Celebrating Black student voices 

Student affairs
The Gee
Student life
Black History Month
Student experience
Gee-Gees
Collage of five black students featured in the article
As uOttawa prepares to celebrate Black History Month and recognize leading figures at the third annual Black Excellence Gala February 3, we asked students and staff to recommend some lesser-known movers and shakers and ones to watch who also demonstrate the diversity and creativity of our community. 

Nonso Morah, Conflict Studies and Human Rights 

In addition to working as an administrative and media assistant to the Honourable Senator Paula Simons and as the mentorship coordinator for the 1834 Fellowship, an organization that seeks to encourage Black youth to take on civic leadership roles, Nonso is a spoken-word poet, writer and photographer. Her writing explores issues of identity and Afrocentrism and draws from her experience as a second-generation Nigerian-Canadian who grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. She performed her powerful piece “An Open Letter to the Child I Once Was” at the Senate of Canada’s Black History Reception last year. 

“Growing up, I imbibed the belief that genuine progress entails lifting others alongside oneself, etching not just my name in the stars but ensuring the ascent of those to succeed me. This principle guides every pursuit, be it through policy or poetry, as I am a testament to generations who elevated me in tandem with their own journeys.” 

Her poetry will be featured in Unbound: An Anthology of New Nigerian Poets Under 40, to be co-published by Griots Lounge Publishing and Narrative Landscape Press, Lagos in March.  

Nonso Morah
Black Student Voices

“Growing up, I imbibed the belief that genuine progress entails lifting others alongside oneself, etching not just my name in the stars but ensuring the ascent of those to succeed me.”

Nonso Morah

— Conflict Studies and Human Rights 

Christina Campbell, Nursing

Christina balances her studies while working two jobs: as a junior policy analyst at Health Canada, contributing to the Departmental Science Ethics Policy Bureau’s Anti Racism in Science Office, and as a research assistant to nursing professor Mwali-Nachishali Muray at the University of Ottawa’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Black Health. Christina’s research is centred on the experiences of African, Caribbean and Black patients within official language minority setting.  

“I am driven by a profound passion for humanizing lived experiences. I feel it’s extremely important to ensure that the authentic stories, issues and concerns of individuals are accurately reflected in policy, academic literature and legislation. My career is driven by a strong belief in health-care equity and its power to transform lives. Beyond health care, I’m equally passionate about addressing broader societal issues and improving the well-being of individuals and communities.” 

Christina also volunteers as a student refugee program co-ordinator for the uOttawa branch of World University Service of Canada and was one of 40 parliamentary pages working at the House of Commons in 2021–2022.  

Christina Campbell
Black Student Voices

“I feel it’s extremely important to ensure that the authentic stories, issues and concerns of individuals are accurately reflected in policy, academic literature and legislation.”

Christina Campbell

— Nursing

Bruce Ruzima, Economics and Political Science, African Studies Option 

Bruce balances his studies with working as a program officer for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). He also volunteers as vice-president of World University Service of Canada’s uOttawa local committee and has been a changemaker by supporting sponsored student refugees since 2021 as they navigate immigration and University processes.  

“My commitment to social justice and aspirations to empower marginalized groups is deeply rooted in my identity. My personal experiences as a descendent of survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda, and as a Black youth, have instilled a profound dedication to social justice. My personal journey as an immigrant to Canada has fuelled my dedication to ensuring a smooth transition, integration and access to equal opportunities, particularly for young people, and has informed my work as an advocate for human rights causes, such as access to quality education for refugee students.”

Bruce was also a fellow of the 2023 Black Diplomats Academy, which serves as an incubator to advance African-Canadian and African-descendent youth in the fields of diplomacy and international affairs. He was part of the academy’s delegation at the United Nations, second session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, to improve the safety, quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent in Canada and globally. 

Bruce Ruzima
Black Student Voices

“My personal experiences as a descendent of survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda, and as a Black youth, have instilled a profound dedication to social justice.”

Bruce Ruzima

— Economics and Political Science, African Studies Option

Britney Achu, Biomedical Science (French Immersion Stream)

Britney is a deep learner and a big believer that students have the power to effect change. President of the Black Student Leaders Association for 2023–2024, she’s a proven leader who’s focused on building up the community of Black students here at uOttawa. 

While still in high school, Britney founded the first black student association at her school. She went on to advise and lobby for equitable, anti-racist education as a member of the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Black Student Advisory Council from 2020 to 2021 and as a senior leader for the 2021 Black Student Forum, an initiative that unites Black student associations. 

“I like to critically challenge commonly accepted thinking and come up with original approaches for change that will positively impact how we approach social justice. My work is guided and informed by my beliefs and commitment to inclusiveness, ensuring respect for all people and valuing diversity. With this commitment to equality and equity, I want to challenge the comfortable norm in a way that involves positive, active change for marginalized and vulnerable groups. I’ve been granted a platform, a voice and the opportunity to speak up and I’m working every day to ensure I use it wisely.” 

Britney Achu
Black Student Voices

“I like to critically challenge commonly accepted thinking and come up with original approaches for change that will positively impact how we approach social justice.”

Britney Achu

— Biomedical Science (French Immersion Stream)

Armande Obrou, Accounting

Armande is president of the Association des étudiants de la Côte d’Ivoire and was co-president of the Black Student Leaders Association. In addition to these duties, she works as an assistant for the uOttawa Student Affairs events team and is a Telfer international mentor, offering support to students from abroad so they can adapt to the University. Last year, as part of Black History Month, she received the University of Ottawa Students’ Union’s Racialized and Indigenous Students Experience Centre’s intersectional activism award. 

“The approach of Black History Month brings a special significance. Although we’re proud of our identity all year long, this month offers a unique opportunity to share our rich culture and our history, and to highlight our leaders. As association president, but also as someone of mixed race background, collaborating with different University groups is important for me. Together, we make up a united force, whether through charitable initiatives, cultural events such as African evenings or stimulating discussions on women’s issues. I was honoured to receive the intersectional activism award. This recognition underlines the impact of our shared efforts in favour of equality and diversity.” 

Armande’s roots are in Côte d’Ivoire and France, and she attended a lycée français for three years. 

Armande Obrou
Black Student Voices

“Together, we make up a united force, whether through charitable initiatives, cultural events such as African evenings or stimulating discussions on women’s issues.”

Armande Obrou

— Accounting

Benazir Tom Erdimi, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Minor in Civil Law 

Originally from Chad, Benazir is a community activist and co-ordinator of the University of Ottawa Students’ Union’s Racialized and Indigenous Students Experience Centre, an inclusive student-run space that offers peer-to-peer dialogue, resources and support. Benazir is also the founder of The People of Tomorrow (TPOT), a non-profit organization established in 2020 to showcase positive stories of Black youth doing amazing things in education, social justice, art, science, photography and more.

“As a marginalized person, I understand the impact of perceptions on individuals. That’s why I aimed to change these perceptions and highlight the incredible work of BIPOC youth. I started a project in response to the Black Lives Matter movement showcasing the positive side of the Black community beyond racism and police brutality. It provides a platform for accomplished Black youth to share their achievements and contributions to society.” 

Benazir has recruited several fellow uOttawa students to volunteer as writers and community volunteers. TPOT seeks to empower and inspire today’s BIPOC (black, indigenous and other people of colour) youth to become the change-makers of tomorrow by reshaping perceptions, promoting a positive representation of their potential, and providing support and a sense of belonging. 

Benazir Tom Erdimi
Black Student Voices

“As a marginalized person, I understand the impact of perceptions on individuals. That’s why I aimed to change these perceptions and highlight the incredible work of BIPOC youth.”

Benazir Tom Erdimi

— Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Minor in Civil Law 

Franck-Maleek Djamat-Dubois, Marketing

In 2018, Franck-Maleek founded Kids Connect Africa, an organization that aims to inspire, motivate and empower the next generation of African leaders by educating young minds. The group organizes annual donation activities, along with leadership workshops in Africa, and presents discussions about issues affecting Africa. Franck-Maleek is also an entrepreneur who started a marketing agency, FM Media. His long-term goal is to establish a reputation in West Africa and contribute to the success of companies based in the region.

“A quote I use daily is ‘another day, another opportunity.’ It truly guides my actions and activities. I see every single day as an opportunity to do something, whether that be helping, learning, earning, collaborating or much more. Over the past five years, we have been blessed through Kids Connect Africa to help many people in need. In December 2023, for example, we gave gifts and donations to over 300 children. We hope to continue to expand.” 

Franck-Maleek Djamat-Dubois
Black Student Voices

“A quote I use daily is ‘another day, another opportunity.’ It truly guides my actions and activities.”

Franck-Maleek Djamat-Dubois

— Marketing

Ngozi Mosindi, Criminology 

Ngozi is a rising star in women’s rugby who shows incredible dedication to the sport, both on and off the pitch. She was 2023 U Sports First Team All-Canadian and 2023 RSEQ First Team All-Star. In 2022, she scored 10 points for the women’s Gee Gees and helped the team win the bronze medal, scoring a try in the quarter-final against UPEI. She’s also known for raising up other players, providing support for incoming recruits and running development sessions at Heritage College in Gatineau, as well as Immaculata High School and Carine Wilson High School.  

Ngozi is an active member of the Gee-Gees Women’s Rugby Taskforce for Equity and Diversity and hosted workshops designed to ensure safe spaces for teammates. For two years, she also helped run a Leadership, Equity and Athletic Development (LEAD) program, which aims to keep young women playing the sport through sessions on rugby skills and leadership training. Small wonder, then, that she was granted the 2022 RSEQ Conference Leadership and Community Engagement Award.  

“Rugby is a sport that’s very diverse with people who don’t all look alike. I think that’s what drew me to it in the first place. Although I got into it late, I still idolized so many athletes of colour playing for the national teams and hope to get to where they are one day. Since being a Gee-Gee, I’ve always heard the quote ‘never leave the jersey as you found it’. I’ve had the privilege of being a role model for younger athletes, particularly girls of colour. Rugby has created some great opportunities for me. That’s why it’s so important for me to ensure those same opportunities are offered to others.” 

Ngozi Mosindi
Black Student Voices

“Rugby has created some great opportunities for me. That’s why it’s so important for me to ensure those same opportunities are offered to others.”

Ngozi Mosindi

— Criminology 

Special thanks to all those who recommended students: the Black Student Leaders Association, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union and Professor Awad Ibrahim, our vice-provost, equity, diversity and inclusive excellence, and holder of the Air Canada Professorship on Anti-Racism.  

Of course, we know there are many more we’ve no doubt missed! We’re always open to shining a light on uOttawa students who are doing fantastic things. Feel free to email us your story ideas.  

 

Check our social media channels for more inspiring stories behind the Black Excellence Gala and the recipients of the 2024 Community Advocate, Entrepreneurship and Art Recognition awards. The gala is presented by the Black Student-Athlete Advocacy Council.