A research project aimed to redress ideologies and systems of anti-Black racism in the University has culminated in a first-of-its-kind database for Black Canadian readings and films.
The project, titled “Teaching Against Anti-Black Racism and Toward Black Inclusion,” was conducted as part of the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence (DARE) program for undergraduate students enrolled in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). The DARE program provides students with an opportunity to work on research projects under the supervision and guidance of a faculty member.
Jellisa M. Ricketts was part of the 2021 cohort of DARE recipients and worked during the summer to mobilize what she learned in the Black Canadian Studies certificate program. Under the supervision of Associate Professor Andrea Davis, coordinator of the Black Canadian Studies Certificate in LA&PS, Ricketts pursued this project as a multidisciplinary research initiative, which involved collating and disseminating research in Black Studies across the humanities, social sciences and professional studies.
With a focus on practices of learning and unlearning, while responding to and supporting the Faculty’s anti-Black racism strategies, Ricketts helped gather data for the development of a web-based database housing all Black Canadian publications and materials in one place.
The database, Recommended Readings and Film, provides an archive of scholarly publications and fictional texts in Black and African Studies. Its goal is to make the work of scholars, writers and artists living in Canada or engaging with Black Canada accessible. It speaks to the criticality of Black Studies across all fields, from education, public policy, law, business, health, journalism and the arts. The multidisciplinary nature of the project remains one of the core factors in its development allowing an extended reach to everyone who may benefit from it.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of the project is being able to ensure the promotion of materials created by new writers,” said Ricketts, who is now pursuing her master’s degree at York University. “Many books included in the database are the first for their authors and it’s really special that we included them amongst some of the most celebrated scholars in Canada.”
Resources listed in the database cover a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields, such as history, sociology, social work, literary criticism, feminist and queer theories, Black Canadian studies, and African diaspora studies. Ricketts credited Andre McLean, website and communications coordinator for the communications team in Dean’s Office, for incorporating a function that allows materials to be searched based on the kind of content a user may be looking for.
Further stating that Black Canadian presence was subject to erasure throughout history, Ricketts believes having this database available for students and educators will create a positive impact on inclusion at York. “Black Canadian Studies material becoming easily accessible might lead to it being included in more bibliographies and syllabi for years,” she said.
Davis said the extensive database makes it easy for faculty, students, the media and the broader public to identify and access a range of resources by scholars and artists working in Canada. This also assists in engaging with Africa and its diasporas, including Black Canada, since it lists the works of Black Canadian poets, novelists and playwrights.
“LA&PS is proud to be leading this important work of diversifying the curriculum at all levels and centering Black knowledge as a mode toward the creation of a better world. This is one of several initiatives we are leading, including the development of a new Black Studies major and minor,” said Davis.