Week of events at UBC Okanagan reminds us that “Racism Matters”

Students and faculty at UBC Okanagan are throwing open the shutters on racism with a week of events on the university campus to expose racism and privilege on campus and in the Kelowna community.

With the theme “Racism Matters,” activities will take place on campus and in the community from March 15 to 20, in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, March 21.

"All too often I get the feeling that people believe that racism only exists in the past - that it isn't relevant now," says graduate student Jannik Eikenaar, student coordinator of events. "I hope that what we're doing will get people thinking about racism and what they can do to eliminate it. For me, our slogan 'Racism Matters' really makes the point: racism is something that affects everyone and it needs to be explicated and exposed."

Racism persists in overtly racist attitudes and actions, as well as in its systemic and institutional forms, which are often not as easily recognized, says Dr. David Jefferess, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies and faculty chair of the organizing committee.

“We are seeking to acknowledge that racism persists on our campus and in our community and that the struggle against racism matters," Jefferess notes. "Through a series of films, talks, and an interactive week long display in the UBC Okanagan courtyard, we hope to help people examine the way in which racism and privilege are experienced in our community.”

Special events and activities will be held on the UBC Okanagan campus and in the Kelowna community throughout the week, including:

  • "Open the Shutters" displays with strategies to eliminate racism, located around the campus courtyard all week.
  • Creative writing marathon (noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, March 15, in Fipke Centre FIP252)
  • Video presentation and discussion about diversity in the Okanagan (7 to 9 p.m., Monday, March 16, Rotary Centre for the Arts)
  • Anti-Semitism discussion panel (2 to 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, Art Building ART106)
  • Interactive display, "Aboriginal Myth Busters" (11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, in the Student Services Centre foyer)
  • Talk by visiting artist Jamelie Hassan (6 to 7:30 p.m.) followed by a public reading by author Warren Cariou (7:30 to 9 p.m., Student Services Centre lecture theatre SSC026)
  • A ceremony entitled "Drum and Summon the Salmon" (1 to 3 p.m., Friday, March 20, UBC Okanagan Courtyard)

For more information on any of these events, email Jannik Eikenaar at jeikenaar@yahoo.ca or David Jefferess at david.jefferess@ubc.ca (250-807-9359), or see www.ubc.ca/okanagan/events.

The week wraps up with a major symposium on Friday, March 20, focused on amending the tarnished relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada.

"Reconciliation: History and Future in Our Midst" is being sponsored by the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, the Indigenous Studies Program, the Cultural Studies Program (Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies) and the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society. The days events include:

  • A public panel discussion (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., UBC Okanagan Student Services Centre lecture theatre SSC026)
  • Student and faculty panel discussion (2:30 to 4:30 p.m., UBC Okanagan Arts Building, ART214)
  • Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society Panel Discussion, with a keynote address by Thomas Berger, and discussion with panelists Gerry Oleman (Indian Residential School Survivor’s Society), Jonathan Dewar (Aboriginal Healing Foundation) and local Residential School survivors. (Doors open 5:45 p.m., food and refreshments 6 p.m., presentations 6:15 to 9 p.m., at the Kelowna Friendship Centre, 442 Leon Ave.)

For information about the March 20 reconciliation symposium events, contact Greg Younging (gregory.younging@ubc.ca) 250-807-9622 or Christy Taylor (ct_luv@hotmail.com) 250-317-8153. At the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society contact Veronica Roesler 250-763-4905 ext. 207.

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