With around 250 registrants, the largest number yet, the eighth annual Niagara Social Justice Forum was another successful event.
Participants were able to select from 12 different workshops, ranging from topics such as activist photography to mental health in the workplace as examined through theatre and ecological justice. Especially popular was a workshop entitled “Supporting our Sisters: Three Native Women Trying to Make a Difference”.
Many workshops encouraged discussions beyond the issues themselves, including thinking about ways that participants could take steps to make a tangible difference.
“People attend the Niagara Social Justice Forum to learn how to work in solidarity on a range of interconnected social struggles. Often professors sit together with students in classrooms to learn from community advocates on issues such as the social costs of poverty or the rights of migrant workers,” said Dr. Mary-Beth Raddon, Graduate Program Director.
To cap off the night, there was a screening of Lysanne Louter’s documentary, Made in Bangladesh, as well as a director’s talk about the film. We were happy to see many participants stay to watch the film, including some who had not come to the day’s events.
Louter, a Brock graduate, engaged in a conversation-style question and answer session during the director’s talk with a current student in the Masters in Social Justice and Equity Studies (SJES) program, Firoz Alam. Firoz is originally from Bangladesh, in an area not unlike the area in which the Rana Plaza factory collapsed.
Lysanne said that she does not believe we should stop buying clothes from Bangladesh, as money generated by garment factories are an important source of income for many in the country, as well as a source of pride.
“Throughout the day, it was great to see not only members of the community get interested and excited about getting involved with different community groups and activist projects, but to see the connections being made amongst community activists as well, which will no doubt serve to strengthen the Niagara grassroots community going forward,” said MJ Deschamps, another SJES student.
At times, being an activist or engaging in progressive ideologies can be exhausting. This event allows groups to come together to energize and reinvigorate, a reminder that there are others who want to make positive changes in the world. Information tables spread the word of activist work going on in the community that often comes at great personal cost.
In the coming future, activists such as Louter, would like to see more sustainable sources of food, give protection to animals and keeping university education affordable, as well as ensuring that participants are working in safe environments.
The Niagara Social Justice Forum Committee extends a thanks to all who have made this event successful; supporters, attendees, sponsors, and organizers. A special thanks goes out to Mary-Beth Raddon and Jade Bowie, without whom this event would not have been possible.