3rd Annual Decolonizing Our Minds Conference: Toronto: Sat March 19, 2011

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3rd Annual Decolonizing Our Minds Conference: Toronto: Sat March 19, 2011


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3rd Annual Decolonizing Our Minds Conference

Saturday, March 19 · 10:00am - 4:30pm
Medical Sciences Building- Auditorium
1 King's College Circle
Toronto, ON

The Equity Studies Students' Union, Caribbean Studies Students' Union, the Women Gender Studies Students' Union, and the Native Students Association proudly present the 3rd annual Decolonizing Our Minds conference! This year's conference theme is Narratives of Constructed Identities. It will be a day filled with panels, performances, and delicious foods dedicated to discussion around the process of decolonization within the settler-state of Canada.

By discussing these narratives of constructed identities, we seek to understand the ways in which European imperialism has forcibly imposed identities on indigenous and other colonized peoples on Turtle Island and around the world. We also examine the ways in which groups self-identify in resistance to hegemonic colonial discourse.

This conference will be a forum for voices that are often silenced within the university environment. It is a conference which speaks to the legitimacy of personal narrative amongst people who have been most marginalized within our society.

No registration is required and the conference is free.

The day's events are as follows:

10:00-10:30 - Opening Remarks by Laura Hall and a performance by the R3 Arts Collective

Laura Hall is a Research Associate for the Community-University Research Alliances project on Poverty, Homelessness, and Migration in Northern Communities. Laura Hall is currently completing a PhD in Environmental Studies through York University. Her work focuses on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainability - specifically through the sacred knowledge base of the Haudenosaunee. Her specializations include a decolonizing methodological approach to the ideology of modernization, with an emphasis on revitalizing the metaphysics of Indigenous Environmental Knowledge. As well, her work encompasses a qualitative, story-based approach, to learning and nurturing the Seven Generations thinking of Haudenosaunee sacred knowledge holders and communities.

R³ -An artists' collective focused on Resistance to colonial oppression, the attainment of Reparations for colonized peoples, and the Reclamation of Indigenous world views and life ways. Our objective is to raise funds and awareness for decolonization work, which encompasses all the efforts of colonized peoples to heal and rebuild our communities, recreate sustainable and self-sustaining grassroots economies, reclaim land and resources as well as spirituality, language, his/herstory and other aspects of culture eroded by colonization.

10:35-11:35- Panel 1: Narratives of queerness in the Caribbean culture
Speakers: Dianah Smith (A is for Orange), Amai Kuda (R3 Artist)

This panel will address the role of colonialism in shaping institutionalized homophobia in the Caribbean as well as within the Caribbean diaspora in Canada. It will examine how and why this history is ignored, erased and often negated in mainstream queer Canadian and American campaigns, movements and organizations while also, meditating on the complexity of the multi-dimensional struggle for Caribbean queer bodies, which encompasses struggles against racism, institutionalized xenophobia, sexism as well as homophobia. Furthermore, this panel will investigate the legacy of Caribbean queer organizing and activism in Canada and grapple with the possibilities of transnational alliance building between Caribbean-Canadian queer communities in Canada and queer communities in Caribbean region.

Dianah Smith is Jamaican-born, Ottawa-raised writer, teacher, arts educator and curator currently based in Toronto, Canada.She has been published in Siren, Flirt, and Shameless magazines and the anthology, She's Shameless: Women write about growing up, rocking out, and fighting back (Tightrope Books). Dianah is the recipient of several grants including an emerging writer's grant from the Toronto Arts Council and a Writing Mentorship grant from the Ontario Arts Council - she was mentored by Jamaican poet and short story writer, Olive Senior. Dianah teaches Autobiographical Writing courses for adults and Creative Writing workshops for at-risk youth. In 2006-2007, Dianah curated When the Rainbow Isn't Enough a monthly reading series sponsored by the Toronto Women's Bookstore featuring queer and trans emerging writers of colour and two-spirited emerging writers.

In 2005, Dianah founded ‘A' is for Orange a group for queer caribbean writers that aims to strengthen and build community by celebrating under-represented voices, sharing resources, and mentoring emerging writers. Dianah curates readings by ‘A' is for Orange in partnership with various organizations in Toronto.

Amai Kuda is a singer/songwriter, community activist and the mother of a young child. The name Amai Kuda means "mother to the will of the creator" in the southern African language Shona. Through parenthood, community work and art, Amai is a vehicle for creation and for change. She co-founded and coordinates three organizations, Moyo Wa Africa, Seven Directions and R3, dedicated to the decolonization of African peoples and to indigenous solidarity respectively. Given the name Salmon after her mother's poem Salmon Courage, which honours the legacy of struggle by her ancestors, she was handed the birthright of fighting the currents for the survival of those that will come after. By the age of nine she was already writing letters to members of parliament and launching her own campaigns for animal rights. And yes, she always had a passion for singing and the arts. But she didn't feel she could justify dedicating herself to her creative calling when there were struggles to be fought for basic human rights. At least she didn't feel she could until a tree told her she could. Yes a tree. It opened it's barky mouth and whispered in Tree: "sing." And she thought, "hey, maybe I can use my songs to fight for justice." She remembered that many of her ancestors sang their way out of chains. And so she sang. And everyday she listened to the trees to learn how to sing. And she learned. And everyday she continues to listen and get more and more full with all the tree songs. And then she walks around giving birth to songs all over Toronto. Sometimes on stages, but mostly on the street, the subway, her house, and of course, in parks with trees.

11:50- 12:00- Performance by Kayla Carter

12:05pm - 1:05pm - Panel 2: The Politics of Diaspora in the Canadian Nation/Settler-State
Speakers: Dina Georgis (University of Toronto Professor), Hussan Syed (No One Is Illegal Organizer), Sundus Balata, (more speakers to be confirmed)

This panel will examine the ways in which various diasporic communities and Indigenous communities are affected differently by system of citizenship in western nation-state, and particularly settler-states. The panel will address the history of colonialism in Canada that has displaced Native peoples from their land and the ways in which the Canadian nation-state has created oppressive categories of citizenship specifically for the purpose of managing Indigenous bodies and communities. This panel will incorporate a discussion about the specific histories of the diasporic communities so as to contextualize the lived realities documented and undocumented settlement of migrants on Turtle Island and investigate the complicity of Canada in these migrational trajectories. This panel will flesh out the differences in the struggles of diasporic and Indigenous communities in Canada while addressing past instances of political mobilization enacted in resistance to the Canadian nation-state, by grassroots organizations in these communities, and possibilities for allied acts of resistance and political organizing.

Dina Georgis is an Assistant Professor at Women and Gender Studies Institute and is nominally appointed to Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She writes on postcolonial, diasporic and queer cultures. Her work draws on theories of trauma, affect and mourning to think through how political cultures are made from loss. Her book, In Search of the Better Story: Anti-heroes, Queer Affects, and Postcolonial Monsters (under review with wlu Press), is a conversation among postcolonial studies, queer theory and psychoanalysis.

Syed Hussan is a migrant justice organizer in Toronto, dedicated to building a movement of justice and dignity for undocumented people. As a member of No One Is Illegal - Toronto, Hussan is committed to struggling in defense of indigenous sovereignty and against economic and military wars and environmental destruction.

Sundus Balata is completing masters in Political Science at McMaster University. She is specializing in Comparative Politics and International Relations. Sundus completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science at York University. Her research interest focuses on identity politics, national identity, how political communities come to forge nations with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. She has just returned from a humanitarian mission to Egypt and witnessed the unprecedented scenes from liberation square during news of Mubarak's resignation.

1:05pm - 2:20pm - Lunch

2:20pm - 3:20pm - Panel 3: The Intersection of Race and Disability in the Education System
Speakers: Erick Fabris (OISE Ph.D Candidate), Mercedes Umana Ph.D Candidate, Dr. Roberta K. Timothy, (more speakers to be confirmed)

This panel will investigate crucial barriers that Indigenous, racialized, and disabled students face in public and tertiary-level institutions of education. This panel will look at Canada's brutal colonial history of residential schooling, children's aid services, and appropriation of indigenous cultures and examine how it has shaped the contemporary education system. It will critically engage with questions around the impact of experiences of racism in exacerbating learning barriers with institutionalized education as they affect disabled, Indigenous and other racialized students. Additionally this panel will address the various ways in which dominant pedagogies have shaped and continue to shape how indigenous, racialized, and disabled students understand themselves and their external environment and the process of learning itself. How have these pedagogies worked to pathologize racialized with different disabilities in the education system? Finally this panel will look at anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-ableist initiatives that have been formulated and implemented in public schools and hypothesize on the possibilities of what an anti-racist, anti-ableist critical pedagogy looks like, and elaborate on examples where this is already being practiced.

Erick Fabris is a psychiatric survivor, PhD candidate at OISE, and soon to be author of Tranquil Prisons, a book about mandatory drugging as institutionalization. He uses an anti-oppression framework informed by Black Indigenous feminist thought and hermeneutic disability studies in madness narratives.

Mercedes Umana, B.Sc., M.Ed., Ph.D. Candidate, brings over 18 years of experience facilitating personal, community, and organizational development and healing processes locally and transnationally as an educator, therapist, researcher and consultant with Government Agencies, NGOs, Violence Against Women and Children agencies, in community health settings and in private practice. Mercedes areas of interest and expertise include Anti-Oppression Psychotherapy, community mental health, Health Psychology, trauma, post-traumatic growth, bereavement, HIV, and intersectional analysis and research methodologies in research and knowledge translation. Mercedes holds a Bachelor's and a Master's Degrees in Psychology, and is currently a Doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program for Psychology Specialists at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She is also an Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) Doctorate Fellow.

Dr. Roberta K. Timothy, B.A., M.A., M.Ed., Ph.D.*: For 20 years Roberta has worked utilizing anti-oppression approaches as a therapist, trainer, group facilitator, researcher, community organizer, professor, and clinical supervisor in Universities, Hospitals, Government Agencies, Community Health Centres, Violence Against Women and Children agencies, and in private practice. Roberta's areas of interest and expertise include the practice, research, and knowledge translation of Anti-Oppression Psychotherapy, critical expressive arts therapy, trauma and transgenerational intersectional violence; work culture and organizational change, Resistance Education, and Creative Resistance locally and globally. Roberta holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Sciences, Sociology and International Justice and Human Rights; two Masters Degrees in Political Sciences and Counseling Psychology, and a Doctoral Degree in Adult Education, Community Development and Women and Gender Studies. She is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto.

3:35- 4:00- Performance 3

4:00- 4: 30- Closing Speech -NSA (Native Students Association)

The Medical Sciences Auditorium is accessible and there will be ASL interpretation at this event. If there are any additional accessibility requests, please feel free to contact uoft.essu@gmail.comNo registration is required and the conference is free.

If any organizations are interested in tabling at this event, please contact uoft.essu@gmail.com