Closed-door meeting on black women in leadership raises concerns for province’s only black female political science professor

Earlier this month, several events were held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the arrest of Viola Desmond for sitting in the white section of a New Glasgow cinema.

One event, a panel discussion moderated by Toronto Center MP Marci Ien, with black women in Halifax on the topic of leadership, is criticized as taking place on a “closed, invitation-only basis” by the female politician black Nova Scotia science teacher.

A contributor to the Examiner and professor at MSVU, El Jones expressed concerns about the discussion in a letter to Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, the only white male present at the meeting.

“It is not the role of the Liberal Party to reach out to other people’s communities and determine what leadership looks like,” Jones wrote in her letter.

“On the week of the 75th anniversary of Viola Desmond’s courageous stand against racism and segregation, Marci Ien came to #Halifax to meet black women leaders on the way forward. Photo: Andy Fillmore / Twitter.

“Mount Saint Vincent University, where I hold my position, has a long history of feminist education and continues to this day to focus on the education of women. As a Full Professor of Political Studies, I am responsible for teaching and mentoring the next generation of women leaders. Our programs include a public policy agenda that is uniquely based on feminist analysis. “

“As the only black woman in this field, young black women contact me especially for mentoring, advice on internships, referrals, placements, etc. These young black women are both African Nova Scotian and international students from countries around the world. . Many of these young women hope for a career in politics.

“Regardless of my own policies, I am responsible for offering these young black women their best chance for success, a mentorship that is systematically denied them elsewhere. “

“When you decide to exclude the only black woman in the province in this kind of event, you impact the access of these young women to this knowledge (I cannot attend and share notes with them, for example, find out about other events, connect them to opportunities that arise from networking, etc.) ”

“They already face the multiple barriers of being young black women in fields dominated by white men. The networking, support and career advice provided by these events would be invaluable to them. “

Left photo: Mount Saint Vincent Profesor, El Jones.  Right photo: Andy Filmore, MP for Halifax

Left photo: Mount Saint Vincent Profesor, El Jones. Right photo: Andy Fillmore, MP for Halifax

Speaking to the Examiner, Jones said the problem is not that she was not invited, but rather that meetings like this and previous similar meetings in the region between the government and the Black community members raise concerns and can divide the black community when they remain private and by invitation only.

“There is a particular infantilization of blacks that takes place where we are not supposed to have or be able to have the same expertise as whites. When you fail to recognize the hard-earned credentials of black women, you send the message that not only do we have to work more than twice as hard to get these credentials, but less qualified white people will continue to control our access to resources even when we do. let’s achieve excellence ”, continues his letter.

“What message does this send to our young women leaders when they see their mentors and elders marginalized? It’s anti-black racism, and it’s specifically misogynistic when our political work is presented as threatening and disruptive and in need of exclusion. “

Black Ontario MP Marci Ien chats with a black youth in Hope Blooms while holding a bottle of dressing.

“Fierce entrepreneurs, creative minds and compassionate community leaders, this is what I have seen and heard from the children working so hard at Hope Blooms Halifax to make a difference in their community. So proud of you! Continue !! ”Photo: Marci Ien / Twitter.

The Examiner reached out to Andy Fillmore for comment on Jones’ letter, whether or not the meeting was in fact by invitation only, and, if so, how the participants were selected, and whether or not the trial- official minutes of the meeting and whether or not they would be made public.

Fillmore responded by writing, “I have great respect for the work and advocacy of Dr Jones. We would have liked to have had a much larger group, but time, space, and COVID considerations prevented us from doing so. “

“That said, we were grateful to have been joined by women from a number of groups, including Black Girls Gather; Northend Start Up and Training program or NEST, which finances micro-loans to black-owned start-ups; the Empowered Women Blossom program at Hope Blooms; and others.”

“To characterize them as initiates who were only there for political purposes would be a mistake and a disservice to these accomplished women, including many doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers and students. In the future, we hope to organize a bigger event to hear even more voices. “

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