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QPIRG Culture Shock event series promotes anti-racism, indigenous solidarity

From Nov. 5 to Nov. 8, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group McGill (QPIRG) and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) co-presented an annual event series entitled, Culture Shock: Envisioning alternative futures, with panels, writing workshops, and speakers discussing issues of racial justice, LGBTQ rights, and radical organizing.  

“The theme, ‘envisioning alternative futures’ was inspired by the keynote address entitled Seers, Time-Travellers, and Intergalactic Trouble-Makers: A Keynote on Radical Organizing as Science Fiction given by Walida Imarisha, co-editor of Octavia's Brood, a science fiction anthology authored by activists and visionaries,” said Arabella Colombier, Culture Shock coordinator.

The programming began with a workshop and training called Anti-Racism 101, which gave participants a background in the theoretical and historical roots of racism, non-racism and anti-racism. Practical tools to actively deconstruct oppressive thought and language, and engage with personal  identities were also taught.

"Identity frames the way we relate to one another, from how we see ourselves, to how [we] see other people," said Nate Philip, a discussion leader.  "This workshop aims to facilitate a dialogue about how our personal identities influence the access of power we have in our society."

Among the exercises intended to explore identity relationships was a “step forward, step back” exercise.

"If either of your guardians did not graduate from college, move back,” Philip said. "If you believe the police would help you in an emergency, move forward."

The series also included a cultural solidarity-building and reconciliation workshop entitled Oh Canada, Our Home on Native Land: Discussing Decolonization, a round-table discussion on women of colour in the media, and an address on radical organizing as science fiction.

One of the series’ keynote speakers, New York City-based activist and organizer, Joshua Allen, spoke on Friday evening at the Comité d'éducation aux adultes de la Petite-Bourgogne et de Saint-Henri (CÉDA) at a joint event hosted by QPIRG and the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE), as part of its two-day series called Trans/Formations.  

Allen praised the work of Demilitarize McGill, expressing the importance of resistance against the military to LGBTQ rights movements with a call to action.

"The work of trans and gender nonconforming people, the work of people who deviate from normative gender is a demilitarizing project," Allen said. "We have to realize the oppression […] is often times perpetuated by militaries all across the world. In order to end that, we must actively engage in struggles against the military."

Allen cited the recent murder of Keisha Jenkins, the 21st transgender woman killed in the United States this year, as indicative of the need for continued activism.

I think that […] now is a state of emergency, we have different people dying every single month,” Allen said.  “The way that I would personally characterize the trans movement in Europe and also in the U.S. and other places, is that it’s responding to crises and violence.”

Other events hosted by QPIRG McGill throughout the year include Social Justice Days and Israeli Apartheid Week alongside organizations such as QPIRG-Concordia, the Center for Gender Advocacy Concordia, RadLaw McGill, Demilitarize McGill, Howl Arts, Tadamon, and Cinema Politica Concordia.

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