The University of Manitoba recently introduced the Promoting Black Flourishing Fund, a new program to support initiatives led by Black U of M students and community members.
Sponsored by the U of M executive lead-EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and the U of M vice-president administration, the fund was created to provide one-time financial assistance in support of initiatives led by the Black U of M community.
The program was developed in accordance with the Scarborough Charter, a document signed by the U of M and other universities and colleges across Canada that acts as a commitment to address anti-Black racism in higher education, and to create an inclusive environment for Black communities and individuals in Canadian post-secondary institutions.
The document has four primary principles meant to guide initiatives that aim to address these issues — Black Flourishing, Inclusive Excellence, Mutuality and Accountability.
Tina Chen, executive lead-EDI at the U of M and distinguished professor in the department of history, explained that the goal of the fund is to “support Black life in all of its diversity at the University of Manitoba.”
She said that having designated funding for community-led initiatives will allow individuals and groups at the university who identify as Black to “really bring forward how they see their participation, and how they want to see Black flourishing and create community.”
Chen said that having a program specifically in support of Black flourishing was also intended to remove barriers that are sometimes posed by having to navigate the university as an institution in search of funds.
She said that the program expects to see a wide variety of community-focused initiative proposals.
“We will be seeing projects that are really about building community spaces,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s about information sharing among groups where they feel like it’s a safe space, sometimes it’s about cultural celebrations, or producing [or] having a kind of creative art space, and other times it’s really about the anti-Black racism activism.”
Naomi Andrew, vice-president administration at the U of M and a member of the program’s selection committee, said that examples of eligible initiatives could involve events, guest speakers and community building.
“We’ve tried to make it as broad as possible,” she said.
However, Andrew added that the fund does not support individual research projects, travel to attend conferences or expenses related to individual professional development.
All Black U of M students, staff, faculty or other Black individuals or groups associated with the U of M are welcome to apply for the fund. Applications must include a title, description, a budget and a timeline for the project, as well as a description of its intended scope and audience. Details concerning the project lead and any other organizations or groups involved are also required.
Once the fund is depleted, it will be reset in the new fiscal year. Andrew explained that while there may not be enough funding for each application, projects that do not receive funding will still have an opportunity to receive feedback, and its applicants can potentially connect with other supportive resources.
Andrew emphasized the importance of having a fund to promote Black flourishing at the U of M.
“I think in order for the university to flourish as a whole, we need initiatives such as this,” she said.
“I think it’ll be great for students to see that there are people in senior university administration who are Black that are supporting them, that are advocating for them.”
Olivia Onyemaenu, vice-president advocacy for U of M’s Black Student Union, said that she feels the fund is a positive way to recognize Black people at the U of M and aid in Black student life.
“This is definitely a way to give Black students a voice, knowing that the fund is a support initiative that would enhance equity, inclusion and diversity,” she said.
Onyemaenu is also secretary for the University of Manitoba Nigerian Students’ Association (UMNSA). She explained that UMNSA is partnering with the Nigerian Association of Manitoba to host a Black excellence event sometime in March, and hopes that the event will be able benefit from the Black flourishing fund.
“It’s really a good thing that the University of Manitoba is recognizing the diversity and complexity of all Black peoples on campus,” Onyemaenu added.