by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
With reading week making campus activity become relatively quiet, it allowed many future post-secondary students to engage in numerous activities in the name of social justice.
Students and teachers from a multitude of high schools within Windsor-Essex were in the CAW Centre’s Ambassador Auditorium for the 11thannual High School Social Justice Forum the morning of Oct. 14. The event was presented by the Teachers for Global Awareness, which consists of members of multiple local districts including the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation and the university’s own Faculty of Education.
With over a dozen workshops, the forum touched on a variety of social issues through the underlying theme of empowerment, essentially providing positive reinforcement according to Teachers for Global Awareness co-chair Amy Tesolin.
“Sometimes in the past some of the workshops have been inspiring because people want to make a difference because things are going so poorly,” Tesolin said. “But in this year the focus has really been positive and how to empower people.”
Navigating the Ambassador Auditorium was a challenge as the room was packed with students who were there to attend the forum’s keynote, which did away with the conventional speech making route for something more artistic.
With a rich background in teaching and performing arts, Leslie McCurdy took the makeshift stage to perform scenes from her one woman show ‘Things My Fore-Sisters Saw’, which highlights how African women were able to bring positive change in Canada by taking a stand. McCurdy emulated figures like Mary Ann Shadd, the first black female publisher in North America, and Viola Desmond who took a stand against segregated seating in a Nova Scotia theater.
Through changes big or small, the multi-faceted performance illuminated the courage these figures had in going against the grain in the name of what was right.
“Often, circumstances in life will put you in a position where you have a choice, and many of us come into situations where you have a choice one way or another,” McCurdy said. “I just portrayed women that made the choice to do something positive to make change.”
McCurdy says she has performed this particular show across the country for nearly two decades, and has found the audience reception to be highly impactful as people tend to be more inclined to prop up and be attentive to an artistic, but educational performance as opposed to the standard keynote speech.
“A lot of times you need history, and it’s in words and books,” McCurdy said. “You don’t necessarily realize that those were people that are very much like ourselves, and I think in seeing the characters perform live, the people get to connect with history with real people that had real lives like we all do.”
Following the keynote, the students migrated to Dillon Hall where several workshops were occurring simultaneously, touching on issues like mental health, feminism, politics and art activism from community activists.
Involved as a contemporary art curator at the Art Gallery of Windsor, Srimoyee Mitra helmed a power of art workshop, where students were able to see how art itself can act as a canvas for social justice. One major example included in the workshop was the use of posters, and how city resources like a billboard stand can be utilized as a soapbox to bring a particular issue to light.
“They subvert, they used that billboard which has this huge presence to portray their messages, and thereby what they’re doing is sort of interweaving their message within the larger, broader public,” Mitra said.
With the diverse array of information being dispersed throughout the morning and afternoon, Tesolin ultimately hopes the forum inspires students to simply put their thoughts into action.
“Get involved, get active, you can make a difference,” Tesolin said. “There are existing platforms, but we’re also looking for students to come up with their own ways to address issues that are very personal and particular to them, and so that’s where the passion is.”