Ganiyat Sadiq remembers being the only Black Muslim student wearing a hijab, one of only three Black students at her high school in Calgary.
Sadiq recognized a significant lack of support for Black Albertans as she dealt with microaggressions such as being told her hijab was not part of the uniform and struggling to find resources when applying for university.
“So that’s what led us to create a bursary so that Black high school students can apply to university without worrying about that financial barrier,” Sadiq says.
Sadiq’s high school experience later inspired her and her friends to start the Black Inclusion Association (BIA), a non-profit group in Calgary that offers scholarships for high school students applying for university, hosts workshops, and recognizes Black excellence.
The goal, Sadiq says, is to strive to achieve social equity for Black Albertans.
“We wanted to create a space where Black youth especially felt welcome and felt that their voice could be heard.”
Sadiq’s goal is to promote Black excellence academically, creatively, and linguistically. Her group wants to put the spotlight on all the wonderful things happening in the city’s Black community.
“We wanted to do it differently and not focus on Black pain and focus more on the Black excellence that comes with it,” she said.
Distress over George Floyd’s murder prompts action
It was George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 that prompted Sadiq and her fellow activist friends to consider the system in which they struggled as Black students and Canadians.
Sadiq recognizes the lack of discussion about mental health in the Black community. So the association is working on trying to connect people to Black mental health resources.
“BIA is looking forward to working with a lot of local counselors to be able to offer subsidized therapy for Black people here in Calgary as well,” Sadiq says.
Sadiq is also the founder of the I Am X movement to which she founded to help break down barriers and misinformation about racialized groups.
Sadiq talks to other racialized individuals to share stories about their own undeniable experiences of how they navigate life through the challenges they face.