UBC's new Black Male Initiative was created to support Black male students during their time at UBC and foster connections and community.
UBC VP Students Ainsley Carry said the groundwork for this program dates back to a series of listening sessions in 2019 with students involved in the Black Student Union, the African Awareness Initiative and the Africa Business Club.
"They brought up the absence of space," Carry said. "They wanted a meeting space where people could gather and talk and plan and discuss what was coming up next. They wanted to bring cultural programming to the university, but every year they were scraping together funding."
Responding to these concerns, the Black Male Initiative held its inaugural meeting at the Simon K. Y. Lee Global Lounge and Resource Centre in September 2022. Since its kickoff event, the program has hosted monthly gatherings at the same location.
The initiative also responds to recommendation #3 of the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force Report: "Foster belonging for Black students, staff and faculty at UBC." The recommendation highlights the need to change the perception that “spaces on campus do not normalise the gathering of Black people.”
Historically, Black students have detailed the difficulties of being Black at UBC. Carry said in the listening sessions, Black students said the lack of community as a root cause of feelings of isolation.
"[The students] couldn't find other Black students to connect with. They were the only black students in a particular class or section. For Black male students, they're enrolled here in small numbers, but they don't have a community," said Carry.
The demand for a safe space sparked the idea of the Black Male Initiative as an opportunity to connect fellow Black male students to each other and to offer "peer mentoring, social events, networking opportunities and community building."
While the university is providing funding, Carry said his office’s goal is to hand over the initiative to the student body. It seeks "to serve as a catalyst to start the conversation, create a space and then turn it over for [the students] to decide how they want it to be."
The initiative's future is not set in stone, but it could involve transforming it into an official student club or organisation to further promote its mission.
Carry said he hopes students use the program as a launch pad to further participation in student life.
"If they eventually assume leadership positions at the university, join other organisations, participate in the student government, [they can] become an active voice at UBC and represent students of colour."