Chris Ramsaroop, Caribbean Studies program alumnusDescribe yourself in 100 words or less.

I am an activist who spends a lot of time thinking about what societal transformation means. For me, part of ‘changing the world’ means ensuring that we have the right to dissent and to challenge authority. Becoming an activist was accidental for me. Part of my moulding as an activist is a direct result of being a Caribbean Studies student.

What are the accomplishments (personal or professional) of which you are most proud?

I am happy to have studied Caribbean studies at U of T and to also have a Masters of Education degree in Sociology and Equity Studies (OISE/UT).  I am also most proud of the work that my friends and I have accomplished as members of Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW). From our marches, protests, delegations, vigils, organizing projects to our work intervening at numerous tribunal cases as well as the Supreme Court of Canada, our work is meant to push the envelope, challenge dominant positions and to undertake positions that do not compromise our commitment to racial justice.

Why did you choose the Caribbean Studies program?

I chose Caribbean studies because I wanted to connect what was going on in Canada with what was occurring in the Caribbean. Why did people migrate? What interconnections existed between the North and South? I wanted to learn more about slavery and indentureship and how our communities resisted and survived.

Did your experience with the program influence your career path after graduating? If so, in what ways?

Studying Caribbean studies definitely influenced my career choices. Seeing the realities that exist today for migrant workers in Canada is reminiscent of indentureship in the Caribbean. For me, it’s watching history repeat itself. The activist organization my friends and I founded together (J4MW) builds on the legacy of resistance that our ancestors undertook to fight against both slavery and indentureship. Thinking back to the classes I took in Caribbean studies, I think that the lectures and discussions were critical for my ability to analyze what is happening today in our fields.

Do you have any advice for future students?

Caribbean studies, similar to the ‘Ethnic Studies’ programs in the United States, didn’t just happen – it came about through a very long history of resistance and struggle. Students came together to demand from their universities that the curriculum reflects their experiences and realities. Having professors and courses that offer alternative view points from the dominant perspective is essential for students who desire a holistic educational experience. Its courses and faculty help in developing the skills to think critically and to reassess the world around us.