Black History Month Spotlight: Viola Desmond

viola_desmond_700x400_with_name

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we shed light on a historic Black Canadian figure. Viola Desmond was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She initially trained to become a teacher but decided to change career paths. She was a successful businesswoman who owned a barbershop and hairdressing salon business in partnership with her husband, Jack Desmond. In the midst of her business’ expansion, Viola left for New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946 to pursue a brighter future for her business.

It is in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia where Viola Desmond makes a name for herself as one of the most influential and remarkable people – especially as a woman – during times of segregation between Blacks and Whites. Viola Desmond innocently went to the movie theatres one night in New Glasgow and decided to take a seat in the main floor of the theatre. Unbeknownst to her, this specific theatre had specific tickets for African Canadians – who should be seated in the balcony area – and White Canadians – who may be seated in the main floor of the theatre, where the movie can be better seen. Upon being asked to leave her seat and relocate to the segregated seat she was intended to sit in, she refused. The police were called and Viola Desmond was charged without being advised of her right, ending in her spending the night in jail.

The following morning, she paid the fine of $20 for the alleged crime and was charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia with the difference in tax between a ground floor ticket at the movie theatres and a balcony seat ticket. The difference amounted to approximately one cent.

Desmond courageously decided to fight the charges against her, understanding that the issue was not surrounding around the idea that it was tax evasion, but rather, inherently racist. Viola Desmond took the case to court, where she was able to gain public opinion on the matter both locally in her own community, nationally, and internationally. This issue raised significant awareness on segregation within Canada.

Viola Desmond’s arrest quickly caught the attention of the Black Canadian community. The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) raised money to per her fine and help her to fight against her charges. Carrie best – the founder of Nova Scotia’s first Black owned and operated newspaper, publicized her story in order to truly amplify her message and spread awareness.

As a result of the garnered attention generated by Demond’s case, the government of Nova Scotia had no choice but to eliminate segregation laws. In 1954, the government completed repealed them.

This was quite a significant turning point in the history of segregation within Canada as it revealed and exposed the fact that segregation was still real and alive within Canadian borders. At that time, there was a notion that Canada was the safest place for Black people who are being racially discriminated and segregated internationally to go to. Canada was put on a pedestal for being “free of segregation and racial discrimination,” when in reality, such practices were still very much alive and not eradicated. This event urged the Canadian community – who was expected to be an ally in the Black Civil Rights Movement – to take corrective action and implement more inclusive and culturally-aware laws and policies into legislation. It significantly sparked the wave of Canadian Black Civil Rights movement, urging Canadians to explore, expose, and correct issues surrounding racism and racial discrimination within our own borders.

This event truly catapulted Canada’s policies and legislations towards a more progressive and inclusive direction. The Canadian government began consciously implementing more diverse, multicultural, and inclusive laws in the years to follow that incorporates Black Canadians into Canadian culture as valued members of society. As a result of the corrective action that followed after this event, Canadian people adopted a more culturally aware, inclusive, and diverse ideology about race. The issue of racism was brought to the forefront of social justice issues and light was being shed on racial discrimination as being very much so present in Canadian society, contrary to popular opinion.

This event ignited a very important movement in Canadian society. It sparked the discussion and the need for action towards a society that is built on a foundation of diversity and multiculturalism. Viola Desmond remains an influential historical figure in Canadian history who, despite how little her action back then may have seemed, took an action that is not only significant but extremely powerful.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=13

http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/249537

http://canada.metropolis.net/EVENTS/ethnocultural/publications/historical.pdf

The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

A Letter to My First-Year Self

dearletter

I’ve always enjoyed this kind of writing style; the kind where an older and wiser person tells the younger and dumber version of themselves what they wish they knew in hopes that other younger and dumber folks will use their advice to become older and wiser faster.  They also serve as a good laugh for the current older and wiser.  They are all similar in some ways but I still enjoy them and see their merit.  I’ve never been in a position to write one of these writing pieces until now.  As I begin my fourth year of university, I can write a letter to my first-year self.  There’s tons of “do and don’t” articles for university, first year, residence, etc. out there and I don’t want this to be one of those pieces.  I won’t be standing up on a soapbox telling you what to do if you’re in first year.  I’m not an expert on the university experience; I didn’t live in residence, I’ve never been to Brunswick House and I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, but I  think I’ve grown during my time at Ryerson.

I just started my fourth year of the Bachelor of Social Work program; it’s going to take some time to get used to hearing that I’m a fourth year.  Beyond course work, I think I’ve learned some valuable lessons about life, people, surviving university etc. during my  experience thus far.  I like to think I’ve come a long way from the hot mess first year walking around downtown Toronto in a blazer with spikes on the shoulders, red lipstick, heeled boots and earrings that should strictly be reserved for the nightclubs.  While that girl makes appearances at times, I think I’ve learned some things since that awkward and fashionably questionable time in my life.  So here is a letter to my first year self:

It’s first semester and you have found your people; your friends, your soul mates, your rocks, your supports, whatever you want to call them.  That’s all going to come crashing down when you don’t have classes together next semester.  Your close friends will greatly depend on who you have classes with each semester.  Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to have close friends you see regularly, even when you don’t have classes together, but you’ll see the people you have classes with much more often.  These will be the people you sit with, go for coffee breaks with, grab lunch after class with, complain with and who will know how you are on a day-to-day basis.  These people may change every semester and that’s okay.

So, how do you deal?  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  You don’t need a clique, this is not high school.  There seems to be a pattern amongst the cliques in university.  First, no one will know your name.  The people in your program who are not in cliques will simply refer to your group with an identifying phrase.  For example, the short girls that sit together.  Second, you will not make any friends outside of your group because that’s how cliques work which will ultimately lead to my third noticed pattern, when you have a class without your clique, you will likely be sitting alone.  Don’t be too concerned about finding “your group”; you’re much better off meeting plenty of people.

I had an idealized version of what my new life would be like when I moved to Toronto and that included a boyfriend.  I knew most of the guys in my hometown and they were not for me (no offence Niagara boys but we have met and we are not each other’s types).  That fantasy never panned out and I will admit, first year me was quite disappointed.  Listen up first-year me, it doesn’t matter.  There are so many cooler things you can do in university than having a boyfriend.  You also may not have time to have a significant other.  Think of how busy your life is going to be with classes, placement, new friends, volunteering, part time jobs, and all the things you can do in Toronto.  Where would you fit him in?  Save the boyfriend for a better time.

Your apartment, your room in your parents’ house, your residence room, or wherever you reside, is going to be messy.  Even the tidiest of people will succumb to the big choices in university; doing readings or cleaning, writing a paper or cleaning, going out with your friends or cleaning.  Cleaning never wins.  Keep in mind that we are at the epicentre of cockroaches and bed bugs so a certain amount of cleanliness is still a good idea.

A class may not be your cup of tea; don’t be afraid to drop those classes.  There have been several classes where during the second week I’ve had a gut feeling that I would not enjoy this class.  I stayed in those courses because I was worried about having to catch up in a new course.  I wish I had dropped all of those courses because catching up in a new course would have been better than staying in a course I did not like.  The bottom line is you’re paying for this and should enjoy it.

It’s okay to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night.  University is tiring to the point where most of my classmates reserved Friday nights to stay home and rest, especially when placement started in third year.  There is nothing nerdy about doing readings or an assignment on a Friday or Saturday night.  On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with dropping all of your responsibilities for a night and going out or having a Netflix night.

Work hard; go to class, get good grades, get involved, volunteer.
Play hard; explore Toronto, meet new people, make new friends, try new things.

The jacket with spikes on the shoulders from first year.

The jacket with spikes on the shoulders from first year.

Top image from: dating.lovetoknow.com

Stay motivated and be thankful!

We all know how difficult school can be in midterm and exam season. We have all heard about university drop-outs who became billionaires. At some point, you may have thought about whether school is still the right option for you. I will offer my thoughts in this blog post.Anxiety

University is full of new opportunities. From career centre to speaking with professors during office hours to participating in extra-curricular activities, you get to connect with people who are there to help you through your academic journey. They are there to offer you advice and help you become a better person. You never know what will happen once you take the first step. Sometimes there are unadvertised part-time positions and only way to know about them is through networking. Ask your professor about possible volunteer opportunities that will help you greatly with graduate school applications.

You may be enrolled in a professional degree program but don’t want to pursue that career after graduating. You may realize you wanted to be an actor rather than an engineer. Having a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree can open up new opportunities. It is much better to have a degree since it will give you a leg up when applying for jobs. Furthermore, having a degree or being enrolled in a university program allows you to apply for various internships. If your program has a co-op option, give it a try. It will allow you to gain necessary experience before graduation. Pursuing co-op option can help you land a job right after graduation while having no degree will put you at disadvantage.

Overall, being a university student allows you to meet people who may have the same passion and determination as you. You will meet friends who will look after you and support you during hard times. There is no better feeling than being surrounded by people who understand you. University allows you to discover who you really are and your possible career choice. Get involved in extra-curricular activities as soon as you start university. Do not lose hope and don’t give up easily. Don’t be afraid to do what you always dreamt of, and what’s a better time to do it than the time you have in university! There will be moments when you will notice that you cannot keep up with everything. This is when you have to tell yourself that giving up is not an option. Take one step at a time, stay motivated and be thankful for this opportunity.

Blogging Inclusion

photo of a computer keyboard with a finger hitting a key which reads 'blog'

At its most basic definition inclusion means the act of being included. But who gets included, included in what, included where and how? Inclusion is a messy idea. An idea whose meaning for me maybe very different from your meaning. Part of this may depend on the different levels of privilege or oppression that are our starting points.

Inclusion is now a buzzword. Agencies and organizations all want to ensure they are providing inclusive opportunities for disabled persons. What does this means for those who are labelled as disabled? In some cases, it means buildings and spaces are now open to everyone, that services are available to those who require accommodation. Creating a society in which everyone can be included if they choose to is of enormous value but is being included in the dominant narrative what everyone wants? Social inclusion has become more about ‘a set of normative practices’ – about consumption and lifestyle, and identity – than the transformation of society. The emphasis is now being placed on the individual, and their social engagement and activity rather than the societal structures that create exclusion and marginalization.

So how can people speak back to this excluded process of inclusion? Storytelling and personal narrative is one way. The internet and blogging platforms have enabled some marginalized people to create their own space, an online community in which new forms of normality and inclusion can be shaped. Disable people have expressed their lack of desire and/or ability to reach the standards set by social inclusionary policy and practices by seeking out and developing other ways and spaces within which to experience inclusion. One disabled blogger, Agent Fang, writes, “originally when I started this blog, it was for the purpose of cathartic ranting. Rubbish hotels, dealing with my impairments, crappy employment experiences, you name it, I bitched about it. It was great. Another great thing was that a lot of other people were doing it too … I felt a real sense of online community with other disabled people. Blogging was a new craze and we owned a little corner of it.” (http://fangworld.blogspot.ca/).

While bloggers and their sites ebb and flow over time, the pronounced desire for an inclusive community outside of normative values does not. Blogs and communities like The Body is Not an Apology, Diary of a Goldfish, Ragged Edge, Blogging Against Disableism Day and Autistics Speaking Day – Taking Back Autism Awareness, to name a few, are some of the online communities who are alive and well who are forging pride online.

Write this Winter

a photograph of a spiral notebook wih a pen.  It is resting ontop of a laptop keyboard.

The holidays are over and the cold weather appears to be settling in. If you are anything like me, then you are probably in hibernation mode, glass of mulled wine in one hand and book in the other, waiting (apprehensively) for the reality and deadlines of this semester’s papers to hit you. To help get you (and myself) motivated to shake off that holiday fueled brain fog, here are some tips that I have been trying.

Time Yourself

There is nothing worse that sitting down to write a paper and then finding a hundred other things to do online. Realizing too late that you spent 3 hours doing nothing. I have started timing myself and this seems to be helping. I started with 30 minutes and am now using a 1 hour alarm. It’s surprising how comforting it can be to know that you only have to work for another 15 minutes before you can take a break. While taking breaks can be helpful, I find this method ensures that I am at least getting some thoughts and ideas down before I surf facebook or procrasti-clean my apartment for the tenth time.

Try Listening instead of reading

I find that with the amount of research and readings I do for work and school, I have difficulty finding the energy to pick up another book. This is especially true when I am knee deep in research as I know reading for pleasure will become just another form of procrastination for me. I have been listening to audio books instead. The two apps I have been using are Overdrive and One Click e Audio. Both allow you to use your library card and borrow audio books. The great thing about audio books is that I only listen to them in transit and my tired. overworked eyes get a break. There are also a great selection of podcasts about writing that are free to download.

Change your scenery

I tend to write in my apartment, at my desk or table, or if I desperately need to feel relaxed I will try on the couch. However, I have started to take my write on the move. Have laptop/notebook will travel. It’s surprising how much of a difference this makes. It is worth it to source out the coffee shops, pubs or comfy hangs near you. Especially if they don’t have wifi. Breathe. Yes, I am suggesting that you go somewhere where there is no wifi. This can help you focus and get down to the business at hand.

Whatever you try to get you motivated this winter… just remember practice does make perfect. Or at least practice makes better.

 

Writing Exercises: 5 Ways to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

photograph of a hand holding a pen over a sheet of paper

Writing can be the most rewarding and difficult thing to do. Sometimes the idea of sitting down at your laptop or picking up a pen is terrifying and the guilt at not doing it can be overwhelming. It can help to have writing exercises which can focus your task. Just like any activity, writing gets easier with practice and exercise.

1. Free writing

In free writing exercises you sit down with a pen and paper and write for a short period of time, say 10 minutes. The key is not to let your pen leave the paper. Don’t stop writing and don’t edit. That is difficult. Most people’s internal editors are quite strong and we delete, scratch out and reword without even realizing it.

2. Guided Timed Writing

Sitting down to write for 10 minutes without stopping can seem impossible and somedays it is easier than others. For those time when you need a little extra help, try guiding your free writing. You can start with “I remember” and then every time you run out of something to say, go back to “I remember” and write the first things that come to mind. It’s surprising the places you can go with a phrase like “I remember.”

3. Take your note book on a road trip

Natalie Goldberg talks about how you need to be dumb to be a writer. You need to describe everything, all the details, you don’t take anything for granted. You don’t need to be clever, just write everything to notice. So take your note book to your local coffee shop, library, park bench or even your living room and see it, feel it, write it, with fresh eyes.

4. Don’t expect always to be interesting

Writing can consist of long stretches of nothing. There are time when I have nothing to write about that I write about not having anything to write about. Not the most riviting to read, but it gets me writing. This type of searching can lead to something interesting, but it may take several pages to get there. So be gentle with yourself and your writing, don’t assume that everything you write will be brilliant.

5. Try to do timed writing for several days in a row

Once you have a writing habit starting to form. Try sitting down and doing timed free writing for 10 or 15 days in a row. Don’t read what you have written. Then when you have passed the 10 or 15 days sit down with your writing, get comfortable and read. Highlight what you loved, underline, mark ideas that you want to carry on. You will be surprised and what you produced.

Dear Tracy Morgan…

Tmorgan
Dear Tracy Morgan,

I heard about your accident back in June, I’m really sorry to hear about that.  I also heard that you sustained a traumatic brain injury, I’m even sorrier to hear about that.  Traumatic brain injury is tough, the healing process is long and symptoms can be permanent.  I write this to you and indirectly to others who have sustained traumatic brain injuries, hoping that the knowledge I’ve gained over the past 6 years of having a brain injury could be useful and helpful to you.

In an interview, your lawyer recently said that you are fighting to regain your old self, pre-injury.  I’m going to be very honest with you because I don’t think health care professionals are always the most honest about our diagnosis and I don’t blame them because it can be scary, but you may never get back to your old self.  I know that’s really hard to hear and not the optimistic words people post-injury are looking for.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very optimistic but when it comes to brain injury I am optimistic about something different.  I am optimistic that you will be someone, maybe not your old self, but someone who lives a happy life.  You survived this brain injury and you’re living.

I would like to encourage you to stop trying to get back to your old self and put your energy into creating a new self.  Putting all of your time and energy into getting back to your old self is an exhaustive and potentially impossible mission that may leave you very discouraged and disappointed.  This energy would be better spent continuing to recover and when ready, creating a new self.  I sit on panels for Brain Basics training for professionals here in Toronto, Ontario and the person who runs the training always speaks about the new self.  It’s who we become and create post-injury because we won’t be the same; brain injury changes you in a number of ways and the old self may become a distant and foggy memory.

Depending on which part of your brain is injured, your personality may change.  Other symptoms may affect your mood, how you interact with others and how your body feels.  This takes a lot of time and it can be very frustrating but part of creating the new self is accepting that these new things are part of who you are.  For example, I hate going to the gym now, I struggle with fatigue and sometimes my words don’t come out in the right order but that’s just part of who I am now.

After a brain injury there’s a lot of things you won’t be able to do anymore.  For me, this was sports.  I’m sure there are things you enjoyed that you won’t be able to do anymore.  My best advice for this is to find something else to do; this is part of creating the new self.  I miss sports sometimes but I miss them a lot less now that I’ve found something else to do with my time.  If you’re having trouble thinking of something new to do, what is something you wanted to do but never had to the time for?  For me, this was volunteering and now I do that.

After a brain injury you may think of what you’ll miss out on and things you wanted to do but now you’ll never be able to.  I was 16 when I got my brain injury so this was a big deal for me.  I realized I would never be able to go scuba diving, surfing, jump out of a plane or bungee jump.  Not that I would have done all these things, but you never know.  It was just shocking to realize that if the opportunity presented itself to do these things; I would have to say no.  Whenever I get sad about what I might miss out on, I think of everything I was fortunate enough to do before the injury and think of all of the things I am still able to do post-injury.

If you are ever unsure about if something is safe for you, ask for someone’s advice whether that be a family member, friend or professional.  Sometimes those of us with brain injuries have problems with decision making and we need the extra support and that’s okay.  It may have been embarrassing that my mother showed up at the basketball court and made me leave but I realize now that was for the best as it was not safe for me to be there.  It’s all about calculating what is risky; I still go to concerts but I choose which ones based on what’s safe.  For example, I would not go to a concert where mosh pits would likely form.

Tracy, I really hope this was helpful and may have changed your perspective on where you put your energy for recovery.  You may never get back to your old self but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy life.

Sincerely,

Alyson Rogers

Sources:
http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/tracy-morgan-condition-update-lawyer-says-recovery-is-unlikely-27264

 

 

Social Justice Week At Ryerson

the flyer for the events for social justice week

Like many Ryerson students and alumni who don’t live near campus or who work during the day, I wasn’t able to make it to as many Social Justice week events as I would have liked, but what I did experience was profound.

I attended the entire day of workshops, lectures and performances on Thursday, October 9. This day was hosted by the School of Social Work and the School of Disability Studies. In the morning, I attended skills workshop entitled, New Media and Innovative Organizing. There were three panelists for this workshop. One focused on writing and narrative as a form of activism, another on digital story telling and the third on photographic voice as a research method. I think sometimes, activists get stuck on one kind of organizing and while I have seen the power and usefulness of marches and demonstrations, there is something so beautiful and subversive about using art as a way to speak back to the dominate narrative. however, this is not to say that it is easier. Issues with funding, research methodologies, soft vs. hard research and ways in which each panelist had dealt with these issues were discussed.

In the afternoon there were issues tables to discuss ways to practically start organizing. I attended a table hosted by some former members of the Social Work Anti-Oppression Coalition. These students organized when they were in the program to change the program and to work on unpacking their privilege. It was exceptionally powerful and sad to hear that this coalition no longer exists. The main speaker for this table discussion stated that the main reason for the success of the group was because they came from a place of love. This resonated with me. Winnie Ng, the holder of the CAW-Sam Gidin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy who organizes social justice week has said the same. I was lucky enough to be able to take Leadership for Social Action with her a couple of summer’s ago, in which she stated that social change starts with the heart, then moves to the hand. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said the same recently at a poetry slam; loving is a revolutionary act.

The final event of the day was a dance performance by Spirit Synott, an internationally renowned dancer and a group of Ryerson dance students. The performance, titled Dare, was beautiful and well choreographed considering the group collectively created the piece in a week. Sprit, who uses a wheelchair and the dancers highlighted the barriers faced by those who use mobility devices. This was highlighted even more by the fact that Spirit and the group could not rehearse at the dance studios as they are inaccessible. I hope recordings of this performance is viewed by the president of Ryerson University and changes are made to the inaccessible nature of our campus. Beyond that, I hope that everyone who attended social justice week, takes something away and collectively we work to make our campus a welcoming space for all bodies.

Poetry Slam with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha with her arms behind her back, her eyes closed and a large smile on her face about to burst with laughter

I walk up the ramp into the smaller-than-I-expected room. I see a friend, wave, sit. There is food in the corner, vegan friendly I hear. I am not sure what I expected but I feel like this isn’t it. Maybe it’s that the room isn’t full or that there are no obviously disabled folks. I have heard the work of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha before, seen video of her performances with Sins Invalid. In fact, I have studied her performances and poetry in classes. I have attempted to see her perform several times in the past and always been turned away at the door because the space was packed.

The room is quieted. The organizer recognizes the land that we occupy from native peoples, our nature as colonizers and our duty to respect the land and each other.

Leah begins talking. There is less poetry than I expected at this poetry slam but her talk resonates. She talks about the work of loving ourselves. The second by second revolutionary work that is loving a body subjected to multiple oppressions. The collective nature of this work. The need to change organizing to include bodies in all their leaky, needy, sexual, beautiful, reality so people don’t closet parts of themselves.

She moves into disability justice. Which is a reaction to the predominately white, wheel chair using disability rights movement. Disability justice seeks to create a movement in which people of colour, sick, crip, trans, queer people are not just members of a movement but leaders. A movement in all forms and expressions of disability and difference are accepted and where the hierarchy of disability/ability is abandoned.

Lastly, she speaks of prefigurative government. This is a new term for me. Rather than writing a paper on how to change things or describing what is wrong… You just do it. You put your practice where your theory is. I want to live in the world that Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes. She describes it so passionately with her talk, with her poetry. I can envision it. One where bodies, all bodies, queer, trans, people of colour, disabled, fat, sick, crip can just be. Not needing to be changed or fixed. A world in which the work of loving ourselves, all aspects of ourselves, is made less difficult by the social acceptance of our differences.

I will end this post with a poem by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Check out other poems and her blog on her website.

Working class lullabye

lost wallet out of your pants biking home

with EBT card and $100 to your name

means

I keep saying

it’s gonna be okay

it’s gonna be okay

in that mindless brain-stem rhythm

bred into me

cut hours

and $30 in the mahmoud darwish book for rent

going to the free queer clinic

and selling your father’s watch

rent party

and can I come over to use the washer cause I’m broke

means I keep saying

you’re gonna figure it out

you’re gonna figure it out

cause what else can I say

cause saying it

means it’s gonna happen

cause it’s a prayer

intention follows thought

rhythmic

and repetetive

a lullabye

that lets us get some sleep

in the bed we still own

as times continue to be hard

and sweet

because no promises

but our thin skin scamming greyhound

sharing a 92 accord

getting through