Thursday, 9 February 2017

Brandon University president to receive award at Black History Month event

By Neil Armstrong
Dr. Gervan Fearon, President of Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba.   Photo credit: Francine Buchner

Dr. Gervan Fearon, the president of Brandon University and the first and only black university president in Canada, will be the recipient of an award that will be presented at the Jamaican Canadian Association’s Black History Month event, a “Boonoonoonos Brunch,” this weekend.

The other award recipients are Ontario’s Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, retired Staff Sergeant Ezra ‘Tony’ Browne, and David Mitchell, assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

Born in England to Jamaican parents, Fearon lived in May Pen for four years before moving to Canada in 1968 with his parents and siblings.

The former Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University was appointed the president of Brandon University in August 2014 to a five-year term ending on July 31, 2019. Before this appointment, he served as vice-president (academic and provost) at the university.

He has a BSc and MSc from the University of Guelph and earned his PhD in Economics from the University of Western Ontario.

In a 2016 study of Canada’s top research-intensive universities (U15), Professor Malinda Smith, a political scientist at the University of Alberta found that there was not a single woman of visible minority in the senior ranks, and visible minority men at only four universities.

In an article on the University of Alberta’s website entitled “The great Canadian equity fail” written by Geoff McMaster on January 31, 2017, he quotes Professor Smith saying: “Not a single university has any major structure for actually improving representation beyond lip service. They may have a senior adviser on women, or on Aboriginal issues, but not a senior adviser on visible minorities."
Smith said the composition of Canadian society is rapidly changing and “for universities to assume a leadership role, they need to more accurately reflect that diversity.”

She told the Gleaner that her research suggests Dr. Fearon is the only black university
president in Canada and she suspects that he is also the first. He is aware of this fact too.

At this year’s brunch, the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) will be examining “The Crisis in Black Education” as its theme. This focuses on the crucial role of education in the history of black people. 

In a press release the JCA says African American historian, Carter G. Woodson, once wrote that: “if you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race.” 

The organization notes that there are implications associated with the denial of access to knowledge and a crisis can result from persistently imposed racial barriers to equal education.

It says the crisis in black education first began in the days of slavery when it was unlawful for slaves to learn to read and write.

The JCA's role in helping to address this crisis with programs such as the Saturday Morning Tutorial Program, the Robotics Club, and the Scholarship Program will be highlighted at the event on February 12.

Peel District School Board trustee, Suzanne Nurse, will be speaking about her experience, as well as others such as Dr. Fearon. 

Educator Thando Hyman and Minister Hunter were previously scheduled to speak but have provided regrets.

The JCA notes that the important role of other local community-based organizations, academic and mentorship programs in inspiring a love of learning and thirst for achievement will be promoted.

“Addressing the crisis in black education should be considered one of the most important goals,” it says. 

JCA president, Adaoma Patterson, says the brunch is both an opportunity to recognize individuals “in our community who are making a difference while thinking critically about an issue impacting our community."

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