FES seminar series to explore issues of race and disability

The Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Transforming Violent Environments Seminar Series is gearing up for another year of talks. Drawing on the ideas examined last term, the three seminars will explore issues of race, disability, creative arts and burnout.

Resisting White Supremacy PosterThe first seminar, “Resisting White Supremacy, Colonialism and Racism on Campus,” will take place Jan. 20, from 2:30 to 4pm, in Room 307, Student Centre, Keele campus. The seminar will include speakers Mosa Neshamá McNeilly (FES), Jesse Thistle (Aboriginal Students’ Association at York) and Alexandria Williams (York United Black Students’ Alliance, Cops off Campus, Black Lives Matter). It is organized by FES Professors Honor Ford-Smith, Jin Haritaworn and Stefan Kipfer. The seminar series is presented by the Equity Committee and the Accessibility Community Equity (ACE) Committee in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

McNeilly is a celebrant and conjurer of beauty in a thirsty world. She engages in the slow, incremental practice of cultivating spiritual consciousness by bringing her attention to embodying the sacred in all aspects of daily life. She allows resonance, love and outrage to guide her in her artistic, political and academic work.

Thistle is a Métis/Cree from Saskatechewan and is the president of the Aboriginal Students Association at York University. He is a junior historian and researcher. His research focuses on using historical data within Aboriginal communities to heal unresolved colonial/intergenerational trauma.

Williams is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in theatre at York University and has been involved in various art forms in the City of Toronto. Acting in productions of The Vagina Monologues and hosting the 2014 production of Insatiable Sisters, Williams has taken her love for theatre to teach children with the Winter Community Arts Council, which focuses on teaching arts to children who live and learn in the Jane and Finch community. As former member of Toronto’s professional step troupe Black Ice, she performed in various competitions around the United States. During her time as president of the York United Black’s Student Alliance, she led protests addressing racial profiling on campus and creating the collective Cops of Campus. As the York Federation of Students’ fine arts director, she redirected her love for performance to a zeal of Black community advancement through art and positive recreation by becoming one of the collective members of Black Lives Matter:

The second seminar, “Creative Activisms: Disability and Deaf Arts,” will take place Feb.10, from 2:30 to 4pm at 140 Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building, Keele campus. The panel discussion will include activists, scholars and artists exploring disability and deaf arts practice. One of the panellists, Cara Eastcott, has done much work in the disability and arts community. She is currently the outreach and community engagement coordinator for Tangled Art and Disability, an organization that presents a multidisciplinary festival by artists with various disabilities. Micha Cárdenas, whose work involves using technology as a form of art, will also be participating in this seminar in addition to Jonathan Clarkson and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, social activist, writer, poet and educator.

The final seminar, “Attention: Burnout’s Hazards, Handle with Care,” will be held March 17, from 12:30 to 2pm at 140 Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building, Keele campus. This seminar will be different than previous ones as it will be an experiential venue for participants to explore the act of recognizing the hazards of burnout. Both Lu Lam and Yuk-Lin Renita Wong will be facilitating this seminar. Lam is a trans-identified educator who provides counseling and consulting on an array of LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS issues.

Lam has provided workshops on self-care and on mindful awareness and compassion for gendered and trans communities. Wong is a professor at York University who has an interest in deconstructing the colonial, racial, and gender power relations in the knowledge production and discursive practices of social work. One of Wong’s research projects concerns the development of a multi-language and multi-ethnic mental health consumer/survivor self-help model for radicalized minority communities.

ASL will be provided at the seminars. The venues are scent-free, wheelchair accessible and close to accessible and gender neutral washrooms.

Stay tuned for an upcoming seminar with Julia Chinyere Oparah from Mills College and others, on prisons and environmental justice, which will be taking place on April 30.

The FES Transforming Violent Environments Seminar Series began in fall 2014 with captivating sessions “African Jazz in Toronto, Safe Space: Violence, Sex and the City with Dr. Christina Hanhardt” and “Rethinking the Government of Extraction: Critiquing Global Transparency Discourse in the Oil Sector”. They provided discussions on the topics of race, sexuality, gender, government and extraction. The seminars were well-attended and sparked engaging conversations.

The first seminar took place at the blakbird, a jazz bar owned by Master in Environmental Studies alumnus Frank Francis. Francis and his panel of renowned Canadian musicians explored the topic of black African music in Toronto and Canada. The second seminar focused on safe space and the city and included a lecture by Christina Hanhardt with responses by Río Rodríguez and Kelsey Rideout, and was chaired by Jin Haritaworn of the Faculty of Environmental Studies. The final seminar of 2014 was hosted by FES Professor Anna Zalik with special guests Augustina Adusah-Karikari and Isaac Asume Osuoka, and featured a panel discussion on rethinking the government of extraction.

For more information about the Series, visit the ACE website. To discuss how to make events accessible, contact ACE at fesequity@gmail.com.

By Kurt Reid, Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate assistant