McGill, Montreal, News

QPIRG-McGill holds annual ‘Culture Shock’ week

The Quebec Public Interest Research Group at McGill (QPIRG-McGill) held its annual Culture Shock event series on “anti-racism, migrant justice, and Indigenous solidarity” from Nov. 21 to Nov. 25. Centred around the theme of “joy, pleasure, and celebration as a form of community building,” the week was filled with workshops, panels, and shows open to anyone. Contrary to last year, the majority of the week’s events were held in person—either on campus or around Montreal. 

QPIRG-McGill is a student-funded and student-run non-profit organization founded in 1988. The organization is composed of a board of directors, staff members, volunteers, and working groups—such as the Community Cooks Collective (CCC)—who receive monetary and logistical support from QPIRG. McGill students who pay the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) or Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) fee of $5 are automatically members of QPIRG-McGill. All students are welcome to attend events, volunteer, or apply for a position within the organization.

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Ivory Tong, BA ‘19 and finance administration coordinator at QPIRG, explained that over the years, the organization has opened the doors for students—often new to Montreal—to participate in activism and engage with the broader Montreal community.  

“Through socially engaged research, popular education, and advocacy, we are working towards social and environmental justice,” Tong said. “We aim to connect students interested in activism with the community. However, this week of events focuses specifically on anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and migrant justice.” 

This year, organizers strongly encouraged community members to step forward with event proposals following the announcement of the week’s theme. 

Tong told the Tribune that the theme of joy, pleasure, and celebration as a form of community building came easily, especially after all events were held online last year.

“We decided to go with this theme because so much of activism today is naturally focused on what is wrong and what is unjust in the world, but there is great joy in coming back together,” Tong said. “We especially wanted to try and create a space for queer, transgender, Black, Indigenous and people of colour to rest and allow ourselves pleasure and joy.”

Yara Coussa, U4 Arts and events coordinator at Queer McGill, was very fond of QPIRG’s choice of theme this year. 

“The theme of joy and celebration is so important because it focuses on underserved populations, but does not portray us as damaged or broken, but rather celebrates us,” Coussa said in an interview with the Tribune. “Yes, we do face challenges and hardships, but it is always nice to celebrate our diversity and our uniqueness which I think this event series does very well.” 

On Nov. 25, QPIRG held a QTBIPOC Comedy Night in collaboration with Queer McGill—a service run by queer students, for queer students.

“We are hosting They Go Low, We Go Laugh—a comedy group primarily composed of women of colour and friends. For this show, our prompt was queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour, and the lineup of eight comedians identify themselves as such,” Coussa said. “I fell in love with their whole theme of inclusivity and comedy without being problematic, and just highlighting voices that aren’t represented in comedy.” 

Sandy El Bitar, one of the comedians, told the Tribune that her act focused on the use of humour as a form of therapy and healing. She was moved by the audience’s interaction and enthusiasm. 

“I feel it’s great to offer brave spaces for marginalized people to come together and learn about each other’s life experiences,” El Bitar said. 

Tong agrees with El Bitar and hopes that QPIRG-McGill can continue to be a space that allows for such community connection.

“I think that while we are talking about joy and pleasure, there has also been a lot of despair and sorrow,” Tong said. “I truly believe that one of the best ways to combat those feelings is to get involved in your local community, and if people are interested in doing so, they can come to QPIRG.” 

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