Russia had decided to invade Ukraine on February 24/2022, which created a cascade of tragedy and suffering for its citizens. This also created a lot of fear and uncertainty in the EU as a whole, since many leaders are left wondering if their country will also face Russia’s tyranny. This blog post however touches on the African students left stranded in Ukraine, who had decided to leverage the power that social media can offer to them.

Ukraine is a popular destination for African students who wish to further their education. It’s estimated that they accounted for nearly a quarter of the 76000 foreign students at the start of 2022. While many had the chance to flee, some chose to stay behind to help others also flee, perhaps due to an inner sense of duty to help their fellow man. Tolulope Osho, 31, reached the polish border a day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but he bravely decided to go back and help others. “I have friends, If by leaving my valuables, I can save more lives, then I’m doing it. Life is more important.” Other brave souls like Osho, who’s from Nigeria, has decided to help shelter people in underground bunkers, and drive them to borders. He and a friend have aided over 200 people, and covered their ticket costs and other necessities through fundraiser.

One common theme with these situations is that many people are leveraging social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to raise awareness, and gather support. Axel, a 20 year old studying computer science in Kyiv Ukraine, mentioned waiting in the cold for hours outside to catch a train, just because the color of his skin. And the maltreatment didn’t stop at the border, as he was met with further abuse, and exploitation at the border to exploit these desperate people. Once these cries for help on social media were noticed, many sprung into action in order to help these venerable people in any way they could. The Global Black Coalition, a collective of activists, had helped more than 700 African students flee by offering legal aid, coordinating food drops, placing people in shelters, and providing blankets, warm clothes, cellphones, and computers. A handful of Black Coalition members had flown to Europe to support African refugees, to negotiate with governments in the EU, like Poland, about extending student visas, and also providing moral support. John Adeyefa, President of ACAO, and Gwen Madiba, ACAO’s former director of partnerships and programs, were in Paris to meet with a few dozen families fleeing Ukraine. 

“I think this is the first time in history that Black-led charities, not-for-profits, organizations are joining forces under one roof as one people to support our people, to let them know they are not alone and that they have a family, a support network across the world. It’s important to have a movement that understands the needs of our people and speaks the language they understand, not just in dialects but in experience.”

– Gwen Madiba, ACAO’s former Director of Partnerships and Programs

**This article has been updated to show Gwen Madiba is no longer working for ACAO.

It seems that more players are speaking openly about their experiences with racism on the ice, and the latest story shines a light on youth player Anthony Allain-Samaké’s experiences.  The reoccurring theme seems to be that these kids seek help from authoritative figures (refs, coaches), however, these problems tend to be unresolved. This usually leads to the harassed kids eventually leaving the team, which was what  Anthony Allain-Samaké chose to do.

Another youth hockey player, Blesson Ethan Citegetse, 14, who plays for Les Loups des Collines at the Bantam BB level, also expressed his experiences of being called the N – word while he was in the penalty box.  “I was sad because … hockey is a sport where we’re all a family. We’re all hockey players. We should all have respect for each other.” – Blesson Ethan Citegetse.  

These stories are disheartening to say the least, and the players that choose to endure the hardship, based on their inseparable love for the sport shouldn’t have to. This is because everyone has a breaking point, and kids can become unpredictable when that point is reached.

Hopefully with this constant media attention shining a light on this issue, a strong movement towards positive change can occur.  Ultimately education is the key to deconstruct racial narratives, which is especially true for our youth.  This will change their framework from hate to acceptance, which is ultimately the best way to stop the cycle. This is because reoccurring disciplinary actions without addressing the root cause of the hate, is just a band aid solution, and not long term one. We need to set the foundation for these kids with proper education so that they can be the positive example for future generations to come.

Sources:

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/hockey-outaouais-black-hockey-racial-slurs-1.6409046
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/aylmer-outaouais-hockey-racial-taunts-1.6402533
  3. https://www.ledroit.com/2022/04/04/allegations-de-racisme-deux-joueurs-quittent-lintrepide-bantam-aaa-a856426a269747184b34a697f89d5487

 

Even though ice hockey is recognized as Canada’s national winter sport, many marginalized youths still face challenges when it comes to participating. Financial barriers and racial discrimination are just a few reasons preventing some of our youth from playing the sport.