By Elaine Smith
A celebration featuring speeches, performances and community connections on Jan. 25 marked the official launch of York University’s Countdown to Congress 2023.
The event drew the community together ahead of York hosting the largest academic gathering in Canada, in partnership with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences this spring.
The launch previewed how scholarship, art and community will come together at Congress 2023 to create impact. The event is being sponsored at York by Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic, and Amir Asif, vice-president research & innovation.
Andrea Davis, professor of humanities and the convenor of Congress 2023, opened the launch by reminding attendees that the Congress 2023 theme, Reckonings & Re-Imaginings, includes both acknowledging “that these Americas are built on violence and erasure” and “inviting dialogue across our disciplinary, cultural, historical and geographic boundaries about which actions we might take together … to produce a different set of relationships and a different kind of world.”
According to Rhonda Lenton, York’s president and vice-chancellor, “Congress 2023 provides a crucial opportunity for us to reflect on how Canada can continue to strengthen our impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) including understanding the intersection of race, gender, Indigenous and geopolitical issues.”
The audience was treated to samples of art and community engagement. Fourth-year students in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), Iris Moon, a jazz vocalist, and Tricia Bent, a pianist, offered two musical selections: “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key” and “Misty.” Members of Culture Philippines of Ontario – dancers Justine del Rosario and Alvin Gadong and musicians Carlo Lopez and Francis Tortola – also performed Paunjalay, a pre-nuptial dance from the Indigenous Yakan community in the southern Philippines. York professor Patrick Alcedo, Chair of the Department of Dance, is a cultural consultant and research collaborator for their Mississauga-based dance company.
Joel Ong, associate professor of computational arts in AMPD, presented a video offering a brief glimpse into the living virtual archive of the Firgrove neighbourhood that borders the Keele campus – an area that has been subject to ongoing urban redevelopment upheaval. During Congress 2023, the Gales Gallery will showcase this mixed-media oral narrative project about Firgrove, as “part of our assiduous relationships and partnership building with our friends in the Jane-Finch community,” said Ong.
Lenton expressed her appreciation for everyone planning Congress 2023 and its related events, noting, “We are incredibly grateful for your vision and support in making this significant opportunity a reality as we look forward to welcoming the world to York University.”