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In 2019, still so many firsts!

Prof. Kimberly Mutcherson understands the importance of representation. She understands that “[i]t’s really critical to have folks in front of the classrooms that reflect the students who are sitting in front of them.”

For many students, Prof. Mutcherson is the embodiment of what is possible. She is a woman. She is Black. She is the L in LGBTQ++. And now, she is co-dean of the Rutgers Law School. What makes her appointment all the more important is that she is the first woman, the first African-American, and the first member of the LGBTQ++ community ever to hold this position.

In 2019, let us focus on what we can do instead of what we can’t. Prof. Kimberly Mutcherson is living proof that, even in these difficult times, there is reason to hope.

Read more about this extraordinary person here.

Tackling unconscious bias

Unconscious bias training module

The Canadian Government and the Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) recently launched a detailed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan “to ensure institutions have greater accountability in terms of meeting their equity targets.” One of the items included in the plan was a commitment to “Provide training on unconscious bias for governance committee and peer review committee members.”

The full multi-objective training module is now available on the CRCP website. Although this training is intended to reduce Bias in the Peer Review process, the information can be applied to any situation where unconscious bias affects access and inclusion.

Check out the training module here.


You’re wwwelcome, wwworld!

Photo credit: Internet Hall of Fame

You may not know Alan Emtage, but if you managed to find this blog post, you know his work. This year, the Internet Hall of Fame finally recognized one of the great innovators of the Internet Age. I must admit, I assumed this had already been done. Alan Emtage not only created and implemented the world’s first Internet search engine during his time as a McGill student, but after completing his M. S. in Computer Science in 1991, he chaired the committee at the Internet Engineering Task Force that established the standard for Uniform Resource Locators, aka URLs.

Since 1998, he has been a partner at Mediapolis, Inc., where he lends his considerable talents to everything from small non-profit organizations to large multi-national corporations. In 1999, DataLounge, a website operated by Mediapolis, won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding LGBT Interactive Media.

Read more about Alan Emtage here.

Read about Alan Emtage’s induction into the Internet Hall of Fame here.

Read about Mediapolis, Inc. here and DataLounge here.

Don’t miss the 2017 McGill Sexual Health Fair

2017 Sexual Health Fair

2017 Sexual Health Fair

Check out McGill’s Sexual Health Fair being held this coming Thursday, February 16th, 2017 from 14:00 to 18:00 in the SSMU Building. Room 108. Sex, sexuality and sexual identity mean different things to different people. Join us at the McGill Sexual Health Fair to learn and discuss in a sex positive environment.

For more information, check out the Facebook event here.

Why we need to hear minority voices

Photo credit: McGill News

Photo credit: McGill News

When Dantes Rameau is asked to “show his credentials”, he does it because he understands the importance of “representing”. What he represents is possibility. To all of those young, economically challenged, inner-city kids that he mentors, he is a window into a life that they may not have believed was possible for them. Many minorities only see themselves depicted in the media as criminals, underachievers, and underdogs. Dantes Rameau shows them that it is possible to rise above the stereotypes. It is possible to become a celebrated classical musician, or a president, or an award-winning scientist, or anything else you imagine.

Too often, the media depicts success, beauty and achievement in the packaging of the majority. Minorities often struggle to find and maintain their own sense of self-worth and self-confidence because they cannot identify with the images of success that they are shown. We need to showcase minority success to give racialized and marginalized people (especially young people) a sense that they are valued in the world, that they too can be the face success, beauty and achievement.

Read about Dantes Rameau’s exceptional journey here.

McGill minorities take on the world – Imran Amed

Photo credit: Business of Fashion

Photo credit: Business of Fashion

We’ve all met that person. You know the one I’m talking about: smart, attractive, stylish, successful, charming. The person you secretly envy and can’t help but be impressed by. Imran Amed is all of those things and then some. This Calgary native chose McGill for his undergraduate studies, and we are so glad that he did. Now that the fashion world is at his feet, we can say with pride, “He’s a McGillian!” (He also got an MBA from Harvard.)

Imran Amed, a McGillian of Indian descent, is the founder of one of the most respected fashion blogs in the world. The Business of Fashion is  so well regarded that it received $2.5 million dollars in investment from Index Ventures, known for backing other winners such as Skype and Dropbox.

Mr. Amed was back at his alma mater last month to receive a Desautels Management Achievement Award, and at 38 years old, he is the youngest entrepreneur ever to receive the award. Not bad for a boy from Cowtown.

Read all about Imran Amed and his incredible success here and here.

McGill minorities rock!

Black History Month – Carrie Best

Canada Post honours Carrie Best

Canada Post honours Carrie Best

Rosa Parks. Coretta Scott King. Myrlie Evers. It’s odd how many Canadians can name the American women of the Civil Rights struggle, but would be hard pressed to name any of the Canadian women who fought for racial equality here. Perhaps this is because many Canadians believe that Canada has always been equal, open and accepting of all races. The unfortunate truth is that Canada had its own Civil Rights movement. However, this chapter of our history is often missing from the lessons taught in our schools.

One name that we should all know is Dr. Carrie M. Best. Who is Carrie Best? She was Canada’s first Rosa Parks. She was a journalist, an activist, a pioneer, and a humanitarian of the highest order. Carrie Best used her one small voice and turned it into a booming cry that could not be ignored.

Carrie Prevoe was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1903. In 1925, she married Albert T. Best and changed her name to the one that under which she would rise to prominence. Her first brush with notoriety came in 1942 when she and her son Cal were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace for sitting in the whites only seats of The Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow (they were ultimately convicted and fined). Mrs. Best attempted to fight this injustice by undertaking anti-racist litigation against her home town. However, nothing came of it, and most of history seems to have forgotten about this episode.

From that point on, Mrs. Best became a vocal advocate for racial equality and social justice. In 1946, she founded The Clarion, the first black-owned, black-published newspaper in Nova Scotia. She used the newspaper to publicize the case of Viola Desmond, another black woman arrested and fined for sitting in the whites-only seats at Roseland. When Desmond appealed the ruling, Carrie Best travelled to Halifax to be in the courtroom to hear the case. Viola Desmond lost her first appeal, but continued to fight, and Mrs. Best continued to follow the case both in person and in The Clarion. Desmond won her second appeal, helping to put an end the Jim Crow laws in Nova Scotia.

The Clarion continued to be published until 1956, when it changed its name to The Negro Citizen and began national circulation. During that period, Mrs. Best also began broadcasting a radio show called The Quiet Corner. That show remained on the air for 12 years and was broadcast on as many as five stations across the Maritimes. In 1968, Carrie Best was hired as a Human Rights columnist for the Pictou Advocate. For seven years, she used that platform to fight for better conditions on Native Reserves, to end discrimination against black property owners, and to end racism in Canadian legal and political institutions.

In 1975, Carrie M. Best’s contribution to our country is formally recognized when she is made a Member of the Order of Canada (in 1979, she is made an Officer of the Order). Over the course of her life, she was also awarded a number of honorary doctorates, as well as a Queen Elizabeth Medal.

Carrie Best died in her home town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on July 24, 2001. In 2002, she was posthumously awarded the Order of Nova Scotia.

Read more about Carrie M. Best here and here.

Black History Month – Dr. Phil Edwards

Canada Sports Hall of Fame

Photo Credit: Canada Sports Hall of Fame

This year, Black History Month also coincides with Olympic fever, and there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding these games. However, Sochi 2014 pales in comparison with Berlin 1936, and McGill sent one of its best and brightest to lead the Canadian Summer Olympic team to the “Nazi Olympics”. It was a particularly bold move considering that Phil Edwards was black. We all remember Jesse Owens, but we should never forget our own Phil Edwards.

Philip Aron Edwards was born into an affluent family in British Guyana on September 23, 1907. Throughout his early years in the Caribbean, Edwards was a promising runner, and his father was his first running coach. Upon graduating from secondary school in 1926, he moved to the US to further his running career and his studies at New York University. During his time at NYU, Phil Edwards managed to set a number of intercollegiate records in middle-distance events.

Although Edwards was an extremely talented athlete, he was not eligible to compete on the US track team at the 1928 Olympic games. However, Canada was more than happy to welcome him. He was invited to join the Canadian team, so he packed up and moved to Montreal, where he enrolled in McGill medical school. That year, Phil Edwards brought home a bronze medal from the Olympic games in Amsterdam.

Edwards quickly became the star of the McGill track team and served as Redmen captain for five seasons, from 1931 to 1936. During his time on the team, the McGill track and field team won six consecutive championships. In 1932, he returned to the Olympic games, this time in Los Angeles. He returned to Montreal to a hero’s welcome, having won three more bronze medals.

1936 was a big year for Phil Edwards; not only did he graduate from McGill’s medical school, but he also set out for his third Olympic games, the infamous “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin. This time, he would lead the Canadian Olympic team as its captain. Edwards never came home from an Olympic games empty-handed, and this time was no exception. He returned with yet another bronze medal, earning himself the nickname “Man of Bronze”. This fifth medal made him Canada’s most decorated Olympian at the time. On the return journey from the games, a hotel in London refused to honour his reservation because of his race. The entire team cancelled their reservations. They would not stay in any hotel that would not accept their captain.

Phil Edwards returned to McGill to complete a graduate diploma in medicine, specializing in tropical diseases. He received the diploma in 1945 and remained in Montreal on the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital. Dr. Edwards also used his expertise to participate in many international missions.

In addition to his studies, his running, and his medical career, Dr. Edwards also participated in the war effort. He interrupted his career to serve in the Canadian army during WWII and rose to the rank of captain.

Dr. Philip Aron Edwards died in Montreal on September 6, 1971, just days shy of his 64th birthday.

Read more about Phil Edwards here and here.

Black History Month – Rosemary Wedderburn Brown

Canada Post honours Rosemary Brown

Canada Post honours Rosemary Brown

Many Canadian politicians have passed through McGill’s gates. Our University can be proud of its contribution to public life in Canada. During Black History Month, one politician in particular stands out, not only for her contribution as a politician, but for strength in the face of the racism and sexism she faced as Canada’s first black woman to hold public office.

Rosemary Wedderburn was born in Kingston, Jamaica on June 17, 1930. Her family had always been politically minded, and her interest in social welfare was clearly demonstrated when she emigrated to Canada in 1951 to pursue her post-secondary studies in social work at McGill University and UBC. Canada in the 1950s was a challenging place for a young black woman, and Ms. Brown was met with both racism and sexism at every turn, whether looking for housing, employment or simply trying to fit into university life.

After graduating from UBC, Rosemary Brown joined two social groups that would help to lead her toward her career in politics: the British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and Voice of Women. During the activism of the 1960s, she became a political advocate against racism and sexism. Given her unique qualifications to speak on behalf of both women and minorities, Ms. Brown took on the role of Ombudswoman and founding member of the Vancouver Status of Women Coucil (VSW).

In 1972, with the support of the VSW members, Rosemary Wedderburn Brown entered BC provincial politics as an NDP candidate and was elected on August 30th of that same year.  She retained her seat as MLA for 14 years.  During her time in office, she worked on many social issues including removing sexism from educational material and forming the commission on the family.

In 1973, the United Nations awarded her the United Nations’ Human Rights Fellowship.

In 1975, Rosemary Brown ran for leadership of the federal NDP. Her slogan was “Brown is Beautiful”. Her candidacy broke the colour barrier in the federal political arena when she ran a close second to Ed Broadbent.

Ms. Brown retired from the BC provincial legislature in 1988, but remained active in social advocacy for many more years. In 1993, she was named chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and in 1996, she was awarded the Order of Canada.

Rosemary Wedderburn Brown died in Vancouver, BC on April 26, 2003.

The McGill Faculty of Medicine Research and Graduate Studies Office offers a prize named in honour of Rosemary Wedderburn Brown.  Read about the Faculty Prize here.

Read more about this extraordinary woman here and here.

Black History Month – Anderson Ruffin Abbott

Anderson Ruffin Abbott

There are many forgotten heroes of black history in Canada. How many of us were taught about Anderson Ruffin Abbott in our Canadian History classes? I certainly wasn’t. Who is Dr. Abbott? He was the first Canadian-born black doctor.

Dr. Abbott was born into an affluent family in Toronto in 1837. His family had fled the harsh treatment of blacks in the United States of the early 1830s for the much more welcoming conditions in Canada. The Abbotts quickly rose to prominence, and this allowed Anderson Abbott to receive an excellent education.

In 1857, Anderson Ruffin Abbott graduated from the Toronto School of Medicine and continued his studies under Dr. Alexander Thomas Augusta. In 1861, he received a licence to practice from the Medical Board of Upper Canada, thus becoming the first Canadian-born black doctor.

His career tells the story of the times.  He joined the fight against slavery in the US by becoming a civilian surgeon under contract to the Union Army.  During his time in the United States, he became well-known in Washington and was counted among the select group that stood vigil over President Lincoln as he lay dying.

In 1866, he returned to Canada, and in 1871, he was admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.  In 1874, he was appointed coroner for Kent County.  He returned to the US in 1894 when he was appointed as surgeon-in-chief at Provident Hospital in Chicago.  In 1896, the hospital made him medical superintendent.  However, in 1897, he resigned his position and returned to Canada once again.

Dr. Abbott became increasingly dedicated to promoting the idea that the access of blacks to higher education should not be compromised.  He wrote a series of articles and editorials for a number of publications on the subjects of black history, the Civil War, and medicine. His life served as a shining example of what people of colour could accomplish when given the opportunity to achieve.

Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott died in 1913 at the age of 76.

For more on Dr. Anderson, click here.

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