ANTIGONISH, N.S. - An African Heritage Month tradition at St. F.X. is the Dr. Agnes Calliste Lecture Series which, this year, takes place Feb. 28 and features renowned educator, researcher and writer George J. Sefa Dei, a professor of social justice education at the University of Toronto (U of T).
Dei is also the director of the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/U of T).
“Considered by many as one of Canada’s foremost scholars on critical race and anti-racism studies, [Dei] will deliver the ninth annual St. F.X. Agnes Calliste African Heritage Lecture, Feb. 28, in the Schwartz [School of Business] auditorium starting at 7 p.m.,” a release from St. F.X. reads, while also noting the lecture will be live-streamed at livestream.com/accounts/735962/africanheritage.
The lecture is titled; Black Like Me: Reframing Blackness for Decolonial Politics.
“By addressing the relations between race and indigeneity within diasporic and educational contexts, his lecture will offer insight on questions of equity and diversity within university settings,” Katie Aubrecht, sociology professor and Canada research chair, health equity and social justice at St. F.X., said.
“He will explore tools and frameworks that can be used to forge community and solidarity, resist anti-black racism, and account for black people’s experiences, agency and resistance.”
Speaking to the Casket earlier this month, Dei, an author, editor or co-editor of more than 35 books, said his lecture will have audience members, “basically, thinking through the through the complexity of blackness.
“We can’t talk about blackness without Africanness; see the connection between blackness and Africanness,” Dei said.
“And black studies in Canada and the responsibility of the black intellectual; what can we do as a community to address some of the issues around black education, minority education.”
Noting the lecture coming up during African Heritage Month, Dei describe the dedicated month as a time to “reflect.”
“We do it throughout the whole year but it’s significant to have that month as a time to think about, to reflect on, the past, the present and into the future,” he said.
“And it allows us to have the critical dialogue about what it means to be talking about creating communities, working together to create communities. I don’t think African Heritage Month is just for black learners, I think it’s for everyone to recognize the contributions and the achievements of black people’s throughout time.”
As for the series being named after Calliste, the long-time St. F.X. sociology professor who passed away last year and left an indelible and impressive legacy at the school, Dei said she was a colleague who “influenced us all.”
“I would learn a lot from her in terms of her pushing to second boundaries,” he said.
“We don’t celebrate these achievements of our black scholars enough. It’s important to have this moment to reflect and talk about her life and to see how some of the knowledge she imparted is being pushed forward by other scholars.”
Based in Toronto, Dei, when asked what he takes from speaking engagements in different locations, said he is looking forward to the opportunity to come to Nova Scotia to speak, and learn.
“It’s a good opportunity to educate yourself about the area and see the work that is going on; where, sometimes, you have to learn from across different spaces,” he said. “See the connection between some of the challenges you’re dealing with, where you are, and then coming to new place.
“As well, people ask you questions that push you to think beyond your own confines; so it’s a moment to grow intellectually, politically and socially … I think that is very important.
“And if you’ve been invited to speak, you have something to share. So the sharing of knowledge; the reciprocity and the relations that comes with that,” he said of what he gains.
The lecture series, now in its ninth year, is organized by the Department of Sociology at St. F.X.