It’s 11:50 a.m. on Mount Royal University's campus and students fill the hallways, ending their days or travelling to their next class.
While students are chattering, hollering and enjoying their mornings, Wyckham is booming with club endorsements.
February is Black History Month, and the Afro Caribbean club is out speaking on the history surrounding their roots.
Demi Erinle, vice-president of Mount Royal University's Afro Caribbean club, plans to share black culture with the student body, but with low funds and attention, implementing these ideas is easier said than done.
The university has a widespread variety of black students from many different ethnic backgrounds, and the presence of black history and culture was not always what it was today.
“From last year's Black History Month celebrations, there was nothing around campus — there were pictures of some black people, in Wyckham, and that was it. But this year, The Students Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) had many black history events, and I think it’s our club that had a big influence on that,” said Erinle.
There weren’t any previous black-based clubs on campus before the club got together in the winter semester of 2016. As Erinle and other members of the group slowly gathered, other members — African American MRU students — finally came together as a collective.
Now that the club is fully set up, more black history events are more apparent throughout the university.
Coming from a country surrounded by people with the same background, Erinle takes pride in her Nigerian roots and transforms that into wanting others to learn about the culture she loves.
“I’m Nigerian, I’m an international student here in Canada, and I’m on a visa but I’m born and bred Nigerian. I felt like, me being away from home, I should do something to express my culture,” said Erinle.
But trying to expose a club to the students on MRU’s campus is definitely hard, especially with other clubs that seem to attract more students than others.
For example, the Ski Club attracts many of the students on campus, and it’s because of what they can offer. Students pay $10 membership fees in exchange for student discounts to entertaining places in Calgary, according to their website.
With all of this being said they still get these high numbers of students despite the fact they charge a membership fee, while the Afro Caribbean club does not.
Every club receives a starting amount of $200 according to SAMRU’s startup grant form.
SAMRU offers different ways to fund events that can go on within a club, but the other half needs to be paid off by the club.
The Afro Caribbean Club members usually hold parties and events that have a certain entrance fee to raise money. But, with fewer club members and attention, plans for club growth is a struggle.
“I feel like there's more attention that we should be getting because of what we're doing, it’s such an amazing thing we're doing here on campus but getting the correct funds to attract more people is hard,” said Erinle.
While there's not a lot of attention coming the club’s way, chances for MRU students to learn about black culture and the issues surrounding it on a personal level can be pretty limited.
But MRU does have opportunities for students to learn about black culture within the school’s curriculum. History classes like modern history,1867 to present teach Canadian black history.
Kirk Niergarth, history professor at the university, said, “Black history is relevant because it's relevant to people's lives. If we didn't teach the history, people would look for it, because they can sense the impact it has on their life.”
The Afro Caribbean club seeks to be that place where people search for answers and a community where people can better understand the culture of African Americans on campus African culture.
“We wanted to raise awareness about black culture, It’s for everyone and anyone that’s interested in learning about the African and Caribbean culture,” said Erinle.
Erinle sees potential for the club to succeed in the future. Right now, as the club is starting out pretty fresh, it’s only a waiting game on when the club’s many ideas can be implemented.
One big idea for the club is to help international students. Many students in the club as well as others in MRU’s student community are schooling on visas.
“Hopefully we get more funding to start a scholarship for students coming from countries in Africa and the Caribbean, just because it's really expensive living here alone,” said Erinle.
International students pay double the amount as regular students pay for tuition and they also have the expense of living on campus or finding a place to live on their own.
Femi Aiyeleso, president of the Afro Caribbean club said, “It’s just the funds, when we can accumulate more funds, the club is really doing one of the things it sets out to do, to help members of its community feel like a unit.”
The Afro Caribbean club has its sights set on big plans, but not everything comes easy or fast.
Erinle said, “All we can do right now is wait and see what the future holds for the club, until then I’m going to keep on trying to teach the students on campus black culture and the history behind it, and so are its members.”
- By Oluwakemi Omorogbe