Who and what is ACE?
The Accessibility, Community, Equity committee (ACE) is comprised of students at York University who organize around issues of equity and anti-oppression. ACE was formed in December 2009 by a small group of students including Danavan Samuels, Szimba Hanley, Tracy-Anne Wallace and Ciann Wilson. The original objective of ACE was to name and address the issues at the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) that led to the alarming drop-out rates of students of color. We organized around issues of racism within the faculty and offered supports to our peers. Since these early days, ACE has organized workshops, seminars and peer mentorship sessions, all geared at offering students some of the necessary social and emotional supports needed for their success. One of our most important feats was our role, along with the initiatives of the faculty-led Equity Committee in ensuring that, effective for the 2010/11 academic year onward, all incoming masters students to FES, irrespective of academic background, were offered funding packages. An added part of our mandate is to provide students information on the ongoing programs and supports offered throughout the University. ACE is open to ALL students, prospective students and alumni of York and other Universities who are interested in issues of equity, in its many manifestations within academia.
Honoring those before us
Historically, FES has been a site of student organizing around issues of equity. Groups such as the African Caribbean Environmental Studies Students, the Anti-racism Committee, and other ad hoc groups emerged to encourage the faculty to raise questions about race and racism in environmental studies. Led by a group of dynamic students including Beenash Jafri, Andil Gosine and Karen Okamoto, the Anti-racism Committee operated as late as 2005 and demanded change within FES . These efforts led to the establishment of an anti-oppression coalition that enveloped race concerns. However, as Jafri and Okamoto appropriately name in their article Green is not the only Colour (see article on our resource page):
“our struggles go beyond academic activism. As (people) of colour, we have been battling with Eurocentric education systems and organizing strategies in Canada for most of our lives. Today we continue to challenge white middle-class environmentalism and white environmentalist scholarship for their failure to systematically address racism and colonialism. These problems are not new, nor are we alone in our fight. The centuries of indigenous struggle against the colonization of the Americas are part of anti-colonial environmental justice work. We also draw our strength from the work of our predecessors and contemporaries, from Africville activists in Nova Scotia to the Bus Riders Union organizers in Vancouver,” (Jafri and Okamoto, 2009).