Appreciation not Appropriation campaign comes back in full force

AMS initiative extended to two weeks

Appreciation not Appropriation campaign comes back in full force
Co-chairs of CARED Samira Levesque (left) and Rania Belhadjamida (right).

From Oct. 15 to Halloween, the AMS is running its annual Appreciation not Appropriation campaign, designed to educate students about how to respect other cultures and religions. 

In 2017, the AMS ran the first campaign after a  costume party the previous year gained national attention after its attendees dressing as racist stereotypes. 

After last year’s initial run, Commissioner of Social Issues Myriam Morenike Djossou decided to extend the campaign to two weeks and increase the number of awareness events.

Like last year, students can sign a pledge—both on a sheet at different campus locations, and online—and pick up a pin to support the cause.

Djossou also increased the amount of awareness posters around campus from four to six, which will stay up all year long.

“It’s important to keep in mind this kind of appropriation is happening all throughout the year,” she told The Journal. “Halloween becomes one of those times where cultural appropriation becomes very prevalent, so it is very easy to see.” 

Djossou said Queen’s has made progress since it’s infamous  2016 Halloween party, and programs like the new office of Indigenous Initiatives have worked to reduce racism on campus. However, she said there’s still work to be done. 

“The party in 2016, last year was attempt[ed] to be reproduced,” Djossou said. “I find that very upsetting and a sign that there’s still a lot of work to be done to spread the word on how appropriation is harmful.”

“I can relate myself as a racialized student,” she said. “It is very hurtful when you’re trying to explain why appropriation is harmful and continue to keep seeing it on campus.”

The aim of the first event, Cultural and Religious Appreciation Night, was to allow students to learn about different cultural and religious groups on campus and how each are commonly appropriated. 

“People are not saying you can’t engage with other people’s culture, but we’re saying to do it in a meaningful and respectful way,” Djossou said.  

Held on Oct. 17, the event featured campus groups including Queen’s Native Students Association, Japanese Relations at Queen’s, the African and Caribbean Students’ Association, and the Queen’s University International Centre. 

The campaign is supported by Queen’s Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination [CARED], whose co-chairs Samira Levesque, Arts ’20, and Rania Belhadjamida, Sci ‘19, told The Journal this year’s discussion about appropriation will be more goal-oriented. 

“The first step towards combatting an issue is education,” Levesque said. “The next step will be our open discussion next week where we go at the issue head on and focus on what allyship means, how to recognize appropriation, and how to deal with appropriation.” 

Lavie Williams, Queen’s Human Rights Office’s Inclusion and Anti-Racism Advisor, will moderate the open discussion, held next Wednesday. 

“We’re going to try this year to make it more of a policy issue and, moving forward, how we can make a true impact on students,” Levesque said. 

Belhadjamida stressed the importance of engaging with students about how to recognize the difference between appropriation and appreciation. 

“I feel like it always starts with the student. That’s the foundation, and then [it’s] working from there upwards,” she said. “It’s not like acts of racism or discrimination or appropriation don’t occur on the administrative level either.”

“I can say I’ve talked to professors who’ve shared their feelings with me on this as well,” she continued. “It all begins with the foundation and that’s the students.”

While Levesque is still unsure about how to bring this campaign into higher institutional levels, she said the committee is going to become “more action-oriented.”

“If students are expressing all these grievances and the need to act more substantially, we need to act.”


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