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Mission in Action: Empowering Communities Beyond Black History Month

Mission in Action: Empowering Communities Beyond Black History Month

Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

As February approaches, one of our alums challenges us to think beyond Black History Month and asks us to continue to tell the stories of black students, alumni, faculty and staff all year long. St. Jerome's is excited to profile Josslyn Gabriel (BA '19), a passionate advocate and community leader. She is an alum living out a career in the service of others.   


Kim Madume (BA '22), a graduate and the development assistant at St. Jerome's University, had the privilege of sitting down with Josslyn to discuss the significance of Black History Month.    


"Black joy is something I have chosen as a priority," says Josslyn. "I feel strongly about the importance of going beyond colonial interventions of Black History Month and finding meaningful ways to free your mind, body and spirit, especially being able to do this in relationship with future generations."    


In her role as equity specialist at the University of Waterloo, Josslyn's achievements include staying true to her passions amid institutional challenges and expressing tremendous pride in never compromising her integrity. Her commitment to equity and advocacy for marginalized communities stems from a belief that dismantling systemic issues can be facilitated through the power of community. Although theoretical approaches inform her work, she emphasizes the importance of making tangible impacts. Her commitment extends to community healing, especially from the wounds inflicted by colonial society.  


As a student, Josslyn was a founding partner in restarting the student-led Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies Society. She also participated in the Waterloo Undergraduate Students' Union Mates Program. "If we're going to be here, how are we going to ensure that it means something, "says Josslyn.     


Her dedication to student advocacy allows her to connect with students to build resilience and confidence that will enable them to navigate challenging spaces. Josslyn draws her inspiration from a quote by American novelist Toni Morrison: "When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."   


Throughout her career, Josslyn has worked in various roles - from alternative educational support work to contributing to community healing initiatives. She confronts systemic issues daily and has never shied away from illuminating the challenges faced by racialized communities.  


"We live in a capitalist settler-colonial society that encourages us to be the most excellent and encourages individualism, but Black, Racialized communities thrive in collectivism. So, let's prioritize community building at the centre of everything we do," she asserted. She shares her knowledge to ensure that others can benefit, emphasizing that sometimes policy changes are necessary, but being with one's community can also be a powerful force for change.    


Josslyn's story is a testament to the enduring commitment of individuals who strive to understand history and actively contribute to shaping a more equitable and inclusive future for the campus community. 


Josslyn Gabriel (BA '19)

Image of Josslyn Gabriel
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