Helen Ogundeji: Social Activism is Her Status Quo

The students at McGill University are known for their social activism, and I did not have to look far to find one of these activists and leaders on campus for this interview. Helen Ogundeji is a floor fellow at Carrefour Sherbrooke (C4) where I am a resident, and I respected her positive energy before I knew the extent of her activism. Ogundeji is a U3 Sociology major, who is from Toronto -she quipped that she often gets asked if she is really from Toronto. She feels very passionate about many social issues, mainly race. Her involvement at McGill includes being a floor fellow at C4, President of the Sociology Students Association, and the VP External of the Black Students’ Network. She is also part of a fellowship program to bring attention to social inequality, and is a member-at-large of the Equitable Governance Reform Committee.

 

Ogundeji says there are many issues that matter to her, but perhaps the most important one to her is examining social and racial inequality and their intersectionality in terms of life experiences and chances. This interest helped her decide her desired career path, according to Ogundeji.

“One thing I decided to go into as a career is health policy,” Ogundeji says. “It’s something that I’m starting to pay a lot of attention to these days, so like what determines someone’s ability to access health care, what foods people eat, are encouraged or discouraged by doctors, and once they are able to see a doctor what procedures or assistances are offered to them. How does that differ by race and class. It is very interesting to see how race and identity politics play a role in access to healthcare.”

In terms of which position she has made a greater impact on, Ogundeji says she is stuck between being part of Black Students’ Network and being a floor fellow.

“For BSN, in terms of tangible outcome that you can see, and putting on the events that we do, it is great to look into the audience after months of planning. It’s very exciting,” Ogundeji says. “Being a floor fellow is super rewarding. This is my third year, and having students come talk to me who I’ve had in previous years, who want to have an update on my life, or who are still seeking support two years later is very telling.”

Although Ogundeji has been very passionate about social issues during her time at McGill University, that is not the main thing that she wants to be remembered by.

“I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received from a boss of mine is that people leave my presence feeling good,” Ogundeji says. “And if I get nothing down as VP Internal [of BSN] or with my fellowship program, I really just want people to think back and just remember themselves feeling better around me and wanting to be around me, not in the sense that I want to seek approval. Right now is a [bad] time for a lot of people, and just being a student is stressful, so I would like to think that I am contributing something positive to people’s spaces."

 

Image obtained from interviewee and from rabble.ca