“We The North” – That’s a phrase familiar to Raptors fans across the country, but a professor is hoping a new course at McMaster University will help students start thinking about the story behind the tagline.
It is titled Public Memory, Media and African Diaspora Studies and aims to initiate conversations about the history of slavery and how black freedom struggles are remembered and impact life and politics. today, said Lyndsey Beutin.
“A combination of critical thinking skills building and creative thinking.”
That’s how the assistant professor of Communication Studies and Media Arts at McMaster describes the class.
“I also believe that understanding the history of slavery and settler colonialism across North America is everyone’s business. she said, adding that the course seeks to involve students in this story and its effects on social movements today.
This is where #WeTheNorth comes in.
Think about Canada’s “national brand”
Beutin said she first heard the slogan when she was in the United States
“I immediately thought, ‘Oh my God, this is a reference to the Underground Railroad’ and I started tagging some of my Canadian friends about it and they were like, ‘Absolutely not. ‘has nothing to do with the Underground Railroad,’ “she said. said laughing.
But the professor moved to Canada in 2019 and has since said she saw how important the last Underground Railroad stop was to people here, as well as the country’s reputation as a multicultural place. and home for refugees.
It is against this background that the class will reflect on the slogan, Beutin said. It is not so much to prove that it is linked to slavery and the Underground Railroad, but rather to understand why “the North” is something that Canada is so proud of.
“It’s a great example of getting students to think about… how it infuses Canadian nationalism, Canada’s national brand, Canada’s self-esteem,” she said.
“I think it’s more about getting students to think about how concepts of imagining Canada as the northern site of freedom permeate much of the public sphere, including a fandom for the basketball. The symbol of this very diverse community of basketball fans who come together to support the Raptors. “
Learn more than “pieces” of history
It’s a course Kwasi Adu-Poku said he would have taken if it had been offered when he was a student at McMaster.
Adu-Poku played for college basketball for five seasons and cheered on the Raptors for years.
Now a master’s student at Ryerson University in Toronto, he remembers the We The North campaign as something that took Canada “by storm” in the winning season of the NBA Raptors Championship in 2019.
“It has grown from a simple Toronto team to a movement that has inspired Canadians everywhere. I found it amazing, ”said Adu-Poku.
“As a Raptor fan I hear this slogan a lot and if I say this slogan it would be cool and it would be great to know a little more about the historical context behind it,” he said. he declares.
Adu-Poku said that history lessons sometimes only provide “pieces of history” and that a lesson like this offers a chance to take it further.
“I think programs and courses like this help us get that context to really achieve what we rely on and accept as standards.”
Beutin said the course is designed to support a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies.
Students can still register. Information on the prerequisites is available in the academic calendar.
NOW REGISTRATION FOR WINTER 2022 Is US THE NORTH a reference to the Underground Railroad? Find out in Dr Lyndsey Beutin’s CMST 3PM3: Studies on Public Memory, Media, and the African Diaspora. Contact BeutinL@mcmaster.ca for more information. pic.twitter.com/zzHup8X5eU
He won’t just focus on basketball.
The class will also spend time studying a sugarcane plantation in Puerto Rico, an exhibit on Ontario Heritage Trust slavery, and diasporic tourism in slave dungeons in Ghana, the professor said.
“The public memory of slavery and abolition is really the main type of engine that originally drove me to graduate school,” she said.
“I am delighted to be able to teach a course like this and hope that this enthusiasm will also be felt in the students. “
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.