Battle against racism at York University continues

Posted by admin on Jan 29th, 2008

Written by Renata Valz, Production Associate. Tuesday, 29 January 2008

York University students are speaking out against racism and the anti-black graffiti that have recently threatened students’ safety on campus.  “White = right / black = jail” and “niggers r only brave when their in packs come up 2 us 1 on 1 and see whos gonna get fucked up! Bitches!” are two of a series of hate crimes that have given birth to rallies, Facebook groups and what some are calling a new civil rights movement on campus. Between Jan. 22 and 23, several anti-black sentiments were found on the York University Black Students’ Alliance (YUBSA) door, in a nearby washroom and in another washroom in the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Building.

On Jan. 24, a rally was held in the Student Centre where members of YUBSA and guest speakers spoke out against what they described as “hate literature.” One week later, students and community members gathered again in Vari Hall to voice their concerns.
The rally extended beyond the walls of the university. Guest speakers included Saron Ghebressellassie, who was a victim of racism at Ryerson University.

Ghebressellassie listed some of the racial issues Ryerson has faced over the past year. Many of her items elicited cries of “shame” from the crowd. Other speakers included Gurratan Singh Dhaliwal of the Sikh Activist Network who promised that Sikh students would stand behind YUBSA and the black community’s cause. Dhaliwal and his team held picket signs with “Stop deportation of Mr. Laibar Singh” and “status for all.”

 Zannalyn Robest, president of YUBSA, acknowledged that YUBSA needs the support of all groups, but urged black students to unite. “Everybody is going to ask you to co-op that feeling with what they’re feeling. We can sympathize and we can empathize yes, but it is what you’re feeling as a black person, remember that.”

Robest appealed to the black students with a series of rhetorical questions.  “We want the administration to know that we are serious. Where are your black teachers? Where are the black faculty members in science? Why are not more black students being taken in as grad students? Where are the black TAs?” Robest asked.

While the rally was smaller than the one held on Jan. 24, it mirrored similar sentiments. Attacks on the government, administration and Israel were made both times.  Immediately after reports of last week’s crimes were made public, graffiti saying, “White supremacists go back to HELL” surfaced.  Minutes before Thursday’s rally, a female student was escorted to a security office for questioning in association with the graffiti.  Amy Hussey, who goes by the alias of Harmony, has been allegedly identified by members of the York community as the perpetrator behind the retaliatory graffiti. Hussey was banned from the university for 12 hours and has received legal advice.

Alex Bilyk, director of media relations at York University, justified the ban by saying that it “probably” was for her safety. Security has not confirmed whether she is guilty or not.  York University is not seeking legal action in regards to the retaliatory graffiti. The perpetrator will be penalized under the Student Code of Conduct.

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