It was against the extraordinary backdrop of Niagra Falls that two recently graduated alumni of the university, Channon Oyeniran and Michelle Palmer, first conceived of a blog that would focus on the difference that people can make in their everday lives. And so, with four broad topics in mind and an abiding passion for equality, freedom and social justice, ‘Tuesday Justice’ was born.
Taking its name from the most ‘average’ day of the week, ‘Tuesday Justice’ is the perfect antidote to celebrity-centric campaigning or appeals. The blog focusses on what can be learned and achieved in support of freedom during the course of our everyday lives. It is this focus on the quotidian that also provides the context for Channon’s ongoing work which includes roles as an Executive with Light Generation, Co-founder of Oyeniran Education Support (OyES), membership of Ontario Black Historical Society and conference organiser for Black History Month. Her innovative programme for Black History Month ”Looking Back Into the Future” seeks to recover untold or unreported stories from black people who have driven historical change; providing learning that can inform the present and inspire the future.
Following her return to Hull to represent the Ontario Black History Society at the Remember Me Conference, we caught up with Channon to talk about her work and her exciting plans for the future.
Could you tell us a little more about the work you do as an Executive with the youth based organisation – Light Generation?
Light Generation is a young adults faith based group that was started in November 2014 and launched in January 2015. The work that I did while a part of the Executive of Light Generation was multifaceted in terms of helping to organize community events, lead various activities for the young adults in the community as well as mentor some of the young women who were members of Light Generation. Although, myself and husband (also a University of Hull Masters graduate), handed over Light Generation to a new team to continue while we focus on other important priority areas, the group is metamorphosing into something bigger and a global project where we plan to raise young leaders who can impact our world positively.
As a co-founder of Oyeniran Education Support (OyES) and a member at the Ontario Black Historical Society, you’ve planned successful Black History Month conferences in Ontario – what are your future plans for the conference and are you looking to expand its reach?
Yes, I have helped plan successful Black History Month conferences as a member of the Ontario Black History Society, as well as helped in the planning of two successful and high level Black History Month events (2017 and 2018), while working as the Programs Officer for Black History Month at Historica Canada. However, the program that I am most proud of, in which I am the visionary and founder is the, “Looking Back Into the Future” Black History Month Conference, established in November 2015 and launched in February 2016. I just celebrated the 3rd edition and since its inception, the “Looking Back Into The Future” Black History Month Conference, continues to be an avenue for networking, information sharing and learning about Black History, as we engage the present and design the future of the community we want to see.
You studied your MA in Slavery Studies at the University of Hull. How has your Postgraduate degree influenced and impacted your career since graduation?
My Postgraduate degree has influenced and impacted my career in such a profound and positive way. The exposure, depth of training and experiences further shaped my understanding of historical and modern day slavery and strengthened my passion towards doing even more after graduating. What I learned while I was an MA student at the University of Hull, as well as the research skills and rigour, have become readily useful at various job opportunities as well as on my personal projects. Still being connected to the University of Hull and the Wilberforce Institute (WISE) and all of the wonderful people I met there, has proved to be beneficial and long lasting. One such connection is my dear friend, Michelle Palmer (also a graduate of Hull with her MA in Slavery Studies), with whom I created a blog about Social Justice Issues titled, “Tuesday Justice”. We met in Hull and have remained friends and have utilized what we learned while we were students at the university, to create this platform to raise awareness about a topic that we learned so much about and that means so much to us.
You were recently involved in the Remember Me conference at Hull. Could you say something about your experience at the conference, and what it was like to return to Hull?
My experience at the Remember Me conference was positive and amazing! I felt so proud to be able to represent the Ontario Black History Society and share its long lasting legacy with others and also to share and give a voice to the rich Black History that is found in Canada! I also learned a lot while attending the conference from other delegates about memorialization and remembering and how important it is, when celebrating and commemorating different people, events or things.
Returning to Hull was so exciting!! Hull means so much to me and holds a special place in my heart. It was where I met my husband, Solomon Oyeniran, my good friend, Michelle Palmer, it was the place where I received great support and encouragement while I was a member of RCCG Amazing Grace Chapel Church and where I got to learn so much from my former MA supervisor, Dr. Nicholas Evans! I took a few hours after one of the days of the conference to go and visit the University’s campus, see all the changes, see where I used to live and also take a look at Newland Avenue, a street that I frequented whilst I was a student! It was great to be back and I hope not too long before I can visit again!
How important do you see the role of education being in helping confront the issues that the black community faces, both locally in Canada and Internationally?
Education is so important in helping to confront the issues that the black community faces in Canada and internationally. For far too long the stories, experiences and voices of black people have been silenced as well as have been missing from school curriculum around the world. Due to this lack of inclusion, the stories of history are always one sided and the narrative of black people around the world skewed and cast in a negative light. If our schools and the curriculum included more black stories, I believe people would have a better understanding of why there are so many issues that are still plaguing the black community and learn from history so that it is not repeated. I also believe that black youth would begin to see themselves and think of themselves in a more positive way if they knew their history and who their ancestors were.
What is your fondest memory of studying at the University of Hull? Was there any member of staff that left a particular lasting impression?
There were many great memories that I have while studying at the University of Hull, but my fondest memory would have to be when I got the opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant for a Black History Month program that the Wilberforce Institute organized for local students. I got the opportunity to teach them about Black History in the UK and Black History generally and show them how important learning about Black History is. The one member of staff that left a particular positive and lasting impact is my former MA supervisor, Dr. Nicholas Evans. Nick was always so supportive, helpful and encouraging while he was my supervisor and made the sometimes daunting task of completing my Masters dissertation, achievable. He continues to be so supportive of me and all the projects that I am currently involved in and it was so great to see him again at the Remember Me conference. I couldn’t have asked for a better MA supervisor whilst I was a student at the University of Hull.
What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to achieve, both individually, and as part of the organisations that you are involved with?
Some of my plans for the future as an individual and a part of the organizations I’m involved with include: Growth and expansion of the, “Looking Back into the Future” Black History Month Conference, continue to encourage and inspire people everywhere that I get the opportunity to go to, empower future leaders to create positive impact in their communities, strengthen and continue to gain knowledge of Black History locally and Internationally, possibly further my education by undertaking my PhD, continue to promote and expand the knowledge of social justice, equality and freedom through mine and Michelle Palmer’s blog, “Tuesday Justice”, write more books (my husband and I have a book out now titled, “Live Love Learn Grow”), host international youth and young adult conferences (“Young Leaders’ Summit”) and continue my involvement with the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS), working on our national exhibit that will travel across Canada. So much in store and who knows what else will come about. I am taking it one day at a time now and being focused on my various goals is how I grow and learn. I am definitely ready, willing and excited to continue on this adventurous journey.