Harriet Tubman Student Summer Programme


5-9 July 2010

Official Logo of the Programme

During the first week of July 2010, the SPACE Initiative launched the Harriet Tubman Student Summer Programme which guided thirty (30) 14-18 years old students from around the Greater Toronto Area through an “Introduction to African and African Diaspora Studies.” For this one week programme, the Institute helped the students to evaluate, collectively, the contributions of African peoples and cultures to the historical development of the Americas and their influence on new generations of youth.

In order to achieve those objectives York University professors, teachers, facilitators from York and the wider community worked with 30 youth from formal school settings, after school programmes and community groups. The attention of the programme was on:

  • Africa and African Diaspora histories
  • The Slave trade in Africans and slave resistance (historical and contemporary representations)
  • African and African-descendent identities
  • Memory, community values like folkloric traditions in African, African Diaspora (African descended communities outside of Africa) and specifically the African Canadian contexts
  • Museums, archives and popular culture
  • Contemporary issues of histories of migrations, race, slavery, education, popular culture

While the content of the programme was delivered by professors at York University (Professors Jose Curto, Michele Johnson, Andrea Davis, Karolyn Smardz Frost), the students were also exposed to a wider variety of cultural activities which were also led by a number of York professors, staff, graduate and undergraduate students (Janelle Belgrave, Jeff Gunn, Emilie Changur and Suzanne Carte-Blanchenot) as well as an artist from the community (Cesar Alonso Rodriguez). During the one week’s activities, the students worked most closely with three facilitators (Brendon Best, Jamil Javini and Pilar Gonzales). They were also able to visit a number of important sites at York University (Archives of Ontario and the York Art Gallery) as well as the Royal Ontario Museum.

The students (who were provided with breakfast, lunch and bus tickets for transportation) responded overwhelmingly positively to the programme. Their daily and overall evaluations of the programme recommended an extension of the programme from one week to two weeks.

The Harriet Tubman Student Summer Programme was organised and coordinated by Abubacar Fofana León; the director for July 2010 was Dr. Michele Johnson.

Click here for the official event announcement.

4-15 July 2011

Using the model of the summer programme from 2010, the SPACE Initiative expanded the Harriet Tubman Student Summer Programme in July 2011. The length programme, which offered an “Introduction to the Study of Africa and Its Diaspora,” was increased from one to two weeks, there was an increase in the number of students (from thirty to forty) between 14 and 18 years old as well as the themes and topics addressed, and the persons involved in delivering the programme (professors, facilitators and volunteers) was also increased.

The content of the programme focused on the history, experiences and contributions of persons of African descent – in Africa, Canada, the United States, Latin America, Brazil and the Caribbean. The specifics of the forced migrations of African peoples (primarily through the historical slave trade) as well the more modern migrations of people of African descent were discussed and the contributions of African peoples to education and sports, cultural productions and expressions were also addressed. During these two weeks, the content was delivered by Nadine Hunt, Denise Challenger, Michele Johnson, Karolyn Smardz Frost, Natasha Henry, Molly Ladd-Taylor, Carl Finkle, Abubacar Fofana León, Jose Tufy Cairus, David Trotman, Carl James, Sam Tecle and Andrea Davis. As was the case in the inaugural year, a great deal of effort was spent on engaging the students with aspects of culture in the communities of African descent; these sessions were led by Rueben Esguerra(drumming), Charmaine Lurch (screen printing), Alexis Zuñiga (painting), Elio Herreo (capoeira). Participants in the summer programme were also fortunate to experience the live music provided by Sexteto Tabalá, an Afro-Columbian group that was visiting Toronto. For the two weeks of the programme, their experiences were guided by four outstanding facilitators: Pilar Gonzalez, Sonia Patricia Meta, Hugo Martinez and Shiemara Hogarth as well as a team of volunteers: Troy Budha, Stephany Feijoo, Eric Lam, David Gonzalez, Wendy Cordon, Jessica Munoz and Katherine Valdez.

In keeping with the mandate to expose the students to as many experiences as possible, and to introduce them to “university life”, the summer programme arranged the following activities:

  • a walking tour of the outdoor sculptures at York with the Art Gallery of York University
  • a half-day at the Archives of Ontario where the students completed a module of African Canadian studies
  • a visit to the Black Creek Pioneer Village, where the students had a chance to see how nineteenth century Ontario was rec-created and represented
  • a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) where the students spent a great deal of time in the section of the museum that displays artefacts which focus on Africa and the African diaspora

The students were asked to evaluate the programme on a daily basis and adjustments were made wherever possible. According to those evaluations and the evaluation of the entire programme, they enjoyed themselves and learned a great deal. They, as well as the facilitators and volunteers, declared the programme to be a resounding success, and many are planning to re-apply and to tell their friends about the programme.

Click here for the official event announcement.



Student Summer Programme 2012 is here!