roberts says the new advisor will be a member of Acadia’s student services team and will lead the university’s Black Students Working Group in identifying challenges students of African descent face on campus.
The new position will also create what the school is calling “information portals” for black students, which Roberts describes as a hub of online links for career opportunities, training programs, scholarships, and other areas that are typically found through government and agency websites.
“One of the roles of our advisor will be to help guide students to these sites,” said Roberts.
The advisor will also work to promote diversity on campus and coordinate with organizations in the African Nova Scotian and related communities, and the university’s recruitment team.
Acadia president and vice-chancellor Dr. Peter Ricketts says the school must increase its “cultural competency on campus” and needs to do “a better job of not only supporting students of African heritage, but promoting and celebrating their achievements.”
“Recognizing the needs of students of African descent as distinct from the needs of other students is a well-established practice in post-secondary education and we are, frankly, behind the curve,” he says.
McBride says the AVRCE’s own Student Support Worker Program, which pairs students of African descent with a support worker from primary to Grade 12, “assists black students in seeing their lived experience within our curriculum.”
She says the support workers speak openly with their students about the realities of racism, and how to heal from it by giving them educative tools to protect themselves.
McBride says racism is still a large issue in the Annapolis Valley, and that teaching African Nova Scotian students to have pride in their heritage is crucial to providing them with a positive experience in education.
“These students have confidence, and these students have racial pride – they know who they are regardless of what other people tell them,” she says.
“We’re not having drive-bys, but people are threatened by other types of racism, too. So, I’m proud that Acadia is taking the action they’re taking.”
This is why despite wondering “how much bite, or support this advisor will have, or if it will be a gatekeeper situation,” McBride says this will benefit black students at Acadia.
“Having these avenues is great for these groups to come together, have conversations and discuss what needs to be corrected at school to foster better education for all,” she says.
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