Written by: Stephie Ribson, Student Communications Coordinator
“I sustain myself with the love of family – Maya Angelou
Our vision at the MSA is to empower all Mohawk students to achieve personal success in their college experience and beyond. We are on a mission to invite students to join our board of directors, welcome them to explore their academic and special interests in a club, and help them build a space where they can be included.
Every year leading up to Black History Month, the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association (NACCA) chooses a new theme to highlight a different aspect of Black History. Join us as we speak to the President of the MSA, Elizabeth-Joy Phillips, and the President of the New Developers Club, Moniefa Ebo, to learn what this year’s theme, The Black Family: Source of Perseverance and Resilience, means to them.
What does family mean?
According to the Resource Queen, President of the MSA Elizabeth – Joy Phillips, family supports your educational and professional development.
“I’m a mature student, and I decided to return to college in my thirties. And it’s been a challenge because I am also a mom…”, Said Phillips, “My family has really supported me through caring for my son and picking him up from school.”
Like other racial ethnicities, Black families are moulded by their geographical location, culture, religion and socioeconomic status. They can comprise adoptive relatives, extended family, blended families, chosen families of queer and trans people, fictive kin families (not related by blood), interracial families, mono-racial families, nuclear families, same-sex parented families, single-parent families, and families in which there is a community and village parenting.
According to Moniefa Ebo, President of the New Developers Club, family means being able to help each other in your time of need.
“Love each other as well too. It’s unconditional….” Said Ebo, President of the New Developers Club. “It doesn’t always feel that way. But even on the days you find it difficult to love everyone within the family, you still have to be there for them and support them. No matter what”.
Persevering Despite the Long Journey Ahead
Like Dory, the forgetful Blue Hippo Tang from Finding Nemo, Phillips keeps swimming despite the obstacles ahead. Living as a multi-sectional, neurodivergent Black woman, student, and mom means she’s had to swim through an ocean of jellyfish, despite getting stung repeatedly.
“Because of these challenges and barriers, I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself daily.” Said Phillips, “When they all mush together, it is an exceptional hurdle that I have to cross. But the reward for persisting through makes it worth it in the end.”
Switching to the Computer System Software Development program at Mohawk College after spending three years at McMaster University was challenging for Ebo. It got easier once she joined the New Developers Club and connected with other students with similar interests.
“Once I started attending meetings and seeing how things were read…” said Ebo. “That’s when I started to meet other people who cared about software and were just as lost as me or knew more and wanted to see us move forward together.”
Resilience, Moving Forward and Up
When you first meet Phillips, it’s hard to imagine anything she can’t do; a natural leader, her personality shines just as bright as her unique sense of fashion. After being diagnosed with ADHD in 2019., Phillips said she was reluctant to follow her therapist’s advice and return to college for social work.
“School was never my special friend; I always knew I had been living with something”. Said Phillips, shaking her head, “So, having that official diagnosis really helped me along the way… My therapist advised me of how accommodations could assist with my learning, which made me feel confident taking my first step into school”.
Some people are born to lead; others are chosen without any prior knowledge they were being considered for the position in the first place. At least, that was the case with Ebo and her presidency at the New Developers Club.
“I had to pull up my big-girl socks and help, just so the club wouldn’t die off. It’s not easy finding students who want to take on such a large responsibility.” Said Ebo, “I have to run a club, look for co-ops, tutor students every Monday, and at coding shows while also going to meetings.”
Find Your Tribe at Mohawk
Historically, the Black family has had to transform itself to survive challenges rooted in institutional racism to help limit its impact on future generations. Friends, family, and community are the foundation on which everyone builds their lives; without them, the house can’t stand alone.
According to Phillips, students looking to build their family at Mohawk should join a club with the MSA or get involved with Student Life or Social Inc.
“These places where you’re able to work with other students; you’ll find your people and your tribe.” Said Phillips, “Because like minds, meet like minds. And what you want wants you too! You just need to seek it actively”.
If students are too shy to join a club, Ebo recommends they start by speaking to their classmates and professors, and just be themselves.
“Everyone’s scared; I’ll say that for sure. But, if you’re looking to join a club, you won’t be turned away”. Said Ebo, “Be your most unique self, so you can get to know people and not miss out on any opportunity…”.
Whether you’re just starting your journey through Mohawk College or you’ve been here for a while, you’ve got a family within the MSA. There is always room for your voice at the table, you just need to pull up a seat.