Candles burning at a vigil for trans women of colour. Via Facebook.

Anti-discrimination bound together the events of eXpression Against Oppression (XAO) week; at the core was the idea of addressing any “ism” that creates racial, cultural, and socio-economic divides.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) holds XAO every year, a series of events aimed at tackling some of the pertinent issues of social justice and equity that challenge diverse groups of students at U of T.

“We are constantly witnessing the misrepresentation of minority groups and their plight,” said Sania Khan, UTSU vice-president, equity and chair of the Social Justice and Equity Commission.

A unified approach to a variety of issues

“It’s been really humbling to see that every single event this week has been sold out and at maximum capacity,” said Khan. “The fact that this many people want to come out to these kinds of events [shows] that so many of the issues actually speak out to people.”

She attributes this year’s positive outcome to the collaborative effort put forth by representatives of many different groups on campus that offered to bring forward their ideas and networks to promote the event. Among the supporting groups were the Black Students’ Association, Tamil Students’ Association, and LGBTOUT.

As for the events, each showcased something unique in order to facilitate discussion and raise awareness.

A performance event titled “Fuck Your Bigotry” encouraged students to celebrate diversity through artistic expressions of spoken word poetry, song, and dance. Additionally, a winter-clothing drive was organized to assist the Mishkeegogamang First Nation in northwestern Ontario, an impoverished community that faces the perils of colonial dispossession.

Anti-discrimination was also addressed through a discussion led by anti-black racism advocate and journalist Desmond Cole. He spoke about the elimination of criminalization, police brutality, and underemployment within the substantive black community in Toronto.

The Solidarity with Palestine event featured a film named Roadmap to Apartheid, following an open discussion that offered students a safe space to share their thoughts. The event was supported by several campus organizations, including Students Against Israeli Apartheid.

To wrap up the week, students gathered at Queen’s Park Crescent to commemorate the Trans Day of Remembrance. The XAO event centred the experiences of trans women of colour and the disproportionate amount of violence that they suffer. 

The need for an undying momentum

One of the most important parts of resistance work, Khan says, is that it remains sustainable.

Khan also said that while a week-long series of events brings the challenges that marginalized communities face to the forefront of students’ attention, such initiatives ought to continue over a longer term and throughout the year.

“The only way to achieve this is to keep our relations with various minority groups intact,” Khan continued. “In order to keep the momentum going, I think the communities that are working together within this sphere should continue to build stronger coalitions.”

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