9/4/2018 I attend the moving opening ceremony for the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue centre at University of British Columbia (UBC) campus . I am in Vancouver undertaking a month’s artist residency at St Johns College UBC, on the invitation of Prof Ferreira de Silva Director of the Social Justice institute ( grsj)
The ceremony made me realise how little had been ceded in Bristol and in the UK, in terms of our own African diaspora communities’ struggles for social justice…. This Residential and dialogue centre now open seeks to restore first Nations language, history, culture, promote healing and raise self esteem as well as provide access to residential schools’ records to first nation family and friends.
I heard first hand testimonies from survivors of the Indian Residential Schools system. I cried. It was hard to listen to but very necessary .
Sitting through the ceremony, I felt a connection with the Musquem people on whose land UBC is built and is this is always acknowledged by UBC. It made me think how far we have to go in terms of the struggles of our own African diaspora communities in the UK and elsewhere, in Bristol my home town. Lives impacted by legacies of transatlantic slavery and British colonialism, the intergenerational trauma, we have in common. I thought our communities’ journey for Truth and Reconciliation that has not even begun for there is no genuine acknowledgement of colonial legacies of harm and damage. For instance how the British education system has repeatedly failed children of the Windrush and their children’s children. (1)
The ceremony acknowledged how hard it was first nation survivors to come forward to give testimony. There was recognition of those in attendance that many, who were not in attendance, did not wish to remember. To hear the expressions of hurts & pain, was very necessary. The ceremony honoured both ancestors and elders, all that they had gone through..
The apology and speech of Professor Oni, 15th President & Vice Chancellor of the University of British Columbia, that followed was sincere and heartfelt and received as such by the first nations in attendance ,
I reproduce parts of it in the next posting as it spoke to me as UBC as an education institution moving beyond lip service to true dialogue and reconciliation.
(1) Bernard Coard’s 1971 seminal book how the west Indian child is made educationally sub normal
Also the works of Gus John & the late Gerry German, Principal Education officer at CRE, founder of Working Group Against Racism in Childrens Resources, Communities Empowerment Network’s on schools’ exclusions