Call for A.R.T.S.

C.A.R.E.D. carves out space for dialogue

Dwayne Morgan came from Toronto to deliver his eloquent and socially conscious spoken word pieces for the Anti-Racist Thoughts Showcase at the Common Ground Sunday evening.
Dwayne Morgan came from Toronto to deliver his eloquent and socially conscious spoken word pieces for the Anti-Racist Thoughts Showcase at the Common Ground Sunday evening.
Photo: 
Josephine Minhinnett performed as part of C.A.R.E.D.’s artistic and activist event.
Josephine Minhinnett performed as part of C.A.R.E.D.’s artistic and activist event.
Photo: 

Despite dismally cold weather and an ill-timed fire alarm interruption during the main speaker’s set, the Anti-Racist Thoughts Showcase (A.R.T.S.) carried on.

Sunday evening the Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (C.A.R.E.D.) created space for arts and anti-racist activism on campus. Featuring spoken word performances by students as well as a variety of prose, poetry and visual art, which adorned the walls of the Common Ground, A.R.T.S. became a forum for students to take to the stage and perform and discuss issues of race that have been circulating both locally and nationally.

To kick off the evening Toronto poet, motivational speaker and founder of Up From the Roots Entertainment Dwayne Morgan performed his high-energy, thought-provoking brand of spoken word poetry. Morgan’s words packed an emotional and linguistic punch as he delivered pieces rife with messages of social awareness. His performance—which consisted of both poetry and inspirational speaking—opened up the night for anti-racist dialogue as he tackled political issues both home and abroad. For example his piece entitled “Bombs Over Brampton” confronts Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, questioning how our society construes events and who gets labeled a terrorist.

“It was good to hear the thoughts of the students,” Morgan said.

“In fact it was good to see that so many students from many backgrounds speaking about the things we have in common—how we feel about being Canadian and how race affects how people treat us.”

Morgan’s performance was interrupted by a fire alarm but fortunately the performers and crowd reconvened after the brief “intermission.” The spoken word performance continued to a comfortably-sized crowd.

“Spoken word is a great vehicle for change,” Morgan said. “It’s accessible to everybody. It’s not like music or ballet where you have to study for years to perfect. It’s something everybody has an equal access to and so it unifies people by default.”

Students followed suit and expressed a range of issues and styles on stage. Safiah Chowdhury performed “Confessions of a Female Muslim Student,” a lengthy and passionate spoken word piece in which she poetically and righteously dispelled stereotypes about Muslims. Later, Josephine Minhinnett read a beautiful piece of poetry, her calm and quiet voice resonating across the room and mesmerizing the crowd. The committee behind the showcase, C.A.R.E.D. operates under the Social Issues Commission and its mission involves holding events that promote discussion about racial and ethnic issues on campus and in the Queen’s community as a whole. Winnie Tsai, co-chair of C.A.R.E.D. and ConEd ’10, said the event arose out of the need for more accessible discussions about race and racism on campus.

“Early on in the year, we were brainstorming ideas and noticed that a lot of these events have been more academic—panel discussions, open forums with professors or professionals—and we decided we wanted to host something that was a little more accessible to people,” she said. “We didn’t want it to be an academic discussion but an event to allow for people to express themselves in mediums that they’re comfortable with.”

But those who shy away from the limelight still found their place at the event. Those uncomfortable with performance were permitted to submit their art and ideas for posting on the Common Ground’s art wall—fixtures that will remain on display for the next two weeks.

“We’re hoping the works on the wall will stimulate discussion within their own groups if they don’t necessarily feel comfortable speaking to a larger audience,” Tsai said.

“Everyone was really happy with the way things went. It was great to see how many people came back after the fire alarm, after waiting in the cold and the slush.”

“With past events, we felt we saw the same faces. But by holding it at the Common Ground, we had people walk by who wanted to see what was going on and some of those people decided to stick around. Hopefully it opened their eyes to the issues that some people deal with on campus.”

—With files from Taylor Burns

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