Founder of the Black Lives Matter movement Canada, public intellectual and political activist
When Sandy Hudson speaks, people listen. A dynamic and matter-of-fact communicator, Sandy has a unique ability to distill complex ideas into manageable, concepts for large audiences. Tackling a range of social justice issues from racism to feminism, Sandy is a natural thought-leader and has a gift for finding the common ground we need to make a better society. A woman of boundless energy, Sandy is the founder of Black Lives Matter in Canada, sits on the Black Lives Matter Global Network Strategy Table, is Vice-Chair of the Black Legal Action Centre, is co-host of the Sandy and Nora Talk Politics podcast, is the Editor-in-Residence of Kalamazoo College’s Praxis Center for Social Justice, and regularly contributes to several major newspapers in the United States and Canada. Sandy holds a Masters of Arts in Social Justice Education and uses the experience and knowledge she has gained through her community organizing to help organizations reach their goals all over North America.
Sandy’s community organizing experience began as an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. Unable to afford the expensive computer science program she was initially admitted to, Sandy turned to her students’ union, and joined the movement for accessible education. A charismatic leader, she quickly became the first Black woman to be elected president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union and subsequently the first Black woman to be elected Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. In these roles, she led creative campaigns to address sexual violence, racism, poverty and racism on campus, including a revamp of the well-known No Means No campaign and an Ontario-wide investigation into racism on campus, culminating in a comprehensive report used to address structural racism in colleges and universities across the country.
As head of these student organizations, Sandy represented the interests of over 300,000 students with diverse backgrounds, geographies, interests and experiences. In organizations like these, leadership must be attuned to the fluctuating needs of a complicated membership, who are not always on the same page. Sandy managed to make these diversity of ideas a strength of the organization, and developed a leadership style that built power through empowering the development of her membership.
Sandy used these experiences in building Black Lives Matter in Canada, one of the most impactful anti-racism organizations of our time. Engaging in grassroots community activism, Black Lives Matter in Canada was born after a discussion between Sandy Hudson and her brother in the fall of 2014. Both were distraught about the slaying of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and the local slaying of Jermaine Carby by Ryan Reid in Brampton, Ontario. Both were feeling isolated and powerless. Desiring a way to express their frustration and grief, Sandy’s brother encouraged her to use her breadth organizing skills to organize a demonstration. Sandy contacted dozens of Black organizers across the country; mostly women, mostly queer,;and asked if there was interest in organizing a demonstration. The response was overwhelmingly positive. On November 25, 2014, the first actions of Black Lives Matter in Canada took place in Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa and other cities across the country.
From its inception, Black Lives Matter in Canada has expressly challenged Canada’s perception of itself as free of anti-Black racism, shifted the ways in which anti-Blackness is considered and discussed culturally, and forced significant policy change. With her team, Sandy’s work spawned new regulations in policing, a judicial review into police accountability measures, significant funding commitments for Black arts and culture, and a cultural shift in awareness of issues facing Black communities in Canada. Beyond that, Sandy joined the Black Lives Matter Global Network team, where she helps to develop the international orientation of the movement that began in the United States.
Sandy is a budding public intellectual, and strengthens her community organizing work with her writing, scholarship and media work. The current Editor-in-Residence of the Praxis Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, Sandy brings together writers and community organizers from all over the world to contribute essays, poems and opinion pieces on some of the most difficult challenges facing our world today. Having recently obtained her Master of Arts in Social Justice Education from the University of Toronto, Sandy is a published author who has contributed to two volumes, Race and Racialization, and New Framings in Anti-Racism. She is also serving on the editorial team for a forthcoming anthology about Black life in Canada scheduled for release in February 2020.
Throughout her years of community organizing experience, Sandy has developed an approach for campaign-based organizing built on the belief that the most important step in a campaign is the belief that the goal can be achieved, and ordinary people can become the champions that achieve it. Even the most complex social issues facing our world today are surmountable. An audacious belief that what may seem impossible is achievable is the key to Sandy’s approach to social change. Leaving a trail of victories behind the organizations she works with, she works from a framework of possibility and hope.
Sandy continues to channel her passion for education into her work today. Best known for her public approach to anti-racism work, Sandy also engages in alternative forms of education in order to share the skills and knowledge she has gained over a lifetime of social justice community organizing with organizations all over Canada and beyond. Sandy has shared her skills with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, United States College Access Forum, the World Federation of Youth and Students, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Unifor, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Jack Layton Leadership School at Ryerson University, York University, Western University, Canroots, the Stratford Festival, the Luminato Festival, the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the University of Toronto, Maytree, United Steelworkers, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, the Canadian Association of Labour Media, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies, Ryerson University, McMaster University, Hart House, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, and New Democratic Party, among numerous others.
Sandy is a refreshingly honest and engaging media communicator and passionate speaker. She has appeared in two documentaries, the New York Times, Toronto Star, CP24, Global News, the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and TVO.org among other newsmedia. Sandy’s published media work appears in FLARE magazine, the Washington Post, the Toronto Star, and Now Magazine, among others.