We must always remember that in any country that claims to be a democracy, that the real power is with the people. We have been taught not to exercise our power, to limit our voices to just voting once every four years in elections; but to only do that is an abdication of both our powers and our responsibilities to the people, because when you have a power, you always have a corresponding responsibility with it, and now is literally the time to take back that power, and force the changes that we need to ensure social justice, and earth justice, all over Turtle Island because . . . nothing is changing, everything is being firmly cemented in the status quo, and for many Black and Indigenous peoples things are getting worse, not better, and that’s in 2020.
— Dr. Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University.
Dr. Palmater’s words quoted here capture the prevailing spirit of an unprecedented event last week that brought academics and social justice activists together online to protest and resist the relentless anti-Black, Indigenous and People of Color police killings in the U.S. and Canada: Scholar Strike Canada.
Palmater’s was but one of the many powerful statements made during the two-days of sessions. It was an organized, systematic intervention of labour action/teach-ins/social justice advocacy, that sought to raise critical consciousness, spark intellectual conversations, and share stories drawn from experiential knowledges and lived realities. The online space that was created was a space that belonged to all; a space where all spoke a language of hope; and a space where change was imaginable and achievable.
As part of the Diversity and Equity Committee, I volunteered to write this short post, but there is much more I could say. Ever since the Strike, I have shared the stories with everyone who crossed my path. As a racialized Arab-Canadian woman in the West, and as a Syrian national silenced by the grip of a stern political and patriarchal system, throughout my life I have yearned for such spaces, and it was truly exhilarating to find myself in one for two continuous days last week.
Like thousands of other academics, I re-directed my classes and encouraged my students to attend at least two teach-ins and post their critical reflections on Blackboard. Their responses have been a true manifestation of Freire’s notion of “Conscientization” (knowing reality in order to transform it), and by way of ending, I will share only a few lines of what was written by one of our own MRU students:
“I am thankful that we live in a world where we are not afraid to see the issue and work together to help solve it. By no means do we live in a perfect world where we are anywhere close to fixing and addressing all the world problems but by bringing in light . . . we are taking a step forward. It shows through the Scholar-Strike, it shows through my classmates’ responses and it shows by our everyday actions.”—Alexis Phan
All of the Scholar Strike Canada Sessions are available on Youtube. The detailed program and links are at https://scholarstrikecanada.ca/schedule/
Ghada Alatrash, PhD – September 14, 2020
MRFA, Diversity and Equity Committee