News

Khan Bouba-Dalambaye ‘02: Walking With The Excluded

11/25/2021

Alumni Profile: Khan Bouba-Dalambaye '02

By Andrés Canella '02

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2021 edition of the Loyola Today

Readers of the Montreal Gazette or CBC News during the COVID pandemic likely came across articles written by or mentioning Khan Bouba-Dalambaye ‘02. His professional experience as clinical counsellor and high school guidance counselor made him well placed to broach the impacts of social distancing in school environments and the frustrations of balancing work at home. Beyond a general understanding of the mental health problems associated with pandemic restrictions, his specific experiences also gave him insight into the impact on Black communities. In recent years, Khan has found himself wearing many hats: from his work as a private counsellor to tutoring to working on anti-racism initiatives at the university level.

His journey from Loyola High School to his current career was, like most things in life, not planned. “Psychology was not my first choice”, says Khan. It took a few weeks sitting in Mr. Enright’s Grade 11 Psychology Option class to understand this was the field he wanted to work in. Many years later, during an internship for his Masters in Counseling Psychology, he realized a desire to work with youth as a high school guidance counselor. After a decade working with with the Lester B. Pearson School Board, Khan’s focus shifted to his clinical work, with clients ranging from teens to middleaged adults who sought help for light to moderate mental health counseling - what he calls “life problems”.

It was Khan’s work as a counselor that opened his eyes to the needs of the Black community. “Mental health is very much stigmatized in [the] community”, but recent events like the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 have changed that. Though Khan’s practice is open to everyone, he found that his client base has shifted dramatically. “It wasn’t planned… but the bulk of it has become Black.” He points to this increased awareness, as well as the scarcity of Black clinicians, as the primary driver of this shift. Khan’s work has better connected him with this community, and he credits this connection with being a part of his own process of healing and learning.

It was this learning that encouraged him to become involved in work supporting, consulting and advising McGill’s administrative departments on the student experience for Black students as part of a more comprehensive anti-black racism plan. As work on racial justice has become more central to his focus, it has shown how his counseling work focusing on the well-being of the individual has revealed and fed a desire to focus on the collective well-being of his community.

Looking to the future, Khan’s concern is the longevity of initiatives such as the one he worked on at McGill. Too often institutions place a timeline on creating inclusive environments. “How do you make [antiracism] an ongoing thing? Not just a day, a month or a learning module.” For Khan, the keys are accountability, representation and making connections. Institutions should be held accountable on an ongoing basis for ensuring inclusivity and equity. People of colour need to be in positions of power to help maintain the narrative and the efforts. Fostering connections between communities and people of diverse experiences creates the level of care and empathy necessary to ensure initiatives continue in the long-term.

Khan’s hope is that Loyola works to abide by its own individual and collective mantras: cura personalis (care for the whole person) and men for others (care for the community) on a path towards greater racial justice, inclusivity and equity.

 

Read more articles from the Summer/Fall 2021 edition of Loyola Today.

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