Protests and pedagogy: The legacies of Caribbean student resistance and the Sir George Williams Affair, Montreal 1969.
Date: February 8-9, 2019.
Abstract: 150 words
With Black civil rights in the USA, decolonization struggles in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, and Canada’s opening to immigration from the Global South, the 1960s was a period of immense change. The old order was changing, decolonization meant not only political independence, but a quest for dignity and respect denied under colonialism.
In 1969, West Indian students at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) occupied the university’s computer centre from January 29 to Feb 11 as part of one of the largest student protests in Canadian history. The student occupation was in response to discriminatory pedagogical practices and the University’s failure to effectively address the students’ complaints. The protest culminated with a now iconic and widely circulated image of computer punch cards being thrown out the window by students. The end of the protest was also marked by varying accounts of police brutality, racist epithets, and a mysterious arson which forced the students’ evacuation. In the aftermath, nearly one hundred students were arrested. The impact of this event was felt acutely in Montreal, but followed closely by national media in Canada, with ripple effects across the Caribbean, impacting Caribbean-Canadian relations and resulting in Caribbean-based student protests, which pushed governments to demand justice for their nationals.
This conference commemorates the 50th anniversary of the “Sir George Williams Affair” as a lens to reflect upon the unfinished business of decolonization and its relationship to questions of pedagogy, institutional life and culture and ongoing discussions about race and racism. We seek to remember this historical moment and its questions of decolonization and pedagogy as ones which remain urgent in higher education around the world. We also acknowledge the long history of student protests in various institutions across the Third World and the Global North, but in particular we draw connections between this event, and the “Rodney Riots” in Jamaica, 1968 and Trinidad’s Black Power Revolution in 1970. In locating the students who were part of the Sir George Williams affair as part of this wider trajectory, we further ask what is the decolonizing role of the student intellectual both historically and in our current global moment? What are the unfinished legacies of this moment in the Canadian context and beyond? How is it remembered, forgotten or contested in different spaces? How did it connect or contribute to wider circuits of activism, protest and resistance? How is blackness included or occluded in decolonizing dialogues (particularly relating to curriculum and pedagogy)? What are the lessons of the occupation of the computer centre to current forms of resistance, such as Black Lives Matter or Rhodes Must Fall?
We welcome abstracts of 150 words. Please also include a brief bio (no more than 50 words) in your submission. Abstracts should be sent to:firstname.lastname@example.org. Notifications will be sent out by the end of July.
SYMBOLES DE RÉSISTANCE
Une exposition célébrant la convergence d’Artistes Noir.e.s et leurs Histoires
Galerie Mile-End, 5 3 4 5 ave du Parc
Vernissage: Jeudi 1er février, de 18h à 21h
Exposition: 1er au 28 février 2018
Horaire de la galerie pour le mois de février:
jeudi 15h à 19h
vendredi 15h à 19h
samedi 13h à 17h
dimanche 13h à 17h
// We are pleased to invite you to
SYMBOLS OF RESISTANCE
An Exhibition Celebrating the Convergence of Black Artists and their Stories
Galerie Mile-End, 5 3 4 5 ave du Parc
Opening: Thursday February 1, 6-9pm
Exhibition: 1 to 28 February 2018
Gallery hours for the month of February:
L’exposition se tiendra tout au long du mois de février et présentera le travail d’artistes visuels Montréalais s’identifiant Noires qui explorent l’identitée Noire et les facettes de sa représentation. L’art a été créé pour communiquer des histoires et des perspectives communautaires pour exprimer l’identité noire à Montréal en relation avec les thèmes croisés: femmes, diaspora, résistance, communautés LQBTQ, immigration, espace, familles.
Cet événement artistique aura lieu sur le territoire traditionnel et non cédé des Kanien’kehá:ka sur l’ïle tio’tia:ke, renommé Montréal suite à sa colonisation.
// This month-long exhibition features the work of Black-identified, Montreal-based visual artists exploring Black identity and the diverse facets of its representation. The art has been created to carry community stories, histories and perspectives in order to express Black identity in Montreal in relation to the intersecting themes of women, diaspora, resistance, LQBTQ communities, immigration, space, families.
This art event is taking place on the traditional and unceded territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka people on the island of tio’tia:ke, renamed Montreal under settler-colonialism.
PRÉSENTANT // FEATURING
Kay Nau est une illustratrice queer, non binaire et handicapée de Montréal-Nord. Extrêmement influencée par l’art séquentiel, son œuvre est une exploration du travail de la ligne et de l’espace négatif. Elle est présentement à la pige tout en travaillant sur ses nombreux projets de bande dessinée, de zines et d’illustrations. Vouz pouvez voir son travail sur thecreativekay.com
// Kay Nau is a queer, non-binary and disabled character illustrator based in Montreal-Nord. Their work is an exploration of lineart and negative space heavily influenced by comic art. They’re currently working on various comics, zines and illustration projects while freelancing on the side, you can view her work at thecreativekay.com
G L O W Z I
G L O W Z I utilise des médiums artistiques mixtes afin de créer des oeuvres dans lesquelles elle transmet au public ses façons de penser, ses difficultés, ses succès et ses échecs. Vous pouvez voir son travail sur instagram @_n.w.a.r._ et @glowzi
// G L O W Z I uses mixed medias to create her pieces in which she conveys the audience to her ways of thinking, struggles, successes and failures. You can view her work on instagram @_n.w.a.r_ and @glowzi
Musicienne et artiste visuelle, les créations de Sika Valmé donnent voix au mutisme, transpirent une force introspective et une conscience intersectionnelle misant sur identités et émotions humaines. Couleurs envoutantes, à mi chemin entre réalisme subjectif et abstrait organique. Son portfolio coloursandsound.ca
// As a musician and visual artist, Sika Valmé’s creations give voice to muteness, they divulge an introspective strength and intersectional consciousness based on identity and human emotions. Captivating colours half way between organic abstract and subjective realism. You can view her portfolio at coloursandsound.ca
Valérie Bah est une photographe et vidéogaphe noire et queer. Vous pouvez voir son travail à valeriebah . com ou sur l’instagram @valbah.
// Valérie Bah is a queer Black photographer and videographer. You can view her work at valeriebah . com or on instagram @valdbah.
Ubuntu Talks est une plateforme qui aspire à créer des représentations positives de corps Noires dans les médias. Elle a été créée par Chelsy Monie, une étudiante en Communications et en Histoire de l’Art, qui était insatisfaite par les représentations négatives ou le manque total de représentation des expériences noires dans les médias. Ubuntu Talks challenge ces images injustes tout en présentant et célébrant les identités noires en explorant diverses identités et expériences mondiales. Vous pouvez voir le travail de Chelsy sur ubuntutalks.org
// Ubuntu Talks is a platform that strives to create positive representations of Black bodies in the media. It was created by Chelsy Monie, a Communications and Art History student, who was unsatisfied with the negative representations, or total lack of representation, of black experiences in the media. Ubuntu Talks challenges these unjust images, while showcasing and celebrating Blackness by exploring various identities and experiences worldwide. You can view Chelsy’s work at ubuntutalks . org
PO B. K. LOMAMI
Po B. K. Lomami est une activiste, coordinatrice de projets socio-artistiques, écrivaine, musicienne et créatrice de zine Congodescendante de Belgique. Ses travaux traitent de queer·genre·handicap·négritude, diaspora·transmission·déplacement·perte, représentation·narration·action·résistance et clandestinité·alternative·temps·espace à travers les langages, les médias et les corps et avec un agenda anticolonial, afrofeministe et anticapitaliste. pobklomami.org (en construction)
// Po B. K. Lomami is an Congodesendant activist, socio-artistic project coordinator, writer, musician and zine maker from Belgium. Her work deals with queerness·gender·disability·négritude, diaspora·transmission·displacement·loss, representation·narration·action·resistance and underground·alternative·space·time through languages, media and bodies with an anticolonial, afrofeminist and anticapitalist agenda. pobklomami.org (in contruction)
Carl-Philippe Simonise est un cinéaste et artiste visuel montréalais. Né à Port-au-Prince, il déménage au Québec en 1999 pour des études universitaires qu’il fera à l’UQAM, en informatique, puis en cinéma. En 2016, Il est directeur photo et co-auteur de la série documentaire ’Black Wealth Matters’. Il travaille depuis 2012 sur son premier long métrage de fiction, ‘L’arme sismique’. Il est membre du collectif d’artistes Atelïer Good People. Vous pouvez voir le travail de Carl-Philippe sur carlphilippesimonise.com
// Carl-Philippe Simonise is a Montreal-based filmmaker and visual artist. Born in Port-au-Prince, he moved to Quebec in 1999 to pursue university studies at UQAM in Computer Science, and then Screenwriting. He is co-author and director of photography of the documentary series ‘Black Wealth Matters‘. He has been working since 2012 to complete ‘Earthquake Weapon’, his first feature fiction. He is a member of the artist collective Atelïer Good People. You can see more of Carl-Philippe’s work at carlphilippesimonise.com
AÏSSATOU DIALLO (EYESSA2)
AÏssatou Diallo, (prononcez EYE-SSA-TOO) est une designer graphiste et programmeuse web basée à Montréal depuis 7 ans. Née et élevée en Guinée, c’est une artiste visuelle multidisciplinaire et autodidacte qui allie les dessins digitaux, a la peinture acrylique. Son objectif, mettre en avant l’identité, la beauté et la force de la femme noire. Employée a son propre compte, vous pouvez voir ses creations via son Instagram (@eyessa2) et très prochaine sur la plateforme BLENDBOXX ou elle s’emploiera à créer des contenus digitaux pour les créateurs afros et en faveur de la découverte de la culture africaine.
// AÏssatou Diallo is a graphic designer and web programmer based in Montreal since 2011. Born and raised in Guinea, she is a multidisciplinary and self-taught visual artist who combines digital drawings with acrylic paint. Her goal is to highlight the identity, beauty and strength of the Black woman. Self-employed, you can see her creations via her Instagram (@eyessa2) and very soon on the BLENDBOXX platform where she will work to create digital content for afro creators working towards the discovery of African culture.
L’ACCESSIBILITÉ // ACESSIBILITY
Cet événement est gratuit et ouvert à toutes les communautés et est aussi un endroit qui souhaite la bienvenue aux enfants. La sale d’exposition est accessible aux personnes en fauteuils roulants. N’hésitez pas à nous contacter vos questions à propos de l’accessibilité de la sale ou pour plus d’information à cfar@concordia . ca
// This event is free and open to all community members and is a child-friendly space. The showroom is accessible to people using
wheelchairs and other mobility aids, the washroom is gender neutral but not wheelchair accessible. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at cfar@concordia . ca with questions about accessibility or for more information.
LE PATRONAGE // SPONSORSHIP
Nous voulons remercier nos sponsors pour avoir rendu cet événement possible
Sustainability Action Fund
Concordia Graduate Student Association
Office of Community Engagement
The Critical Feminist Activism and Research Project
The Simone de Beauvoir Institute
*français à suivre*
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Critical Creations and C-FAR present a call for submissions for a 15-week Montreal Black Artists-in-Community Residency, which will culminate in month long exhibition at the Mile-End Gallery in February 2018
Our Montreal Black Artists-in-Community Residency is a themed program, which centers on Black identity in Montreal. We call our program an ‘artist-in-community residency’ as a way of inviting Montreal’s Black artists to engage and create for/with their community(ies). During the residency, artists will work on creating art that carry community stories, histories and perspectives. We are looking for artists who are interested in expressing Black identity in Montreal in relation to intersecting themes such as Cultural History, Women, LGBTQ, Immigration, Incarceration, Employment, Families and Profiling.
This artistic collaboration is meant to be a catalyst to strengthen relationships within the Montreal Black community(ies) and generate constructive dialogue with peripheral communities. We aim to provide resources and space in order for these meaningful exchanges to prevail.
We are welcoming submissions by Black-identified visual artists based in Montreal. The program is designed for emerging artists but we also welcome applications from established artists who would like to engage with the themes proposed. An ideal candidate is self-directed, able to work independently, and willing to work alongside the other artists in residence to create art for social impact.
We are accepting applications from visual artists whose work, across various media, translates well into 2D format, (for example paint, graffiti, collage photography, mixed media, graphic art, etc.) since the works will be documented and printed into large-format posters. The original works will be showcased during a month-long exhibition in Black History Month (February 2018) at the Mile-End Gallery (5345 Ave. du Parc). After which the exhibition posters will go on an exhibition tour through Black community centers in Montreal from March 2018 to January 2019
During the Black history month exhibition, we will be facilitating workshops and other public programming that speak to the same themes addressed in the participating artists’ work.
Participating artists will benefit from:
A $500 honorarium, 3 artist workshops, access to studio space and design lab as needed, up to 200$ in materials and supplies as needed and the cost of printing final poster for exhibition tour.
The residency is scheduled to begin on Saturday Nov.18th 2017. Artists will then have 8 weeks to create their pieces, 3 weeks to prepare for the exhibition, and 4 weeks of exhibition. Artists will have the opportunity to make their own production schedule but are expected to attend all the artist workshops, which are tentatively scheduled on Saturdays (Nov.18th 2017, Dec. 2nd 2017, Jan.13th 2018). If you have a standing commitment which conflicts with this schedule, please specify these conflicts in your application.
Please send your applications to us at email@example.com
Submission deadline is 11:59pm November 1, 2017
Your applications should include a short artist’s bio, 3-5 relevant samples of your work, and approx. 250 words on your relationship to Black Identity in Montreal.
We thank you for your time and look forward to your submissions
Please feel free to share this call-out far and wide.
If you any have questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
DEMANDE DE SOUMISSIONS
Créations Critiques et C-FAR présentent une demande de soumissions pour une résidence d’artiste-en-communauté de 15 semaines pour des artistes Noires de Montréal, qui aboutira à une exposition d’un mois à la Galerie Mile-End en février 2018
Notre résidence d’artiste-en-communauté est un programme thématique axée sur l’identité noire à Montréal. Nous appelons notre programme une résidence «d’artiste-en-communauté» pour inviter les artistes à créer pour/avec leur(s) communauté(s). Au cours de la résidence, les artistes seront invités à créer des pièces épaulant des histoires et perspectives communautaires. Nous chercherons des artistes intéressées à exprimer l’identité noire à Montréal en relation avec des thèmes entrelacés comme l’immigration, l’incarcération, l’emploi, les familles, les femmes, les LGBTQ, et le profilage.
Le but de cette collaboration artistique est de contribuer à la fortification des relations au sein de la communauté noire de Montréal et générer un dialogue constructif avec les communautés périphériques. Nous visons à fournir des ressources et de l’espace afin que ces échanges significatifs puissent prévaloir.
Nous accueillons des soumissions d’artistes visuels s’identifiant Noir(e)s et basé(e)s à Montréal. Le programme est conçu pour les artistes émergents, mais nous accueillons également les applications d’artistes établis qui souhaitent travailler sur les thèmes proposés. Un candidat idéal est autodirigé, est capable de travailler de façon autonome et est disposé de travailler aux côtés des autres artistes résidents pour créer de l’art avec un but d’impact social.
Nous acceptons les applications d’artistes visuels dont le travail, à travers différents médias, peut se traduire en format 2D (par exemple, la peinture, le graffiti, le collage, la photographie, les médias mixtes, l’art graphique, etc.), puisque les pièces originales seront documentées et imprimées sur des affiches en grand formats. Les œuvres originales seront présentées lors d’une exposition d’un mois pendant le Mois de l’histoire des noirs (Février 2018) à la galerie Mile-End (5345 ave. du Parc). Par la suite, les affiches d’exposition feront une tournée d’exposition dans des centres communautaires Noirs de Montréal (de mars 2018 à janvier 2019)
Au cours de l’exposition du mois de l’histoire des Noirs, nous allons présenter des ateliers et d’autres activités publiques qui s’articulent sur les mêmes thèmes abordés dans le travail des artistes participants.
Les artistes participants bénéficieront de:
Un honoraire de 500$, 3 ateliers d’artistes, accès à un studio d’artiste et d’un laboratoire de conception (au besoin), jusqu’à 200$ en matériaux et fournitures selon les besoins et l’impression de l’affiche finale pour la tournée d’exposition.
La résidence débutera le samedi 18 novembre 2017. Les artistes auront alors 8 semaines pour élaborer leurs pièces, 3 semaines pour préparer l’exposition et 4 semaines d’exposition. Les artistes auront l’opportunité de faire leur propre horaire de création, mais devront assister à tous les ateliers d’artistes, qui sont provisoirement programmés les samedis (le 18 novembre 2017, le 2 décembre 2017, et le 13 janvier 2018). Si vous avez un engagement qui est en conflit avec ce calendrier, veuillez spécifier ces conflits dans votre application.
Veuillez envoyer vos soumissions à email@example.com
Date limite de soumission est le 1er novembre 2017 à 23h59
Vos applications devraient inclure une courte biographie d’artiste, 3-5 échantillons d’œuvres pertinents, et environ 250 mots sur votre relation avec l’identité Noire à Montréal.
Nous vous remercions de votre temps et attendons vos soumissions. N’hésitez pas à partager cet appel.
Si vous avez des questions, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter à firstname.lastname@example.org
C-FAR has been collaborating with faculty across Concordia University to build our first undergraduate social action research course out of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. This 6 credit, year-long course will be running through FW17-18, if you have questions about how to register for the course or are looking for more information please reach us at email@example.com. Continue reading “feminist university seminar.”
Katherine McKittrick works in black studies, anti-colonial studies, cultural geographies and gender studies. McKittrick’s interdisciplinary work attends to the links between epistemological narrative, social justice, and creative texts. McKittrick’s work has influenced and challenged the work we do with C-FAR and how we perceive our transformative goals by complicating our assumptions of what exactly we are and should be striving for, especially in the context of fostering academic ‘safe spaces’. In this 2013 interview with Peter James Hudson, McKittrick responds to Hudson’s following question on the topic:
“On twitter, you (depressingly, brilliantly) wrote, “I’ve never glimpsed safe teaching (and learning) space. It is a white fantasy that harms.” I’m wondering if you could expand on that as it pertains to the Black student in Canada? How does such a vexed space inform your own pedagogical practice?”
Sara Ahmed is an independent scholar working at the intersection of feminist, queer and race studies and has interrogated the mainstream discourses of inclusion and diversity in the university which have served to perpetuate racism in the academy rather than address or interrupt it. She builds this critique of institutional commitments to ‘diversity’ most notably in her 2012 book On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life.
We have used Ahmed’s work to think through the potential of institutional transformation and what gets in its way, she helps us in many ways to recognize and interrogate the ‘walls that come up’ in striving for justice and equity in our universities.
Another great resource for exploring some of Ahmed’s ideas outside of her books and articles is through her feministkilljoys blog, the posts are a more accessible alternative for accessing some of the thinking that informed On Being Included. Continue reading “‘On Being Included’ (and other works) by Sara Ahmed.”
This piece, by Mia Mingus, was shared with us by Aimee Louw, a freelance journalist, writer, consultant, filmmaker, and radio host. Aimee has worked with us in the past with accessibility in the university and is part of the growing accessibility advocacy community in Montreal and Canada, focusing on accessible transit and cultural spaces, and participating in consultations with the Federal Government on forthcoming accessibility legislation. After co-facilitating our inter-realities community consultation, Aimee offered us this piece of writing for reflection, feeling that it aligned with what was shared during our open discussion.
Mia Mingus is a national disability justice and transformative justice leader, writer, educator and community organizer. In the piece Access Intimacy: The Missing Link Mingus builds up an understanding of access intimacy which Mingus describes as:
“that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs. The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level. Sometimes it can happen with complete strangers, disabled or not, or sometimes it can be built over years. It could also be the way your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met. It is not dependent on someone having a political understanding of disability, ableism or access. Some of the people I have experienced the deepest access intimacy with (especially able bodied people) have had no education or exposure to a political understanding of disability”.
Mingus’ access intimacy describes and gives words to the trust necessary to the process of building accessibility in our spaces and relationships. In building up this ‘elusive concept’, Mingus offers us a new lens through which to understand and strive for access. And while Mingus is speaking explicitly from personal lived experiences as a physically disabled person, Mingus’ understanding of access intimacy can extend between communities and their intersections, it can:
“also happen in many different ways for mamas and parents, women of color, queer and trans folks, etc… Anyone can experience access intimacy”.
The rest of the article is worth checking out as a tool and as something to consider for integrating into all of our organizing work. The rest of Mingus’ blog is also an incredible resource for those hoping to learn more about disability justice and strategies for understanding and interrupting ableism in the university but also and especially in our own communities and movements.
This essay, Displacement, Migration and Student Identity/Reality, was shared with us by Christelle Saint-Julien, as her contribution to our bordered-realities community consultation. Christelle is a Montreal-based writer, translator, poet, musician, blogger and editor-in-chief of literary blog Le Shindig. You can find the original online publication here alongside the image created for this piece by Mackenzie Teek.
I was born in Montreal in 1991.
Before settling here, my parents emigrated from Haïti. My mother, who came here a few decades later than my father, settled in Quebec in 1990. She came to build a new life and learn a culture while simultaneously learning how to raise children.
I graduated from high school in 2008, from Dawson College in 2010 and from Concordia University in 2013.
I am fortunate to be able to say that I am someone who knows herself really well. This partly comes from having been grown with a little, close-knit circle of two parents, and two brothers that I’m very close in age with. No extended family within the same country, very little outside role models, and yet — a lot of freedom. Such a peculiar setting left a lot of place for introspection, especially if you are ‘’different” from the few figures of your immediate circle, like an ugly duckling figuring out how to become a beautiful black swan.
My parents, bless them, taught me to embrace every aspect of my uncommon personality while trying to make me a functional member of society. They did so unconsciously, to the best of their ability and instinct, with no resources, help or family to guide them. Now as an adult, I can recognize how, from these sacrifices and my education, I will never be as bereft as they were, not that they knew this.
This pair raised me to be independent, to always make the best use of my intelligence and talent, to protect myself from outside adversity, to be a good citizen and a feminist. A recluse upbringing only made me realise very late in life that in the places I would navigate, I would often be referred to as other due to my traits and the colour of my skin.
Outside of travelling (in planes, cars, busses, trains, books, music, art and on the internet), all I have known is Montréal, Québec. Before graduating university, I had spent 17 years straight in school. Believe me, I loved school. I was one of these kids (and later, adults) who just loved learning. A curiosity that is insatiable, an introvert personality, a positive, idealist mindset, and also, a strong aptitude for academic subjects, and a notorious stubbornness that pushes me to finish what I started. The latter statements weighs the most in my many contemplations of dropping out, but I did not. Even despite debt from having no outside financial support.
I will always considered the schools I went to as my homes. However, coming from intergenerational displacement, I always felt misplaced within the establishment to which I paid tuition and spent countless hours of my young life.
Jump ahead to now.
I did not learn about about the 1969 Sir George Williams events on the 9th floor of the Hall building until last year, when I went to a screening of the movie Ninth Floor by Mina Shum at Cinema Du Parc. I found out about the movie browsing the theatre’s schedule. This is the school I attended. The real-life protagonists in the movie could have been my father, who moved to Montreal four years after the events took place.
The only places I found some kind of identity relief were in the Caribbean and African literature which changed my life, or in the (non-classical) music history that I devoured.
I have mostly been the sole black female student for most of my academic journey. This is due to several different factors, from the demographic to cultural, from my interests to systemic stereotypes. But that doesn’t mean anything. In a classroom, the students are not the teachers. Academic institutions, at least at the time I attended, did not have a perspective that reflected their clientele — a diverse, mixed-background pool. As if the Canadian academic curricula and values, or to a lesser extent Montreal were exclusively white, when these places were built thanks to the contributions of different communities. So, we are taught critical thinking in school, but also that your point of view does not apply.
Such a divide is real, although intangible. Before I was able put words on it, I was discouraged from pursuing graduate studies. From my biased point of view, the professional world was somewhat more inclusive — in the sense that you can select the people you collaborate with. So, I migrated.
However, I am an example of success — I have a great career, I have the chance to lead and take part of amazing projects that I am so fond of, and I pursue artistic endeavours with enthusiasm and passion. I am constantly counting my blessings. I have the privilege to be able to voice my thoughts and opinions.
My story is boring. So is my parents’. It is a story of hard work, resilience and erasure — an experience and perspective that can only be accounted for through oral tradition, it seems. But also, it has been a good life, in so many ways.
So many things have changed since I have left school. For these reasons, I don’t have many solutions to propose. I only have a few observations.
Such projects as the Critical Feminist Activism in Research are crucial and cannot remain insular. It is our obligation and duty to make these viable, enforced, and diffused campus-wide. We must not pat ourselves on the shoulder congratulating ourselves for the work well done from the sole intention of wanting to change things.
We cannot solely count on the willingness and diligence of students to reach out, join and take part. Resources and news have to travel cross-departmentally — use a newsletter, social media, I don’t know. If we want to know who our students are, we have to get at them.
Or else, mandates are changed, but customs are not. And when that happens, we find ourselves guilty by the law of association. There is a future in our hands.
One of C-FAR’s goals for our first year has been to generate a dataset which can describe some of what Concordia students are experiencing and a student survey seemed like an effective way of reaching out to everyone.
To construct the survey we partnered with Jess Glavina, a Montreal-based writer and scholar whose projects include work around disability and accessibility in institutions and creating radio and theatre that centres the voices of people of colour. Jess collaborated on this project as the former coordinator of the Gender, Sexuality and Learning Diversity Mapping Project out of the Centre for Gender Advocacy. And with our earliest drafts we reached out to Marcus Peters, Loyola Coordinator to the Concordia Student Union (CSU) who supported us in development and sent our survey out as part of the CSU’s undergraduate student survey.
The goal of our portion of the CSU survey was to measure student experiences with unfair treatment and/or discrimination at Concordia based on: (1) ability/disability, (2) sexuality/sexual orientation, (3) race (including Indigeneity and/or (4) gender. These core themes were then intersected with questions about sexual violence, misgendering, access and helpfulness of student services and representation in classrooms and student groups. And throughout this process we have come to recognize how difficult it is to adequately and thoughtfully capture these kinds of student experiences of violence, discrimination, exclusion and injustice through a computer-generated survey. There are many limits to this quantitative method and while our survey might be statistically robust, it is the first time we’ve created something like this and there are many ways we’d like to improve our process. We also recognize how much can be lost in this type of data collection and we encourage you to reach out if you would feel more comfortable sharing your stories one-on-one.
While the CSU begins the statistical analysis of the survey results (which will be undertaken summer 2017), we’re excited to start making sense of our 1491 student responses. Once we have access to the results we will be sharing what we learn, and you can check back here or subscribe to our mailing list for the subsequent results. If you have questions about our process or would like to access our survey please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d be happy to share our resources or hear your feedback.
We also hoped to use this survey as a pedagogical tool by including definitions of concepts that might be new to some of our survey recipients:
ableism: indicates any form of unfairness, discrimination, violence and/or prejudice you may have experienced based on your physical, mental, or developmental disabilities and/or needs. This includes anytime that you have felt that a space, place, event, information, communication, and/or technology has been designed without considering your particular accessibility needs.
trans-gender: describes people whose gender identity does not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.
cis-gender: describes people whose gender identity is represented by the sex they were assigned at birth (ie. a person who identifies as a woman and was assigned ‘female’ at birth, a person who identifies as a man and was assigned ‘male’ at birth).
non-binary: describes people whose gender identity does not correspond with binary conceptions of gender (male or female) and does not identify as male or female.
barrier to service: is any kind of social or physical constraint or obstacle that keeps you from being able to take full advantage of a student service at Concordia or participate completely in services that may provide you support during your time as a student.
sexual violence: any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, degrading sexual imagery, distribution of sexual images or video of a community member without their consent, and cyber harassment or cyberstalking of a sexual nature or related to a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or presentation (taken from Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre).
Our first day-long and collaborative event, inter-realities: the lived experiences of marginalized bodies in art and the academia featured two panels and a follow-up community consultation highlighting the voices, experiences and stories artists and academics in our universities and our communities.
Black, Indigenous, POC, queer and trans academics, artists, writers and activists came together to discuss their experiences navigating the systemic obstacles, discrimination, and oppression inherent to the university and publishing and arts industries in Montreal and beyond. Examining their own careers, the inter-realities speakers described the kinds of support and resources needed for future generations to dismantle barriers to access for marginalized peoples.
Our first panel featured a discussion around the manifestations and enduring effects of institutional and colonial violence in the academy through a panel presented by Travis Wysote and Sundus Abdul Hadi.
Travis Wysote was the first of the day to share his experiences with us, Wysote is a Phd student in Humanities and [INSERT BIO]. To situate the university as a technology of settler-colonialism, Wysote spoke directly to the violent role of institutions of higher education in facilitating the ongoing occupation of Indigenous land throughout Turtle Island:
“The whole idea of education, as we understand it right now, the type of institution that we’re in right now naturalizes colonialism, it has to just to exist. And it’s an outcropping of religious teaching – missions and churches and all these sorts of institutions – that were created to more or less fabricate a ‘consenting paradigm’ in order to allow this land to be dispossessed. So, I think that in many ways the academy is still doing that. Dene political scientist Glen Coulthard has a fantastic book called Red Skin, White Masks (which is a play on Frantz Fanon’s excellent work Black Skin, White Masks). If you read that be really critical of his sexism, but it’s a very good book. What Glen Coulthard argues basically is that post-secondary is an extension of the residential school system because what it’s basically trying to do is take Indigenous people off the land and put them in schools. If they have jobs, if they’re literally not on the land, they’re not in the way of your pipeline. Period. The more Indigenous bodies you actually have on the land, that’s more obstacles you have”.
Wysote contextualized the specific, embodied effects of colonial violence on Indigenous university students and described the kinds of support networks and resources that are lacking for Indigenous students whose communities are working to resist ongoing and systemic projects of occupation and colonization:
“We’re being attacked on every possible level of our existence, our relationships are being poisoned, our families are being turned against each other, they’re being divided. This is my support network when I’m in school right? How many people have families at home that they call and they relate to, you know? But when you’re Indigenous sometimes your family is out fighting something crazy, fighting the government you know?”
In illuminating the particular barriers faced by Indigenous students, Wysote calls attention to reality that in order to support Indigenous students, universities must recognize and address the specific ways in which Indigenous students are excluded, their knowledges deemed illegitimate and their support networks threatened by ongoing colonial violence. And as a first step in interrupting colonial racism and oppression in the academy, Wysote suggests a collective acknowledgment of the ways in which our universities reproduce the colonial violence upon which they are founded.
Sundus Abdul Hadi complemented Wysote’s analysis with her own stories, as a current master’s student in communications born to Iraqi parents in the UAE in 1984 and raised in Montreal. Abdul Hadi is also a painter and multi-media artist, working around the concepts of media representation, and subverting existing images. Sundus Abdul Hadi shared her experiences in the university navigating racism throughout her arts education post-9/11. One story in particular, describes Abdul Hadi sitting through arts classes where violent and oppressive misrepresentations of Arab identities went uncontested and artistic expressions deemed ‘other’ were either silenced or ignored:
“And then I started having professors trying to tell me to stop and trying to tell me ‘you should do work other than about Iraq, try to move away from that subject’ and I’m like I can’t, this is what’s happening right now and this is what’s speaking to me and this is what I need to say. My critiques used to be a lot of silence”.
In comparison to her experiences as an undergraduate student in studio art, Adbul Hadi now recognizes how crucial supportive departments, professors and peers has been to her success in her master’s degree in communications, which prioritizes socially conscious critique and where ‘othered’ identities are represented and given space:
“I feel supported, I know that’s a very rare experience which is why I feel blessed every day. Thank God, thank God that I feel I have a support system with my professors who respect my opinions, who respect where I’m coming from who are not trying to change me or guide me in any certain way. I don’t have to compromise my voice and I know every day that that is not the norm and I know that a lot of people probably had to fight to get to that point. And I’m hoping it continues. And the more I see people like me, the more I’m feeling like there’s power in numbers, and that this is starting to change, things are starting to change a little bit and it’s about literally the work that has been done in the past creating more a welcoming environment”.
In contrasting these two experiences, Abdul Hadi highlights the transformative power of representation and collective commitments to carving out space for identities historically excluded from the university. She describes the alienation that is felt by students of colour whose classrooms lack both representation and culturally appropriate frameworks for understanding knowledges beyond the white, Western/Euro-centric academic standard. Her stories and expertise demonstrate the urgency of addressing institutional exclusion through self-representation and meaningful support for students, expressions and knowledges deemed ‘other’ by the academy.
Our second panel emerged as an intimate talk-show style conversation between artists Kai Cheng Thom and Kama La Mackerel discussing community, art, success and healing in the face of transphobia and racism across institutions.
Kai Cheng Thom is a fiery writer, performer, spoken word artist, drag-dance sensation, essayist, and poet. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir was recently published followed by her poetry collection a place called No Homeland. Thom is also as a social worker and co-founder of Monster Academy Montreal, a radical mental health initiative for youth. During her conversation and interview with artist Kama La Mackerel, Kai Cheng Thom shared stories, experiences and advice for women of colour in the publishing world – and transwomen of colour especially.
Thom spoke specifically to the realities of trans women navigating oppressive institutions in which financial precarity and employment discrimination are used as methods of exclusion from the resources and access that make art-making possible:
“There is one reality that I think most trans women of colour inhabit, particularly those of us who have transitioned or come out, I don’t like those terms necessarily but you kind of know what I mean, in our generation and generations before, is one of frankly economic hardship. You know, like employment discrimination is rife against trans women, particularly those of us who don’t conform to binary ideals of gender and what women are, quote unquote, supposed to look like or not. And with that economic discrimination also comes like a class culture, meaning that a lot of trans women, particularly trans women of colour are not equipped to enter the world of publishing and particularly literary publishing”.
Economic and institutional systems of discrimination are not only a barrier to art production but dually act to foster a ‘sense of scarcity’ and competition which Kama La Mackerel expanded on in response to Thom’s point. La Mackerel is a tio’tia:ke/Montreal-based performer, writer, poet, story-teller, curator and multi-disciplinary artist whose work explores aesthetic practices as forms of resilience, resistance and healing for marginalized communities. Kama’s work is both deeply personal and political, articulating an anti-colonial praxis through cultural production. Speaking between her experiences as an artist in community, activist and institutional contexts, La Mackerel described this scarcity as a function of the institution working to isolate marginalized people from collective power:
“Because that’s also what institutions do, institutions will give you the sense of scarcity, like only one of you can make it. As marginalized people we are always put into competition with each other, which leads to even more isolation, right?”
And for La Mackerel, resisting this ‘sense of scarcity’ is how to work towards emancipation, which requires working collectively to build ‘models of cooperation’ in the face of the isolation that marginalized artists are expected to embody:
“It’s such an important point: like for me it’s so important that if I’m going to make it there, I don’t want to make it on my own. I want to make it with all of my people, and part of the work, yes, for me, in terms of rethinking the question of integrity has always been around spaces. Or (…) whom do we carry with us. Because if you want to make it as the one trans woman who’s going to have a cover on a magazine, you’re going to be alone and do we want to be alone? I really believe in the model of co-operation as opposed to scarcity, as opposed to competition actually. Because our work is also about emancipation, and for emancipation to happen it has to be collective, it has to be every single one of us”.
Kai Cheng Thom followed-up with her own take on collaboration: “For me I cannot stress enough the importance of connecting with other marginalized artists, particularly women of colour”. And the two artists demonstrated this advice in the very design of their inter-realities panel as a talk-show style conversation between two trans women talking to each other. In doing so, Thom and La Mackerel consciously interrupted the mainstream and oppressive ‘singular trans women narrative’ that is so often expected by cis audiences. Thom summed it up for the group, simply put: “How you rise in institutions, while also making space for other people is that you just take other people with you as you go up”.
Kama La Mackerel furthered this idea, reminding us that we also resist competition and isolation and tap into our collective potential by loving each other! La Mackerel described this is in reflecting on her own strategies for resistance, asking, “how do we get rid of a capitalist, competitive, white supremacist system? And my answer, after all those years for me, is that true love is the answer”.
And finally, it is important that Kai Cheng Thom and Kama La Mackerel are not only creating art that represents trans women, women of colour and marginalized identities, but also that they are both dedicated to creating platforms for people to self-represent and express and share their own stories. Throughout their conversation, both artists contributed strategies for emerging artists working against systemic injustice and barriers, adding that facing and responding to these injustices, as La Mackerel suggests, becomes part of the work “because the angry trans woman poem is also a great poem, you know? It’s a literary piece”. And when asked how to tap into our individual and particular experiences, how to find our stories, Kai Cheng Thom offers us direction:
“We are born wanting, we live wanting, being hungry, needing more love, needing more attention, needing more space, needing more voice, needing more words, needing more strength, this feeling of just wanting. And I think we’re not given any space to acknowledge this, right? Like we’re taught just to be invisible, to disappear, to be self-sacrificing, to give away and those kinds of things. And I think honestly one of the most important parts of finding your story is giving voice to that wanting, like what is it that you want? How long have you wanted it? What did it feel like to have that desire? What was its shape? What was its colour? What did it make you dream about? Just allowing ourselves that room to be selfish. To be centred on the self, because we’re taught not to have selves as women and women of colour, right? To be completely self-less and when we can find that selfishness in ourselves, I wanted something, I didn’t get it. I needed something, it wasn’t given. This is your story, this is your story”.
The inter-realities event then culminated in our first community consultation, centred around the question of how to collectively transform our academic spaces, facilitated by our own Outreach Coordinator Annick MF and freelance journalist, writer, consultant, filmmaker, and radio host Aimee Louw. We designed the consultation to be a platform for reflection and brainstorming in response to the stories, experiences and expertise shared throughout the day’s two panels and as a means to identify which issues are important to our community, what still needs to be done, and how best to support this work going forward. The consultation came together around five key realities identified by our community as foci for addressing institutional injustice:
- Building on Kama La Mackerel’s description of the model of cooperation, we must recognize, question and resist the ways in which our institutions encourage competition over cooperation and we must approach our alliances and allyship under a framework of friendship and care. From experience, we have seen that allies, particularly allies with privilege and power, risk appropriating the stories of the marginalized groups they are working with. Allies should work to protect and value each other’s stories rather than exploit them for opportunities, resources, careers or social capital.
- Accessibility is one of the primary barriers facing students, this includes physical accessibility, access to wellness and support on campus and access to alternative opportunities for learning for students with different learning styles. Our universities must prioritize accessibility as central to the project of fostering inclusion, not as an afterthought, and this will require the expertise and experience of marginalized members of our community who have been navigating inaccessibility in higher education.
- And relatedly, we must focus on mental health and improving mental health services in our universities. Mental health is essential to student success, and yet across universities, students face difficulty accessing adequate mental health services and face oppression in the bureaucratic processes required for access. Students are often penalized (attendance, late assignments) for prioritizing their mental health while their needs are not being met by student services, at times, students feel their only option is to resort to a performance of desperation in order to be seen and supported as only in moments of crisis is student mental health taken seriously.
- We must acknowledge that part of what keeps meaningful inclusion from moving forward is that we are speaking across a ‘divide’ within the institution where efforts for inclusion and building open and sustainable care networks seem to get lost. What we are trying to create is a space and environment we have not yet seen, and the reality is that those in positions of institutional power have, for the most part, never experienced and do not understand the systemic injustice that students are trying to address.
- And finally, in addition to navigating institutional injustice, marginalized students are tasked with educating members of the university who are not informed about systemic oppression. In classrooms and spaces lacking representation and populated primarily by white and cis professors, peers and staff, this unrecognized and uncompensated labour is expected from marginalized and underrepresented students who are repeatedly called-on to explain injustice to the privileged. Especially in accessing student services or classroom support, marginalized students must first inform professors and staff about their realities, as staff lack adequate training for the support of all students and student realities.
Some of themes that come out of our inter-realities consultation, especially around frameworks of care, were reiterated and expanded upon in our follow-up bordered-realities community consultation.
We acknowledge and thank our participants and speakers for joining us in consultation and for their generous and essential contributions to this work. We also want to thank you for the work you do to make our communities better places in which to learn, live and create. And if these experiences and stories resonate with you, or if you have your own story to share, please reach out to us at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.
And we would like to thank our hosts at Concordia’s Milieux Institute, our co-organizers the Committee for Equity and Visibility in the Academy (CEVA), and our sponsors the Concordia Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS), the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the McGill Black Students’ Network (BSN).