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Aaron Parry, Hons. Anthropology and Indigenous Studies '21

Meet Aaron Parry, Bachelor of Arts Anthropology and Indigenous Studies '21

Aaron Parry is also a social activist, academic, and clothing designer. That’s a mouthful! Read more about his road to convocation.

Jun 18, 2021

 

“McMaster has given me the opportunity to shape who I am as a person and to shape my interests.” 

How has your time at McMaster changed you? 

I am originally from a very homogenous town, where there is not a lot of diversity. McMaster gave me the opportunity to connect with other Black people and Black communities. Connecting with Black students, whether it was in classes, clubs or community organizations allowed me to develop who I am, and to build on my connections and relationships with others.  Coming into university, I felt as though there was something missing from my life... even a part of me that I had not fully developed outside of my family. It was important for me to develop those connections with people who have the same background and lived experiences as I had. I developed who I was and got a better understanding of who I wanted to be as a person. I also gained an understanding of my role as a Black man in our community and learned about what was going on in the world from different perspectives, which is what you need to hear at this point in life.  

What led you to pursue a degree in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies? 

I studied Indigenous Studies and I minored in African and African Diaspora Studies because those were things that I had wanted to study and critically analyze since high school, but never had the chance. So, being in this space where I could learn from Black and Indigenous scholars and learn in settings that were comfortable enough to discuss these issues, allowed me to realize that I am extremely interested in this field. I also saw that Black history is tied to the experiences of the Indigenous people whose land we are on. These experiences shaped my understanding of the subject and I realized that it didn’t need to be just a hobby, but I could have a career in this field.  

What are some of the challenges you faced over the last four years? 

I can go on for hours about how positive my experience at McMaster was, but there were also some challenges. For example, last year, I was part of the task force that reviewed the Black student-athlete experience at McMaster. As I went through the testimonials and interviewed people about some of the things that were reported, those stories mirrored my friends’ experiences and my own experience as a student, and I have never been an athlete and I don’t know many student-athletes. There were also many occasions when if I was not at an event controlled by Black staff, faculty, or students, there would be push back from others outside of the Black community who would question why Black students needed these specific events, opportunities, or spaces. My experience was positive in finding my community but there were also unique obstacles that I faced as a Black student. 

How did that change over the last year as the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction? 

I think the last year was a wake-up call for a lot of people. A lot of non-Black people would not believe that we were dealing with these issues in Canada. They felt as though it was just in the United States. It all came to a head last summer as the Black Lives Matter movement became more socially acceptable. I’ve seen changes at McMaster, with the main thing being the emergence of the Black Student Services space. I’ve also seen more action taken on ideas that were in the pipeline for a while. I saw leadership start to listen to us more and it is the first step in a long chain of conversations for the development of programming and policies to support Black students at Mac.  

Tell us more about your clothing line, ISAIAH III. 

I started my clothing line, Isaiah III just after my second year, at the start of my third year at McMaster. I had been doing art for most of my life, and I liked getting Black-owned brands but often, these would be from the USA. There were also a lot of things that I wanted to reflect through my clothing, so I started making it for myself but then some of my friends said they liked it, so I started selling it online or on-campus sometimes. A lot of Black students I know have side hustles as well and I was always supported.  

Do you have a favourite course? 

My favourite professor was Kojo Damptey. He taught a course in my final year called Black, African and African Diaspora that focused on issues relevant to the African diaspora, such as Pan-Africanism and Anti-Blackness. That was my favourite course because I had been doing my minor in African and African Diaspora Studies for so long, but this was the first course that really embodied the minor. It was honestly the best course I ever did at McMaster. Kojo is an amazing person who has done so much work in the community. He was also able to connect the theory to the reality of life today and let students lead the discussion before supplying his opinions at the end.  

What are your plans for after graduation?  

I’m going back to Mac for my M.A. in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory. For the next year, I’ll be doing that. I’m considering going the full mile and eventually teaching Black history and contemporary Black issues but I’m also 21 years old and I don’t know how it will end up.  

 

“The Black community at McMaster is just one of the strongest instances of a chosen family that I have ever experienced. Members of the Black community, especially faculty and staff, were always looking out for us and ensuring that we had the resources we needed as best as they ould.“