Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Celebrating a History of Resilience

February 2, 2018 - As originally published by the Queen's Alumni News. Feature photo credit: Queen's University Communications.

When Edward Thomas, Sc’06, MASc’12, learned that the Queen’s School of Medicine had banned all 15 of its black students 100 years ago, his instinct was to learn more about those students.

A veteran journalist who now serves as Assistant Director of Industry Partnerships at Queen’s, Thomas first discovered the story while conducting research for the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI).   “I became curious and I decided to roll up my sleeves and investigate a little further,” he says. 

What he learned – through hours of sifting through public documents and the Queen’s Archives -- is that the students didn’t let the expulsion stop them from living productive, and in many cases, extraordinary lives. “They endured something very painful and difficult and many of them went on to become prominent physicians and social and political leaders,” he says. “They demonstrated incredible resilience.”

Resilience just happens to be the theme of this year’s Black History Month activities at Queen’s. “A common theme for a lot of black people is learning from our experiences and growing and developing in the face of oppression,” says Asha Gordon, Artsci’18, President of the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS). “Resilience is an important part of who we are.”

“We chose it as our theme because black people haven’t always had the easiest time, but we seem to come out of our struggles stronger,” says Elorm Vowotor, Artsci’18, President of the African Caribbean Students Association (ACSA).

As part of its Black History Month celebrations, ACSA has invited Thomas to explore the resilience theme by sharing the fruits of his research and telling the students’ stories on the 100th anniversary of their expulsion. “It is historically important that we’re doing this under the auspices of ACSA,” Thomas says, explaining that ACSA’s predecessor, the West Indies Club, was one of the few organizations on campus to take up the students’ cause.

Thomas says he looks forward to sharing what he’s learned. “These people are superb role models. They lived extraordinary lives,” he says. “I think people will be surprised when they hear some of their stories.” 

His presentation is slated for Thursday, February 15th at 6:30 p.m. at Robert Sutherland Hall (check the Queen's Black Academic Society Facebook Page for details). 

Black History Month 2018 activities at Queen’s were supported by the Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) and the Alma Mater Society. Funding was provided to QBAS and ACSA to help foster diversity and inclusion within the Queen’s community, in keeping with the 2017 Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusivity (PICRDI) final report.