[25/07/19]: This story was corrected from an older version. Corbett Gildersleeve was identified as an SFU alumnus and a co-organizer of the event. Gildersleeve is an SFU alumnus who attended the event to show his support.
By: Ana Staskevich, Staff Writer
On June 20, Stephanie Chiakwelu, SFSS at-large representative 2019 candidate, brought forth a dialogue-based event that tackled the lack of representation of Black women in SFU politics. Open to the public, Chiakwelu eagerly welcomed both students and non-students to sit down and discuss the topic of young Black women leaders.
The event emphasized several issues of underrepresentation of Black students in SFU’s political sphere, with one of the main focuses being the problem of inaccessibility to political platforms. Chiakwelu and various attendees agreed that the lack of awareness was another big factor, as many young Black students aren’t often reached out to in terms of elections and the inner workings of student unions.
“Sometimes [we] feel like these spaces are not open to us,” said Chiakwelu, explaining that she felt the least involved during her run for the SFSS as she had barely any prior experience compared to other candidates.
Chiakwelu hoped to brainstorm ideas to get more Black students involved in SFU political positions, including how to find feasible media platforms to reach out to these individuals. A common agreement amongst the attendees at the event was that a big problem within the SFU political sphere was nepotism. Particular skill sets seemed to matter less when it came to public projects, as connections and social networks came first. To combat this, Chiakwelu proposed to create a stronger network of Black students, where everyone could share resources and recommend each other for opportunities.
“You need to figure out what you want to do. . . You have to be proactive and seek stuff out, but it is hard to find these things,” said Corbett Gildersleve, an SFU alumnus in attendance.
Hoping to use his extensive experiences in various SFU positions to help prepare those wanting to get involved, Gildersleve introduced a few key points about preparing oneself for leadership roles. These included learning soft skills such as public speaking and conflict resolution, as well as building on patience.
The event concluded on an encouraging note, as Chiakwelu expressed her hope to form a group out of the meeting in order to take the first step to change.