Celebrating Black Excellence Day

UNBC Stories
Portrait photo of two people standing in front of a green wall with silver lettering. The photo is too close to the wall to make out the letters/
Afro-Caribbean Student Association co-presidents Claudia Yaya (left) and Yemeena Eyob.

As UNBC celebrates Black Excellence Day, Afro-Caribbean Student Association (ACSA) co-presidents Yemeena Eyob and Claudia Yaya reflect on the meaning of the day and share stories of Black Excellence that have inspired them.

Yemeema is in the final semester of her Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Finance degree. Claudia recently completed a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance.

Question: Why did you get involved with the ACSA? Why do you think it’s important to get involved with student-led groups like the ACSA?

Yemeema: Having been actively involved in leadership roles during high school, I sought similar engagement in university. Joining various student-led organizations virtually during my first year, I found a genuine connection with ACSA post-COVID. The sense of community within ACSA felt like a small family. I continued to take on different executive leadership roles, such as social media coordinator, vice president, and this year's co-president. Participating in a student-led organizations overall enhanced my university experience, it has provided me with support, mentorship, and has made my time at UNBC even more memorable!

Claudia: As an African-Canadian, my upbringing took place in a community where the presence of students or educators who shared my cultural background was limited. Joining ACSA held a particular significance for me, as it allowed me to explore and understand more about African culture. Beyond this personal curiosity, I recognized the importance of fostering a community that offers support to students of African and Caribbean descent. Student-led groups like the ACSA provide an invaluable platform for sharing experiences, celebrating our cultural heritage, and building a supportive network essential for navigating the unique challenges of university life Black students face. In such a space, diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated, cultivating a profound sense of belonging and empowerment for each member.

Q: What are some of the highlights of your time at UNBC? What are you most proud of?

Yemeema:  The most significant highlights of my time at UNBC revolve around the people I've met, especially my professors, who have served as great mentors, offering valuable academic and career advice. I am most proud of organizing the EmpowerU event, a vision I had for a while that materialized with the support of ACSA and its executives. Successfully planning this two-day event, despite the challenges of students' busy lives and seeing our members benefit from our conversation with the professors at UNBC and advisors at RBC, was super rewarding!

Claudia: One of the significant highlights during my time at UNBC was not only my involvement with ACSA but also assuming a leadership role to revitalize it to its vibrant pre-COVID state. This academic year, we made considerable strides in uniting the community through EMPOWERU. We collaborated with one of Canada's largest banks to educate young Black students on financial literacy and investment for their future generations. Additionally, UNBC professors and graduate students generously contributed by sharing their experiences, both challenges and successes, to guide students on their journey to excellence. Above all, my greatest source of pride lies in the dedicated team we assembled, committed to enhancing UNBC's diverse community and demonstrating care and compassion toward each other. I take immense pride in the accomplishments thus far and look forward to the continued impactful work in the future.

Q: What does Black Excellence Day mean to you?

Yemeema:  To me, Black Excellence encapsulates the courageous pursuit of one's passions, the accomplishment of goals through perseverance and unwavering consistency, and the commitment to uplifting others. Black Excellence Day is a celebration of unapologetic greatness, achieving success with dignity and integrity even in the face of obstacles. It highlights often overlooked success stories, inspiring the community to reach new heights, promote visibility, and strengthen and empower each other in solidarity.

Claudia: Black Excellence Day holds immense significance for me, symbolizing more than just celebration; it embodies the essence of resilience, the triumph over adversity, and the breaking of glass ceilings. This day is a powerful reminder that despite systemic challenges and barriers, the Black community continues to thrive and contribute significantly. It shows the richness embedded in Black culture and history. It's a day to recognize and celebrate the victories achieved despite a system designed against us, emphasizing the indomitable spirit that defines Black excellence.

Q: What are you doing and what is the ACSA doing to celebrate Black Excellence Day?

Yemeema:  The ACSA strives to make a positive impact by hosting events that celebrate Afro-Caribbean culture, such as our first general meeting to kick off the winter semester! This welcomes new students, providing an opportunity to learn about our club, make friends, and join in the celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture and black excellence. We are also planning additional events for February to further promote cultural awareness!

Claudia: Celebrating Black Excellence Day is crucial for fostering inclusivity, understanding, and appreciation for the diverse talents and accomplishments within the Black community. It serves as a powerful reminder that excellence knows no racial boundaries. It also stands as an educational opportunity, providing insights into the rich history and culture of the Black community. Ultimately, celebrating Black Excellence Day is a collective acknowledgment of resilience in the Black community.

Q: Can you share a personal experience or individual who has inspired your journey and commitment to Black excellence within your association.

Yemeema:  My commitment to Black excellence within ACSA is deeply rooted in the inspiring journey of my parents. Having relocated to Prince George from Ethiopia two decades ago, they faced the challenges of assimilating into a much smaller community. Their resilience is a constant source of inspiration for me. Overcoming language barriers, they pursued education, became nurses, and built a great life for our family while supporting relatives back home. Their experience underscores the significance of a welcoming community, emphasizing the role it played in their journey. This serves as a reminder of the impact community support can have on those new to a country or experiencing a disconnection from their culture. Though ACSA may be modest in size, I believe in its growing community and the support it can offer, echoing the transformative impact I witnessed in my parents' lives.

Claudia: No single person has served as my sole inspiration to commit to Black excellence. Rather, the collective efforts of individuals from the past, who navigated challenges with limited resources, have motivated me; to name a few in history, Viola Desmond, Chloe Cooley, Lincoln Alexander, Jean Augustine, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Carmichael, and many others. Recognizing that these barrier breakers before us didn't have the same resources available today, but they made significant changes in history allowing us to have opportunities that they could dream of back then. Their collective resilience inspires me to push forward and contribute to the ongoing journey of progress.

Q: How does the Afro-Caribbean Student Association strive to make a positive impact within the broader student community and beyond, promoting a sense of Black Excellence?

Yemeema: As Claudia and I approach our final year at university, our goal is to conclude by organizing cultural celebrations and events that honour Afro-Caribbean culture. Events like EmpowerU have already contributed to the personal and academic growth of our members, fostering a sense of empowerment and achievement. Looking ahead, I envision expanded networking opportunities, workshops, and partnerships with more organizations to further enrich the student community and Black Excellence.

Claudia: The Afro-Caribbean Student Association actively strives to make a positive impact within the broader student community and beyond by establishing a close-knit community network like a family, dedicated to celebrating black culture. Through various events and initiatives, ACSA encourages engagement, education, and dialogue among students from diverse backgrounds. By inviting the wider community to partake in our celebrations, we aim to offer insights into the richness of our culture, inspiring others to view the world through our unique lens. Ultimately, ACSA seeks to promote a sense of Black Excellence by showcasing the strength, resilience, and accomplishments of the black community. Our hope is that these efforts will contribute to building unity, fostering inclusivity, and creating an environment where diversity is not only recognized but celebrated, paving the way for a future characterized by greater understanding and harmony.