A fourth-year student majoring in History with a double-minor in Sociology and Caribbean Studies, Jacqueline Allain is a recipient of the Gordon Cressy Leadership Award and the Department of History’s Barbara Frume Travel Scholarship. For three years running she co-organized the Caribbean Studies Diaspora Voices, New Directions conference and is the managing editor of The Future of History, the research journal of the U of T History Students’ Association. She has volunteered at the Centre for Women and Trans People at U of T and tutored with the U of T Medical School Saturday Program. Jacqueline has been an active member of Fossil-Free U of T, advocating for divestment by the University of its holdings in coal, oil and gas companies.
Congratulations on your Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award. What does it mean to you to be recognized by your alma mater for your contribution to student life and the College as a whole?
I am very honoured to have been selected for the award. It always feels good to be recognized for your accomplishments.
Tell us more about the extra-curricular activities are you have been involved in.
While this isn’t an extra-curricular activity per se, as well as co-organizing the Caribbean Studies conference and volunteering, last year I was a recipient of the Department of History’s Barbara Frum Travel Scholarship. This, in addition to much-appreciated supplementary funding from Caribbean Studies and New College, allowed me to travel to Martinique to conduct archival research. In the archives I found a few documents which I used in the writing of a paper on legal debates about slave punishment and control. I plan to look for more documents other archives to enhance my argument, and maybe one day publish the paper. While I was in Martinique, I also attended the 46th annual conference of the Association of Caribbean Historians. It was an incredible trip and I’m grateful to New College and Caribbean Studies for helping make it possible.
You have done extensive work with the Caribbean Studies Program – tell us about that.
Diaspora Voices is the biggest Caribbean Studies project I’ve been involved in. This year’s lineup included presentations from students from U of T, York, Niagara University, University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, and McMaster on topics as diverse as marriage regulations in twentieth-century Guyana to skin-bleaching in Jamaica today. Each year we try to include an artistic performance of some sort, and this year we had steel-pan player Tommy Chrichlow perform for us. We ended the day with an incredible talk by Andrea Davis of York University.
What is the Divestment Campaign you have been involved with?
I am involved in a student group called Fossil-Free UofT that is working on a campaign to get the University of Toronto to sell off its direct stock holdings in the world’s 200 fossil fuel companies with the largest reserves of coal, oil, and gas within the next five years. This decision is going to be made by a Governing Council ad hoc committee formed specifically for this purpose. In the meantime, we’re working on educating the U of T community about divestment and rallying campus support.*
One thing I really like about being a part of Fossil-Free UofT is that we see climate change as not just an environmental issue, but as an environmental justice issue. Issues of class, race, indigeneity, gender, and equity feature very strongly in our analysis. Our end goal isn’t just divestment, or even an end to human-induced climate change—it’s the building of a more just world, one in which people, not corporations, have control over land and resources, and where people have access to healthy food and a clean, safe environment.
Since we’re on the subject, I should mention that Fossil-Free UofT is always looking for new members, including alumni members. Whether you’re a scientist researching climate change, an environmental lawyer, or just a concerned global citizen, we want you to get involved. Fall 2015 is going to be a really busy season for the campaign. If you’re interested, email Vice-President Ariel Martz-Oberlander at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are very proud of you and all that you have accomplished during your time at the College. Tell us about your future plans.
My biggest plan for the future is to go to graduate school and get a doctorate in history with a focus the Caribbean. I will be applying to programs in the fall of 2015 and hopefully attending the following year. My research interests focus on gender, slavery, and law in the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean. In the meantime, I need to get a full-time job and start saving some money!
What will be your most treasured memories from your time at New College?
I have made many happy memories at New College. In particular, I’ll miss the many excellent Caribbean Studies courses I’ve taken here.
Any final thoughts?
I’d like to end by thanking my professors. I’ve had the pleasure of learning from and getting to know some truly amazing educators here at U of T, and particularly at New College, and I mean it when I say that I will be grateful to them for the rest of my life.
*Update: In June 2015, the University announced an invitation for members of its community to make submissions to an advisory committee studying “a recent call” for divestment from fossil fuel companies.