Comprehensive sexual education provided by universities can help students navigate their developing identities, relationships and choices

I know how to find the hypotenuse of a triangle. I can name each of the planets in our solar system. I can even list several literary devices. But if you ask me what I learned about sexual health over the span of the five years it’s taught in the public school curriculum, I could tell you nothing. Absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, the awkward giggles, bewildered expressions and uncomfortable atmosphere are all that’s cemented in my brain years later.  

As young adults transitioning from high school to university, life on campus introduces opportunities to explore new relationships, new experiences and new choices.  

However, as students begin to pursue sexual experiences, they’re forced to rely on sub-par sex-ed from high-school, conversations with friends or searches on the web – which aren’t always reliable. 

Given the diversity of students at university, it’s important to recognize the various experiences and levels of exposure individuals have received to sexual education.  

With the need for more comprehensive sex-ed, universities can help bridge the knowledge gap left by schools. They can create safe and accessible spaces that encourage learning about sexual health and well-being in unbiased and non-judgemental ways.  

Depending on where students come from, sex and sexual health may be severely stigmatized. As a result, the formal sexual education curriculum may be minimal to non-existent, leaving many international students with a poor understanding of sexuality, reproductive health and rights.   

Even for domestic students who receive curriculum-based sex-ed in Canada, the content is not culturally inclusive and fails to take a holistic approach.  

All students, and especially Black, Indigenous and People of Colour students, would benefit from an anti-racist approach to sexual education that decolonizes, Indigenizes and dismantles systems of oppression. Such an approach to sex-ed offered in post-secondary settings would open opportunities for important dialogues that include the Black, Indigenous and other racialized experiences. 

These communities have also been disproportionately affected by poor health outcomes, such as higher rates of sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections, due to various determinants including low socioeconomic status, inequitable access to healthcare and a lack of trust in the healthcare systems that have a history of racism, discrimination and structural violence. An anti-racist sex-ed framework could offer better support for these communities.

It is also critical to support the disconnect young adults with diverse identities experience when navigating their sexuality and health. For instance, the colonization and historical trauma experienced by the Indigenous community still deeply affect their ability to relate to the content taught in school curriculums. Likewise, 2SLGBTQ2IA+ students need access to better support and a sex-ed curriculum that remains inclusive of their experiences and provides evidence-based information to promote positive sexual health outcomes.  

It is also critical that students with disabilities receive proper access to comprehensive sex-ed. Too often, individuals with disabilities are stripped of their dignity and autonomy and that needs to change. Applying health equity and justice frameworks to centre the experiences and voices of oppressed groups is key to ensuring all individuals are able to express their sexuality on their own terms. 

Sex-ed matters. It gives students power over their identity, sexuality, health, relationships and more importantly, their future. 

Everyone has the right to comprehensive sexual education and I believe that a comprehensive sexual education curriculum is an intersectional and equitable one. Comprehensive sexual education incorporates the narratives of BIPOC communities, rather than outdated and oppressive frameworks from the past. It also provides students with the opportunity to learn about topics beyond reproductive health such as healthy relationships, sexual violence prevention, body image, gender identity and sexual orientation. 

With the need for more comprehensive sex-ed, universities can help bridge the knowledge gap left by schools. They can create safe and accessible spaces that encourage learning about sexual health and well-being in unbiased, nonjudgmental ways.  

Depending on where students come from, sex and sexual health may be severely stigmatized. As a result, the formal sexual education curriculum may be minimal to non-existent, leaving many international students with a poor understanding of sexuality, reproductive health and rights.   

And while the McMaster Students Union services like the Student Health Education Centre, Women & Gender Equity Network and the Pride Community Centre are already working towards disseminating this knowledge and providing resources for students, McMaster has a unique opportunity to do more.  

By implementing comprehensive sex-ed during Welcome Week and orientation for incoming students and offering regular support through the Student Wellness Centre, McMaster can promote positive sexual health outcomes and leave their students feeling sexually-empowered with a greater recognition for their dignity and bodily autonomy.  

Sex-ed is an ongoing process and shouldn’t stop in high school. As we continue to grow and discover ourselves, the relevancy of sex-ed increases and so does the need for universities to equip their students with accessible support and evidence-based resources. 

C/O Robert Bye, Unsplash

Check out these advocacy and social justice groups on and off campus to start finding your community

Community is a crucial piece of any university experience. It will be even more important this year as we return to campus, particularly for the many students for whom it is not only their first time in Hamilton but also their first time away from home entirely. 

Finding and building community can be difficult enough after a move, nevermind during a pandemic. It can be difficult to know where to start. One place might be the issues in the world you’re passionate about. Groups or organizations dedicated to these issues are wonderful places where both community and social justice advocacy can thrive. Furthermore, having a strong sense of community, while also tackling these issues you care about can help you cultivate support systems not only as you navigate university but also in the face of larger issues.

Included below is a list of groups both on and off campus, sorted by the social justice issues they’re concerned with, who are doing some excellent work in the Hamilton community. It should be noted this is not an exhaustive list of all the wonderful groups and organizations in Hamilton; there are many more groups that can be found both on campus and off.

If you identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, are passionate about 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and peer support:

  1. Pride Community Centre: An McMaster Students Union service, this organization is committed to supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ students, offering educational and peer support programming and resources. They also have a number of events and programs geared specifically to BIPOC students as well.
  2. Queer and Trans Colour Club: A campus club, this group of BIPOC 2SLGBTQIA+ students are dedicated to supporting all members of the BIPOC 2SLGBTQIA+ community on campus.
  3. Speqtrum: A community organization, this group is committed to supporting and creating community for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in Hamilton.
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If you’re passionate about anti-racist and anti-oppressive work, check out:

  1. Diversity Services: An MSU service, this group is dedicated to advocating for a safe and inclusive environment for all diverse groups on campus, while also celebrating the range of diversity of these groups.
  2. Good Body Feel: An inclusive and decolonized local movement studio, this business offers a range of classes and workshops, from cardio to yoga, a number of which are specifically for BIPOC individuals. 
  3. Women and Gender Equity Network: Another MSU service, this group is dedicated to ending prejudice and discrimination based on gender identity or expression on campus, as well as supporting survivors of gender-based discrimination, violence and sexual assault. 
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If you’re passionate about climate and environmental justice, check out:

  1. Environment Hamilton: A local non-profit organization, this group is committed to supporting Hamiltonians in developing skills to advocate for and protect their environment through community projects and events.
  2. Green Venture: Another local non-profit, this organization offers a number of programs geared specifically to students and youth, focused on environmental education to encourage action on the climate crisis and make Hamilton a more eco-friendly and sustainable place to live.
  3. McMaster Climate Advocates: Founded by McMaster University students, this group is dedicated to promoting climate action and education on campus through events, social media and collaboration with other like-minded organizations on and off campus.
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If you’re passionate about food security and nutrition, check out:

  1. Mac Soup Kitchen: A campus group dedicated to food security advocacy and education, this club runs a number of events, including awareness campaigns and food drives, while also sharing budget-friendly and healthy recipes.
  2. Mac Veggie Club: Another campus club, this group exists at the intersection between climate advocacy and nutrition, raising awareness about and educating students on plant-based living.
  3. MSU Food Collective Centre: An MSU service, this student-run organization is committed to ensuring access to food and food security on campus.
  4. Zero Food Waste Hamilton: A community non-profit, this organization is dedicated to ending hunger and poverty by diverting food waste from local business and engages in education and awareness campaigns.
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If you’re passionate about healthcare and public health, check out:

  1. COPE: A campus club, this group is committed to confronting the stigma surrounding mental health through events and education campaigns while also providing access to resources for those facing mental health challenges.
  2. Indigenous Health Movement: A campus initiative, this group of Indigenous students and non-Indigenous allies is dedicated to educating the community on Indigenous health and supporting reconciliation in this area.
  3. McMaster Public Health Association: A campus organization, this group of students are passionate about raising awareness about and advocating for action on public health issues.
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If you’re passionate about housing and supporting unhoused individuals, check out

  1. Hamilton Encampment Support Network: A volunteer run organization, this advocacy group is dedicated to supporting the local homeless and unhoused community.
  2. The Hub: A community organization, this organization runs drop-in services for unhoused individuals and those experiencing homelessness anddelivers harm reduction supplies, clothing and meals.
  3. McMaster Women in Motion: A campus club, this team of students is dedicated to raising awareness about and supporting homeless and unhoused women in Hamilton.
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Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative is making teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants

Representation matters. It’s an absolutely essential part of reclaiming and decolonizing spaces for the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community. Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative, Fueling Reclamation, is bolstering the fight for representation, by making their teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants. By doing this, they are helping to decolonize the wellness industry.

Robin Lacambra had already been working in the movement and wellness industry for many years when she moved to Hamilton. As she began to practice in studios in her new city, she recognized the lack of representation of the BIPOC community in studios not only in Hamilton but also in Toronto where she grew up.

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“It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political. So it was in trying to find a movement community here in Hamilton that I woke up to a need of mine, which is to have a space that felt safe for me to be in my full expression as a queer woman of colour,” explained Lacambra.

"It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political."

Robin Lacambra

This realization prompted Lacambra to create the space that she needed. She started teaching pop-ups in 2018 and then that same year ran her first teacher training. Many of the graduates from the course went on to be the teaching staff for Goodbodyfeel when it officially opened in 2019.

While Goodbodyfeel is a Pilates, yoga and mindfulness studio, at its core it’s a place of inclusion, healing, empowerment and representation. 

“[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion,” said Lacambra.

[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion.

Robin Lacambra

This philosophy is at the heart of Goodbodyfeel and everything they do, from the classes they offer to the individuals they employ.

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“We really centre values of equity and representation, equity and accessibility. I don't ignore the hard realities of systemic oppression and the studio works to challenge systems of oppression, both in the way that we run our business and the way that we share our offerings to the broader public, in the folks that I employ . . . and we do our offerings, don't shy away from creating exclusive spaces for safer spaces. So we have classes that are exclusively for folks of colour, we have classes that are exclusively for queer, trans and non-binary folks, we have classes that are exclusively for folks in bigger bodies. And so yeah, we believe in creating these inclusive spaces for healing,” said Lacambra.

Goodbodyfeel’s teaching staff is mostly made up of BIPOC women, with 10 of 14 teachers being BIPOC and of these 10, seven are Black. Lacambra continues to offer a teacher training program at Goodbodyfeel and also offers scholarships for BIPOC individuals in an effort to make the training more financially accessible.

In February, Goodbodyfeel launched a crowdfunding campaign, Fueling Reclamation, to offer the teacher training program free of charge this year to the 15 individuals who applied for BIPOC scholarships and to help finance a BIPOC specific edition of the teacher training in 2022.

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“For me, it is the way to radically shift representation of leaders in wellness. Many wellness practices are from brown and black cultures of origin and why isn’t our mainstream leadership reflective of that . . . It started off as just scholarships or subsidies that I could afford to give and seeing that the folks who would apply for the scholarship and subsidies were growing every year. I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?” explained Lacambra.

I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?

Robin Lacambra

This campaign is an example of an easy, concrete way the larger Hamilton community can support the BIPOC community and contribute to decolonization.

“It's overdue. This kind of investment into BIPOC leadership is overdue [and] it's easy reparations for the folks who are like, “Oh, I'm so overwhelmed. How I can contribute to anti-racist work?” Here you go, here's a really easy way to do it. Just help fund it, help spread the word, help empower our future changemakers. If we're fully fueling BIPOC leadership, we are fueling an equitable future,” emphasized Lacambra.

Piper & Carson’s second album Edgewalker’s Remedy is about divesting from colonist structures

By: Tracy Huynh, Contributor

For singer-songwriter duo Piper & Carson, music is about disarming people, building community and creating intentional art that heals. They sought to embody these ideals in their second album, Edgewalker’s Remedy, which was released on Oct. 23, 2020. 

Piper & Carson is the stage name of duo and couple Piper Hayes and Carson Ritcey-Thorpe. Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe met when Hayes, who was raised in the east end of Toronto, was performing at a Harvest Bash in Ritcey-Thorpe’s hometown of Millgrove. 

Feeling a deep connection with the land and the community, the two moved to Hamilton five years ago. In 2017, they released their self-titled debut album, Piper & Carson. The theme of nature is apparent throughout their music, with sounds of water and birds underlying the melody. 

Their second album, Edgewalker’s Remedy, is about divesting from capitalist and colonial systems. The title paints a picture of how colonialism pushes groups of people to the edges of society. Tackling themes of anti-racism, Indigenous sovereignty and respecting the Earth, the album is strikingly relevant to the topics currently explored by media today. 


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For example, in Mother’s Prayer, background heartbeat sounds, vivid imagery and lyrics such as “Decolonize your mind/You don’t own anything” bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s clear from the first listen that this duo isn’t trying to shy away from topics that spark conversation. 

“We felt really strongly that it's really our responsibility as settlers here to be part of anti-racism and to be part of amplifying the voices of Indigenous people. It's people [and] it's communities that are going to change things. I have very very little faith in the current structures that are in place,” said Hayes.

The duo has been amplifying Indigenous voices by sharing content from Indigenous activists on their social media platforms. However, they aim to create a long-term exit strategy from social media.

“For years it has felt imperative as musicians to have a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account. Lately, however we are questioning this reasoning and wondering what better ways we can collectively invest in each other and our relationships,” said Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe in a press release.

Wanting to further reject the predatory capitalist practices of the music industry, Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe did not put the album on streaming platforms. Instead, the album is available on their website and Bandcamp in a pay-what-you-can model. They wanted to make decisions centred around their art, rather than around what would do well on the market. 


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A post shared by Piper & Carson (@piperandcarson)

The project also includes a companion book of lyrics and stories for “adult children.” The book features custom illustrations by Métis artist and friend of the couple Riley Bee. The physical and digital versions of the book are available on their website.

“Our goal is to just get us all collectively to slow down, reflect and hopefully seek out the connection to this natural world, to step into that as much as possible and build and foster wonder,” said Ritcey-Thorpe. 

Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe recorded their latest album in their Hamilton home in the midst of the pandemic. For the pair who are used to performing live, this was new territory. With the help of their friends, Greyson Gritt and Chris Bartos, the duo navigated the challenges of learning new equipment, setting up their home studio and working digitally with other artists. 

It was important for the duo to collaborate with artists like The Rough and Tumble and Lacey Hill. They found that the digital space combined with the insights of other artists allowed for creative and serendipitous ways of building a song. 

Piper & Carson are livestreaming a show on Nov. 29, 2020. As with their other work, tickets are being sold using a pay-what-you-can model. Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe are going to use the show to serenade, tell stories and connect with their guests. Through this show, they continue to build community with their music even during the pandemic.

In collaboration with several other organizations, McMaster Womanists have taken on a bottom-up approach to addressing racism within the city of Hamilton through the Anti-Racism Action Initiative.

The Anti-Racism Action Initiative is a grassroots, discussion-based series of events hosted by the McMaster Womanists meant to tackle the various intersections of race and community issues. The first event took place in late Nov. 2016 and gathered over 250 people to discuss their experiences of racism in Hamilton and to incorporate them into a report that outlines over 30 demands of Hamiltonians regarding racism within their city.

The first event was held in response to the shortcomings and criticisms of the Sept. 26 Anti-Racism Directorate’s community consultation, in collaboration with McMaster Indigenous Students Community Alliance, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice, The Presidents Advisory Council on idling an Inclusive Community, New Generation Youth Centre and the office of Councillor Matthew Green.

Held at the Central Hamilton Public Library, the Anti-Racism Action Initiative served as a more accessible venue for community members and students to discuss their experiences of racism and xenophobia within the city of Hamilton. The event was set in focus group discussions surrounding a series of topics, and amplified the voices of community members by allowing them to use their lived experiences to draft strategies for the change they would like to see in the community.

"Making sure that we're staying informed on what's going on locally and globally is important. The issues of racism are always tied to broader concepts of colonialism, imperialism and can't be removed from larger contexts."
Sarah Jama,
McMaster Womanists

Demands of this report surrounded topics including the intersectionality of disability, carding and police brutality, anti-Indigenous racism, community backlash, labour discrimination, hate crimes and gentrification.

On March 31, the Anti-Racism Action Initiative held a Community Report Back, an event that gathered over 150 people to discuss the full report summary from the first Anti-Racism Action Initiative event, in addition to community updates of race related happenings in the city. Taking form through discussion groups assigned to each topic in collaboration with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, the Report Back allowed the community to decide what the next steps were.

“Staying involved and making sure that the demands that came out of the initial report are being worked on is a good step,” said Sarah Jama, co-president of the McMaster Womanists and co-planner of the event. “But also making sure that we’re staying informed on what’s going on locally and globally is important. The issues of racism are always tied to broader concepts of colonialism, imperialism and can’t be removed from larger contexts.”

Following the event, Jama released a statement to her Facebook page regarding an incident with a security guard that occurred during the Anti Racism Action Initiative Community Report Back. As noted in her statement, during the event, a security guard allegedly refused entry to individuals who came to the event late and refused reentry to individuals who stepped out briefly, including Jama’s mother, although the McMaster Womanists had booked the space.

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The security guard allegedly told community members and volunteers that if they left the event or came to the event late, that they would be refused entry, without the knowledge of the organizers. Jama’s mother, who had volunteered to help with child minding at the event, had left the event briefly. Upon her return, she was denied entry, but had returned to the event to supervise the children in attendance amongst the traffic of individuals leaving.

The security guard had allegedly yelled at Jama’s mother in front of the children in the room, asking her to leave the library despite a white ally explaining that Jama’s mother was a volunteer. The security guard then allegedly threatened to call the police because they were afraid that Jama’s mother was being aggressive.

Jama noted in her statement that they will be filing a formal complaint against the security guard, and stressed that the issue with the security guard, not the Hamilton Public Library.

The McMaster Womanists are to review the minutes from each table discussion from the Anti-Racism Initiative Community Report Back and will assign the demands noted within each discussion to various community groups and activists who will take on the responsibility of accomplishing them. The group plans to reconvene next spring to update the community on the work that is being done.

In each of the past three months, at least one racially charged event has made local headlines, from the ‘alt-right’ posters in November to the swastikas spray painted onto the escarpment Rail Trail earlier in February. With that said, student groups on campus have made it their prerogative to combat harmful rhetoric through research, consultations and education.

On Feb. 22, the McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office published a report called “Challenging Islamophobia on Campus Initiative Report”. Written in response to the violent backlash against Muslims following the 2015 Paris attacks, this report outlines the research carried out by the office and their recommendations from their findings.

“The backlash created a climate of fear within the Canadian Muslim community including here at McMaster,” said Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan and Khadijeh Rakie,the staff members tasked with the initiative, alongside the release of the report.

Through roundtable discussions with Muslim students and faculty, the report found Islamophobia exists on campus and intersects with other identities and poses a unique experience for racialized students on campus.The report noted jokes equating Islam to terrorism, discomfort surrounding the portrayals of Muslims in media and the silencing of voices when speaking against Islamophobia as some key issues.

The report also discussed the unique experience of Black Muslims on campus.

“During the roundtable discussion, a Black, visibly Muslim student shared that following deadly attacks attributed to Muslims and Islam there was an expectation for her to speak up in class and denounce the attacks,”  the report noted.

The report recommended creating better resources for marginalized students as a way to limit the percolation of Islamophobia on campus, as well as recognizing the threat of Islamophobia. It made note of the Islamophobia they received while conducting their research, particularly from professors emeriti who circulated a newsletter denying the existence of Islamophobia while the researchers ran workshops.

The report also discussed the need for institutional mechanisms to address Islamophobia on campus. The report argued for the implementation of clear punitive measures in the face of hate crimes in order to create a safer campus.

anti-racism-sketck_forwebMany groups on campus have echoed the points made by the report in their past work. The McMaster Womanists, in collaboration with the McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, McMaster Muslims for Justice and Peace and Solidarity For Palestinian Rights (McMaster) held an anti-racism action initiative in November.

This meeting asked students and Hamiltonians to discuss what steps the community should take in order to combat racism both on campus and within the city.

The meeting’s executive summary made many points, most notably arguing for more accountability of those who commit hate crimes and allowing marginalized groups to participate in decision making to ensure their voices and concerns are heard.

Other activist groups are currently working to bring injustices to light, such as the aforementioned MMJP. MMJP is currently advocating on behalf of the deceased Soleiman Faqiri, a Muslim man with well-documented schizophrenia, who died in police custody under suspicious circumstances. They have created a campaign called #JusticeforSoli, and ask the public to not only ask questions about the suspicious death but also question the treatment of racialized individuals and those with mental illness within the prison system. Their work has created a dialogue around his death and has been discussed in other media outlets such as CHCH.

While their work has received positive attention, student activists are often met with safety concerns, from having their personal information shared to receiving death threats.

Lina Assi, a Palestinian student activist, has had her information shared online without her consent and regularly receives death threats in response to her activism work.

“The issue of security is that there’s no protection for student activists, there’s no outreach for us with respect to legal matters to protect ourselves from harassment from the community,” said Assi.

Within the McMaster Students Union, anti-racism work is often facilitated through Diversity Services, a service meant to support racialized students on campus. Diversity Services currently offers Anti-Oppression Practices training, which is meant to introduce students in leadership positions to concepts relating to race and inequality, and how to maneuver these concepts in their roles within the union. Currently, only other services which request AOP training receive it.

“Through the training, people engage in thoughtful discussions about complex topics relevant to their positions. The goal, then, if for them to bring the ideals they’ve learned and employ them in their job, volunteer positions, and everyday lives,” said Ryan Deshpande, director of Diversity Services.

Deshpande uses AOP training as a way to better educate students on issues pertaining to race and each session proves to be a different experience.

“Facilitating [AOP training] is not easy – it’s emotionally draining, and many times me and my co-facilitators find our identities and experiences under attack when challenging people’s notions of oppression,” he said.

Desphande hopes to see AOP training become more formalized to increase the number of facilitators and make it more accessible to the student body.

While xenophobic acts have occurred on campus, it is clear that many groups on campus are working together to educate and create a more inclusive future. For anyone who has experienced or seen bigotry on campus, contact the Equity and Inclusion Office, whose office is located in the McMaster University Student Centre, room 212.

By: Bina Patel

On Nov. 25, McMaster students held an anti-racism initiative at the Hamilton Central Library to allow youth and community members to engage in this important conversation.

The McMaster Womanists hosted the meeting in collaboration with other clubs, including McMaster Muslims for Peace, McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McMaster and more.

“McMaster Womanists decided to organize this event as a direct response to the community consultation that was hosted by the Anti-Racism Directorate of the ministry. They came to Hamilton at the end of September, and didn’t really reach out to a lot of youth,” said Sarah Jama, co-president of McMaster Womanists.

The community consultation held on Sept. 26 attracted approximately 150 people, and focused on establishing whether or not systemic racism existed in Hamilton. Audience members critiqued the event for ignoring past research that had already completed by community organizations.


According to the description given by the organizers of the initiative, this most recent meeting aimed to elevate community voices and develop strategies on how to combat racism in Hamilton.

In the planning phase, the clubs determined how they wanted the event to unfold and see racism be addressed. This included giving people who had experienced racism first-hand the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts on how to combat racism in the city.

The meeting attracted more people than the 100 that the organizers had anticipated. This included representatives from clubs, organizations in Hamilton, McMaster students, professors, volunteers and other community members. After hearing speakers share narratives about racism and discrimination, attendees split into groups to discuss a range of topics from gentrification and Indigenous concerns to hate crimes.


In addition to facilitating a focused dialogue, there was also an emphasis on what Hamilton could do to be progressive, such as stricter rent controlled areas protection for small commercial enterprises.

Over the course of this component of the event, individuals had with others in the group and then shifted to other tables with a different focus so that they engage in a multi-faceted conversation that touched on many concerns. There was an emphasis for this meeting to include those who truly represented victims of racism.

In addition, organizers wanted to hold the initiative at a location that was more accessible than that which was chosen for the community consultation in September: Mohawk College.

“We wanted to take an opposite route and have a consultation that would involve the community directly. It was a grassroots initiative,” Jama said, explaining why the main branch of the public library best suited the meeting.


As attendees expressed their concerns and ideas to help fight racism, facilitators took down notes to include in a report. McMaster Womanists hope to use what is taken from this event to impact further change.

“It’s a grassroots report that we’re going to use to lobby locally, provincially and maybe even federally. People were really engaged so I’m hopeful that the report will be robust,” Jama said.

Preliminary demands include the cessation of carding in Hamilton, formal responses condemning “alt-right” groups in Hamilton which have been linked to white supremacy, implementing measures to prevent discriminatory hiring practices, and more.

An executive summary of their findings will be published in December.

She is a woman known for her remarkable fight against racial injustice and advocacy for political prisoners. While Angela Davis now speaks about her past reflexively, it was her discussion of abolition and its connection to current disparities that drew 800 people to Liuna Station on Wed. March 27.

Davis was invited to mark the opening of the McMaster Centre for Scholarship in the Public Interest. Dr. Henry Giroux, the centre’s Director, emphasized Davis’ great commitment to engaged education.

“We invited Angela Davis here tonight because she has struggled greatly and with great dignity for decades to demonstrate that education is a form of political intervention,” said Giroux. “She has worked in difficult and shifting circumstances to remind us of the power of education as a central element of inspired self-government.”

Davis spoke for close to an hour, first sharing her own personal story. She described how she had an early exposure to activism.

She briefly discussed her now infamous early teaching career, which got her fired from UCLA, first because of her support for communism, then later for speaking out on behalf of political prisoners. Davis was later wrongfully jailed for her supposed connections with a murder plot.

She argued that the prison-industrial complex, a notion that was central to both her own personal experience and her talk, was first exemplified in slavery in the U.S.

The talk itself was meant to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. But Davis’ aim was less commemorative and more critical of the underlying implications of the purported ‘end to slavery’ and its continued relevance.

“The civil rights movement was only necessary because the slave trade had not been fully abolished,” she said. “As a matter of fact, what we call the civil rights movement, we should call the 20th century abolition rights movement. Because it was about abolishing the vestiges of slavery. If slavery had been abolished…there would be no second-class citizenship.”

Davis argued that slavery was neither abolished nor antiquated. She noted how the actions of the civil rights movement were framed in a narrative that attempts to showcase the U.S as a model of democracy.

However, she asserted that the civil rights movement has been narrowly defined and restricted to instances like M.L.K.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, while suppressing activities of groups like the Black Panthers. But overall, she proclaimed that the emphasis on a continued need and struggle for freedom was integral.

While Davis spoke knowledgeably about the pre- and post-Civil War period, she especially captured the audience’s attention when she drew contemporary connections to slavery and the civil rights movement.

She used examples such as the Freedom from Apartheid Movement in South Africa, the Dalit Panthers and the Palestinian Freedom Riders as global movements that were inspired by the Black Freedom struggle.

Davis acknowledged that the current era is full of struggles that require social critique and discussion, similar to the dialogue that surrounded the civil rights movement. She urged that ideas should be fostered in the academy yet nurtured and used in practice on social issues.

She dismissed the notion that there is a “post-racial society” and the excision of poor people from public and academic consciousness. Davis stressed that critical education was key to questioning, addressing and restructuring oppressive social systems.

“The challenges of scholarship and activism are vast today…what is most important about this era is the consciousness and interconnectedness of various struggles. We can no longer focus on a single issue.”

Julia Empey, a third-year student in English and History with a minor in Religious Studies, came out of the event appreciating the magnitude of Davis as a speaker. Empey also noted that the gap between scholarship and activism was still present at McMaster.

“There is a desire to see it happen in some pockets of students…but to have that image realized is going to take a lot of work. How do we put these ideas in action? We’ve been told we’ve been given practical tools [through our education]. But we haven’t been taught how to use them.”

Davis concluded her talk by using part of a lesser-known speech from M.L.K., stating that, “most of what you know about M.L.K. is, he had a dream, right? And I’m actually kind of tired of that dream.”

Instead, Davis spoke about King’s desire to question, to urge broader restructuring and critical consciousness.

The overwhelmingly positive audience response and standing ovation may just prove to be one indicator of a revitalized sense of faith in a collective dialogue amongst Hamiltonians.

Devra Charney/ The Silhouette

On Friday March 8, the global community celebrated International Women’s Day. The 2013 theme focused on promoting gender equality in a modern progressive world.

On campus, McMaster hosted multidisciplinary activist and educator Kim Crosby. Her workshop on anti-racism as well as her keynote address were much-anticipated events for a number of students and community members.

Emilee Guevara, member of Feminist Alliance McMaster (FAM), was pleased to see McMaster bring Crosby and the values that she represents to campus, hoping for similar speakers in the future.

“This event was awesome to have Kim here speaking. International Women’s Day is to talk about women, but it’s to talk about issues that affect all women, so that’s where her theme of intersectionality is really important… I hope that events like this can continue every year and in every space, not just on specific days.”

FAM endeavours to make sure campus remains accessible throughout the year for students looking to connect and align with other feminists in a safe environment. Guevara added that FAM’s activism also extends off campus to related community events where members can meet up and attend as a group.

“Women and men have joined together to go to certain events, like Take Back the Night, like the SlutWalk, celebrate International Women’s Day… hopefully making connections for women who have felt either silenced, objectified, sexualized, who have experienced rape and harassment and sexual assault – realities in the lives of women everywhere.”

And in an effort to address the issue of violence against women in a McMaster context, The Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton & Area (SACHA) and YWCA Hamilton have partnered together for the It’s Time to End Violence Against Women on Campus project funded by Status of Women Canada.

Project coordinator and Mac alum Alicia Ali said that McMaster currently lacks specific guidelines on dealing with violence against women on campus.

“The project is split into two phases – information gathering and outcome,” she explained. “The information-gathering phase includes surveys and focus groups to identify current gaps, priorities, resources, opportunities, and strengths around the issue of violence against women on campus.”

Students are invited to attend sessions as part of a Safety Audit scheduled for March 18and 19 so that they can provide feedback on safety around campus. A campus walk-about will also allow students to point out specific problem areas and voice their concerns about unsafe parts of campus after dark.

“The second phase of the project includes a campus wide awareness campaign, events on campus, and a campus community protocol in how the university responds to instances of violence against women,” said Ali.

“We hope to explore the possibility of introducing a gender-based analysis to all policy development at the university.”

The project coordinators and advisory committee will provide the University with a list of recommendations after a two-year period on how to increase safety for women as well as involve the campus community in a more informed approach to dealing with the culture of violence against women.

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