We are once again in a season of protest.

In 1969 students at Concordia protested anti-Black racism by occupying the university’s computer centre for two weeks. Outside, others carried signs which marked their connections to a worldwide struggle for Black rights.

On the 14th day of their occupation a fire was lit. It caused nearly 2 million dollars in damage and imperiled their lives, forcing the protestors to hack their way out of the computer centre with an emergency axe.

The police -- called by the university’s administration -- assaulted and arrested nearly 100 people fleeing the fire. Some of those same students were jailed anywhere from 6-16 months, threatened with deportation, and Trinidad and Tobago (which had only gained Independence 7 years earlier) bailed out ten of their nationals due to bails set extraordinarily high (ranging from $1,000-$15,000).

In remembering this event today we ask what duty of justice do we owe the past and what are the connections to the present? Should the Trinidad government be repaid the bail money? Was 1960s Canada really any less racist than the segregated US? Why in a nation of apologies has there been no apology issued for this event?

In this moment, institutions around the world are grappling with the legacies of slavery, anti-Black racism, and police brutality. Protests and Pedagogy convened this conversation as part of a two week programme in February 2019, meant to remember and reflect on the 1969 protests. We shared these videos with Concordia to re-ground the issue of reparative justice. Such a lens moves beyond the corporate discourse of equity and inclusion which dominates universities’ “diversity management” policies.

In the US, Ivy League schools such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia are questioning the symbolic and material afterlife of slave ownership found in the source of endowments. In South Africa, a movement to decolonize universities by challenging white curricula, and removing imperial statues had ripple effects. Oxford University debated its imperial ties and Glasgow University has become the first British university to admit it benefitted from slavery, and is seeking to make amends. In Canada, prominent universities like Dalhousie and McGill also had founders who were pro-slavery/slave-owners respectively.

In the world-wide context of universities beginning to address their relationship to slavery and anti-Black racism, does Concordia carry any responsibility here?  And what is that responsibility?  Is it financial responsibility and/or a responsibility to seek truth and to reconcile with those original protestors and the communities to which they now belong, and for whom the events still emphasize a legacy of discrimination and enforced inequality? After all, those students were among the most talented from their Caribbean islands, their aim was to enter medical school, and many of their lives, although still remarkably successful, were transformed by these events. Canada in the 1960s distanced itself from racist practices in the US, as it does now, through the image of a polite, harmonious nation, but should the politics of an apology extend to the Black community as a whole in Canada?

A starting point for Concordia would be an institutional apology for calling the police on Black students in 1969, but also attention to the further demands the students made in 1969 including their call for Black Studies at what was then Sir George Williams University, now Concordia.



“Something happened here in Montreal on February 11th, 1969, which for different reasons neither Blacks nor Whites will ever forget."  - Dennis Forsythe

In 1969, West Indian students at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) occupied the university’s computer centre from January 29th to Feb 11th as part of one of the most significant student protests in Canadian history. The student occupation was in response to discriminatory pedagogical practices and the university’s failure to effectively address the students’ complaints.
The protest culminated with a now iconic and widely circulated image of computer punch cards being thrown out the window of the 9th floor by students. The end of the protest was also marked by varying accounts of police brutality, racist epithets, and a mysterious arson which forced the students’ evacuation. In the aftermath, nearly 100 people were arrested. The impact of this event was felt acutely in Montreal, but followed closely by national media in Canada, with ripple effects across the Caribbean, impacting Caribbean-Canadian relations and resulting in Caribbean-based student protests, which pushed governments to demand justice for their nationals.      

This conference commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Sir George Williams “affair” as a lens to reflect upon the unfinished business of decolonization and its relationship to questions of pedagogy, institutional life and culture and ongoing discussions about race and racism. We seek to remember this historical moment and its questions of decolonization and pedagogy as ones which remain urgent in higher education around the world. We also acknowledge the long history of student protests in various institutions across the Third World and the Global North, but in particular we draw connections between this event, and the “Rodney Riots” in Jamaica, 1968 and Trinidad’s Black Power Revolution in 1970.

In locating the students who were part of the Sir George Williams “affair” as part of this wider trajectory, we further ask what is the decolonizing role of the student intellectual both historically and in our current global moment?  What are the unfinished legacies of this moment in the Canadian context and beyond? How is it remembered, forgotten or contested in different spaces? How did it connect or contribute to wider circuits of activism, protest and resistance? How is blackness included or occluded in decolonizing dialogues (particularly relating to curriculum and pedagogy)? What are the lessons of the occupation of the computer centre to current forms of resistance, such as Black Lives Matter or Rhodes Must Fall?

Image Source: Concordia University Records Management and Archive (1074-02-150)


 C A L E N D A R

 January 29th-February 11th, 2019

All events at 4th SPACE, main floor, J.W. McConnell Building (LB),
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W, unless otherwise noted. Click dates for details.

Tuesday January 29th
Launch Event 
Archival Exhibit Opening

Wednesday January 30th
Ninth Floor - Screening with Cinema Politica
Black Montréal Round Table
BLACKOUT - Tableau D’Hôte Theater - Opening

Thursday January 31st
Oral History: Workshop with Stéphane Martelly and Stephen High
Black Canadian Education Tools: Workshop with Dorothy Williams
An(other) Antilles - Screening with Cinema Politica

Friday February 1st
Black History Month Launch at City Hall
Printmaking Workshop
A Visual Record of Events Unfolding: Artist Talk with Charmaine Lurch

Saturday February 2nd
Black Experience in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Invitation only)
Sugar Cane Alley - Screening with Cinema Politica

Sunday February 3rd
9th Floor Walk Through
Policing Round Table

Monday February 4th
’70: Remembering a Revolution - Screening with Cinema Politica
Protest and Gender Activism

Tuesday February 5th
The Congress of Black Writers and Sir George at 50: A Talk
Multidimensionality of Black Experiences: Round Table

Wednesday February 6th
Congress of Black Writers Conference at McGill University
Telling Stories: Black Montréal Oral History Course
Beading Workshp with Pascale C. Annoual
Film and Community, Massimadi Montréal

Thursday February 7th
Decolonizing Knowledge Across the English and French Caribbean
Crisis at Sir George - Screening with Cinema Politica

Friday February 8th
Protests and Pedagogy Conference Day 1
Champaint: Race and Pedagogy

Saturday February 9th
Protests and Pedagogy Conference Day 2
Champaint: Race and Pedagogy

Sunday February 10th
REDE Protocol
Commemoration - Maison d'Haïti
Riots Reframed - Screening with Cinema Politica

Monday February 11th
Groundings: The Way Forward, Towards a Reparative Framework 
Everything Must Fall - Screening with Cinema Politica

*Image Source: Concordia University Records Management and Archive (1074-02-117).




6-8pm, 4th SPACE
J.W. McConnell Building (LB)
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Main Floor 

African Grounding and Territorial Acknowledgement
Pascale C. Annoual

Acknowledging 2 years since the Québec City Mosque Shooting
Yasmin Jiwani

Speaking for Morgan Stalnely
Alan Vesprini

Opening Address
Nantali Indongo

Round Table: Why does this History Matter?
Philippe Fils-Aimé 
Rodney John
Leon Llewellyn
Carlyle Williams

Jason Selman
Modibo Keita
Marcus Braithwaite-Selman

Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, until Feb 11th, 4th SPACE

Curated by Christiana Abraham

Images, sound, and text related to the SGW Computer Center Occupation



1-3pm, 4th SPACE


Screening with Cinema Politica

Talkback with Philippe Fils-Aimé

5-7pm, 4th SPACE


Événement sponsorisé par la TRMHN / Event sponsored by the Round Table on Black History Month

Moderator: Michael Farkas

Tenisha Valliant

Community and Black cultural heritage researcher, and coordinator of historical projects.

Balarama Holness

Politician, militant, and human rights advocate.

Jerry Alexandre

Author and teacher.

Anastasia Marcellin

Event organizer/manager, feminist, activist.

Idil Issa 

Feminist, advocate and militant for minority group rights.

Leon Llewellyn

Visual artist, archivist.

Their struggles, challenges, academic successes, their resilience and continuity in their personal and professional lives.

D.B. Clarke Theater
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Main Floor


Opening Performance
Presented by Tableau D’Hôte Theater