Harriet Tubman Director Gertrude Mianda
“Roughly 15 years ago I was helping organize a conference with some other academics. We did not know each other personally and we were all located around the world, so were communicating remotely via conference calls. Once we all met in person we made our round table introductions. When it was my turn to speak, I introduced myself. Afterwards one of the co-organizers spoke up in front of all our colleagues and said “oh, you are black? I thought you were from Europe because of your accent.” I was shocked and politely smiled and replied “yes, it is me, I am black.” Despite the polite reply, I was confused why it mattered what the colour of my skin was, or what that had to do with my role in organizing the conference.
It was a small instance, but unfortunately one many black people around the world experience on a regular basis. That is one of many reasons why Black History Month is so important. It is not just acknowledging and remembering the history of those that fought for our liberation but giving us inspiration to continue to change the world like they did. Yes, we need to look in the past, but also what is our present? What is our future? What is our legacy? And how will we inspire the new generation to continue that legacy?
My role at the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas at York University is committed to the understanding of the history of slavery and its legacy. It also fosters inter- and multi-disciplinary debate and approaches. In addition to continuing the work the institute has done to fulfil its mission, one of my aspirations is to expand the membership to include francophones belonging to both African and West Indian communities.
The institute is a true testament to York University’s commitment to academic excellence, inclusivity, diversity and social justice. Located in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, our resident faculty represent a wide variety of academic disciplines, including history; anthropology; languages and linguistics; business; economics; geography; music; dance; law; philosophy; political science; sender, sexuality and women’s studies; and sociology.”
Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies/ Professeure agrégée en études des femmes et genre
Director, Harriet Tubman Institute /Directrice, Institut Harriet Tubman.