Telling our stories
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By: Crystal Lobo
Jan. 18 marked the start of MSU Diversity Services’ annual “Diversity Week.” This year, the theme of the week was “Constructing Our Stories,” a theme meant to emphasize the importance of sharing stories and narratives as a method of personal and societal growth. The service collaborated with many organizations such as Perspectives on Peace, Soul Foods, and external speakers, to present workshops relating to Diversity Services’ four pillars of diversity: multiculturalism, interfaith, abilities, and Indigenous affairs.
“We tried our best to reflect our pillars … Each of the workshops were sort of reflective of one of those topics in a nuanced way,” said Ryan Deshpande, Assistant Director of MSU Diversity Services.
“One thing we really tried to get away from is the idea of having a day for a pillar … That's not how people work and that was something that was definitely one of our major objectives, because being truly intersectional isn't going ‘these two things exist,’ but going ‘oh these all exist and they're all part of the same narrative,’” said Sophie Geffros, Abilities Coordinator.
On Jan. 20, one of the week’s primary events took place at TwelvEighty when keynote speaker and notable activist Kim Katrin Milan hosted a workshop.
“She built her talk around the theme [of the week] but talked specifically about issues of marginalization, identity, intersectionality and how we can own our narrative,” said Deshpande.
“She really captivated the audience. We had a full house in TwelvEighty. I got multiple messages afterwards of people being like, ‘That was so amazing. I'm so happy I came to see that.’”
Both Deshpande and Geffros stated that they viewed Diversity Week as a success. “I think everything went according to plan. The week was very successful and I don't think anything happened that I wasn't anticipating,” said Deshpande. Geffros was enthusiastic as well, “Events like this week are a really great opportunity to recharge your batteries because you get people who are both educated and not educated in these issues but who want to learn and talk and genuinely believe in these things, and it’s amazing,” she said.
While the event was successful, Deshpande and Geffros both cited ways that Diversity Week could improve for next year. Deshpande cited promotional strategies as an area that could grow. He believes that promotions have improved from last year, but is hoping to continue to promote the event to a wider audience. Geffros explained her hopes for a more ambitious Diversity Week in the future. “I think we should go bigger,” she said.
“Going forward I would like to have more complex conversations.”
Overall, MSU Diversity Week created multiple workshops and events for the McMaster community pertaining to its theme. “We want people to own their narratives and take charge of their identities in a way that empowers them,” said Deshpande.
“There is a great Junot Díaz quote, which is, ‘The only people who don't see reflections of themselves are monsters,’” Geffros said. “That is what taking diverse people out of the narrative does. It makes us monstrous because if you don't see yourself then you're almost dehumanized. So allowing us to come together and build those stories for ourselves I think is important.”
Photo Credit: Mike Beattie