Privilege was on the minds of students at a forum held on Tuesday night by Soul Food.
The open forum, held in Kingston Hall’s Red Room, was the third of Soul Food’s speaker series focusing on poverty and food security issues in the community. Soul Food is a campus club that facilitates the donation of food from campus cafeterias to local shelters.
The talk, led by Canadian literature PhD student MaryAnne Laurico, gathered eight students for a roundtable discussion about what it means to be privileged.
It’s something Laurico said is often overlooked when it comes to anti-oppressive behaviour.
“Part of anti-oppressive analysis is understanding how you take up space, understanding how you can be an ally [and] understanding making visible invisible privilege,” Laurico, a fifth-year PhD student, said.
Laurico, who has held similar forums six times this year, said it’s important for students in Soul Food to be able to observe issues outside of campus, especially because they cater so much to Kingston as a whole.
“A lot of students will see Kingston as a separate bubble,” she said. “If these activists are out there trying to volunteer and do their thing, they have to have a good analysis of what they’re doing.”
She spoke to students about what it meant to have privilege and how it could be overlooked in a world where privilege equals power and access.
Laurico used the example of a crosswalk and its light signals to demonstrate how privilege and accessibility were intertwined.
“Experience it [as] if you were blind or in a wheelchair — it’s a completely different experience,” she said. “It becomes an oppressive factor, the fact that the streets or the lights are designed by legislation or practice to cater to able-bodied people.”
Jonathan Chung is one of two co-chairs for Soul Food, which has been on campus for the past five years.
Chung, ArtSci ’13, said the forum was able to address privilege in a community where it can seem so prevalent.
“Being able to step out of that is really nice,” he said. “It’s helping the students become better and, like [Laurico] said, it’s empowering people.”
The speaker series is part of Soul Food’s mandate to educate the community and increase awareness about certain issues.
“At our core we’re trying to look at the community and see a need and try to address it,” Chung said. “It’s philanthropic in a sense that, yes, we want to see what we can do as students.
“It’s what we can do as students to cause change that’s positive.”
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