ANTIGONISH: Renowned educator, researcher and writer Dr. George Sefa Dei said affirming Blackness is a celebration of people and by extension, a response to anti-Blackness, during a recent lecture which wrapped up African Heritage Month.
Considered by many as one of Canada’s foremost scholars on critical race and anti-racism studies, the Ghanian-born Dr. Dei delivered the ninth annual Agnes Calliste African Heritage Lecture on February 28 in the Schwartz Auditorium at StFX University.
His speech “Black Like Me: Reframing Blackness for Decolonial Politics,” spoke on the complex meanings of Blackness and brought the question of Africanness into the discussion as well.
“But it also focused on the Black scholar in the academy, what are the possibilities in terms of building our own communities and how do you talk about this,” he told The Reporter following his lecture. “Because as Black Indigenous, you have to talk about how to come together and deal with the impartial colonization on our communities, and how we do that in a way that wouldn’t put us against each other in terms of that right.”
Dei said society can’t deal with the question of racism, and not address the question of anti-Blackness because it’s a very core problem.
Dei said Blackness needs to be viewed as an actual lived experience for Black people, not just an intellectualized problem or intellectual idea.
“Understanding Blackness and Africanness as coming to a sense of self and community, and the appreciation of history, culture, identity and politics,” he said. “It’s confronting the unending struggle to conquer Black/African self-concept and psycho-existential complexes which arose as psychological by-product of colonialism.”
Dei said there is also a need to challenge a fixed, essentialized, degenerate, dangerous, sexualized, and criminal reading of Blackness.
“As we talk about African History Month, it’s a time to reflect on the past, the present and the future. When we look at society today, there are so many challenges that we have to deal with and it is very important for us to have these conversations to an audience such as this.”
Dei said healthy communities can become empowered by having conversations about racism and other oppressions.
“We must also be able to talk about privilege and I think once we’re able to have this frank conversations then we can become honest and deal with our problems,” he said. “To talk about creating communities, we must be willing to talk about connection of power, privilege, our collective and individual responsibilities and not forget our fight.”
Currently, Dr. Dei is professor of humanities, social sciences and social justice education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, and co-chairs the African Community Networking Committee in Toronto, an organization dedicated to the economic and social enhancement of African peoples in Canada.