“You de­serve to be here,” pan­elist tells women of colour in law

Panel dis­cus­sion, coffeehouse com­mem­o­rate In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day

The McGill Daily - - News - Paniz Khos­roshahy The Mcgill Daily

The Women of Colour Col­lec­tive of Mcgill Law or­ga­nized a series of events in com­mem­o­ra­tion of In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day last week. The first event, a panel dis­cus­sion called “Our Voices,” took place on March 7, and fo­cused on the ex­pe­ri­ences of women of colour and In­dige­nous women in law. The sec­ond event, the “Speak our Minds Coffeehouse,” was held on March 8, and cel­e­brated art cre­ated by women in forms of mu­si­cal per­for­mances, spo­ken word, po­etry, and dance.

“Our Voices” panel

The pan­elists, who come from di­verse fields of law and with unique iden­ti­ties, dis­cussed bar­ri­ers that women of colour and In­dige­nous women face in law. They high­lighted the im­por­tance of cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity in the work­force, among other ways of over­com­ing ob­sta­cles in a field dom­i­nated by white men.

Pan­elist Amanda Ghahre­mani, founder of Women’s Char­ters & Dec­la­ra­tions and Ar­ti­cling Fel­low for the Cana­dian Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Jus­tice, em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of ques­tion­ing hege­monic class­room prac­tices.

“This is the most im­por­tant mes­sage I want to im­part to cur­rent law stu­dents of colour: your pres­ence is the best way to dis­rupt the sta­tus quo,” Ghahre­mani said. “Chal­lenge your pro­fes­sors, chal­lenge your class­mates, chal­lenge the course ma­te­ri­als, chal­lenge as­sump­tions, and also chal­lenge your­self. As you en­gage ac­tively and au­then­ti­cally in this space, don’t ever for­get that you de­serve to be here.”

Adelle Black­ett, a pro­fes­sor of Law and Wil­liam Daw­son Scholar at Mcgill, high­lighted the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity-build­ing in law school. “Class­rooms are not safe space, you need to find a group of peo­ple and carve your space,” she said.

In a mes­sage to The Daily, Ghahre­mani men­tioned that an email was sent to the Law ad­mis­sions com­mit­tee ask­ing them to re­con­sider their poli­cies in light of some of the ex­pe­ri­ences ex­pressed by the pan­elists.

Romita Sur, a mem­ber of the Women of Colour Col­lec­tive and an or­ga­nizer of the event, said, “As women of colour, we don’t see our­selves rep­re­sented in the law and events. And so we wanted to have a space where we would hear from women of colour and In­dige­nous le­gal [ pro­fes­sion­als] on their ex­pe­ri­ences and how they nav­i­gated law school and their ca­reers.”

Speak our Minds Coffeehouse

The sec­ond event fo­cused on the ex­pe­ri­ences of women of colour broadly in so­ci­ety. The larger theme of the event was a trib­ute to the ways in which women re­sist vi­o­lence in their com­mu­ni­ties, and per­form­ers also fo­cused on themes of sex­ual as­sault, geno­cide, white supremacy, and di­as­pora, among oth­ers.

Alice Rougeaux, a U2 English Lit­er­a­ture stu­dent, told The Daily that the event was si­mul­ta­ne­ously hum­bling and em­pow­er­ing.

Spon­sors of the event in­cluded the Fem­i­nist Col­lec­tive of Mcgill Law, Con­tours, the Black Law Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Mcgill, Abo­rig­i­nal Law Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Rad Law Mcgill, and Mcgill Stu­dents for Fem­i­nism.

“De­spite how har­row­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences are that call for re­sis­tance, I felt like what we were ul­ti­mately left with was pos­i­tive en­ergy […] and joy,” Rougeaux said. “That is be­cause the women who per­formed cel­e­brated friend­ship, moth­er­hood, laugh­ter, sex­u­al­ity, sur­vival, sol­i­dar­ity, achieve­ment, and the sat­is­fac­tion of say­ing ‘fuck you’ to op­pres­sors. I didn’t re­ally know what In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day meant be­fore tonight, but now I think all of th­ese things de­fine it per­fectly.”

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