10 January 2022

Master Student Diandra Dillon Receives 2021 Student Leadership Award

Diandra Dillon founded Black Conversations, a student initiative with the goal of providing “a space where people of African descent can engage in discussions and debate about our communities''. Diandra, pursuing a Master in International History and Politics, was honoured with the Student Leadership Award for her work in advancing inclusion and representation for students of African descent.  

What inspired you to create Black Conversations? 
I was inspired by the lively debates and conversations amongst my peers of African descent outside of the academic settings. After class, we would gather around Geneva to discuss how our collective histories, theories from our classes and current events impacted how we interacted with the world. 

At the onset, it was an excellent opportunity to highlight the nuances in ideologies and perceptions within the Black community, to show that it is not homogeneous. Black Conversations was born out of a desire to foster a space where individuals of African descent could be at the forefront of conversations discussing their unique experiences.
What have you been able to achieve during your time as president and what are your future plans?
Black Conversations became an official initiative in February of 2020. Since then, we have collaborated with numerous initiatives at the Graduate Institute to discuss topics surrounding inclusion and representation within and outside academia. We engaged in discussions that critically analysed the intersectionality of Blackness in politics, society, economy and culture during our first year. 

We partnered with the Anti-Racist Coalition (ARC) and the Welfare Committee to raise awareness about the need for more mental health support for victims of racism on campus as well as the resources available.

Additionally, we collaborated with multiple departments to discuss how professors and students can best honour diversity in our classrooms to create an inclusive environment where everyone can find a place to engage and grow. 

We partnered with the Latin American Network Initiative and the Gender Centre to present Afro-Latinos differing perspectives concerning their identity, gender and participation and experiences in academia, activism, public and private spaces. 

We hosted several conferences with the Gender Centre to discuss how to best decolonise academia and the curriculum. Lastly, we launched our Mentorship Programme in the fall of 2021, partnering students with professionals. 

Finally, we have managed to foster more conversations about the importance of creating respectful spaces where dialogue is possible.

The current board has embraced our mission and hopes to continue to build on the objectives of Black Conversations. We aspire to increase our discussions of decolonisation, promoting mental health awareness and other topics supporting the African diaspora. 
What does receiving the Student Leadership Award mean to you?
I am highly moved with gratitude for receiving this award for my contribution to the growth and resilience of our student community. It shows that my work with Black Conversations and the Anti-Racists Coalitions to increase the institutional conversation about Blackness and decolonising the academy was necessary and appreciated.

To learn more, visit: 

Student Leadership Award recipient: Diandra Dillon (Founder/ former President)
Team: Aurelie Semunovic (President), Deja Petty (Vice President), Laila Saidu (Communications Director), Geneva Aderonke Oke (Mentorship Coordinator)