Arts

SFUO event gathers performers to share their message on race

Photo: Christelle Musambi

People have countless different ways to express their struggles.

Students showcased a variety of their at a performance event called Responding to Racism Through Art on March 27. The event closed off United Against Racism Week, hosted by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. It allowed students to partake in artistic dialogue regarding racial issues and their everyday struggles with discrimination.

Kicking the night off, rapper Rashidi Kabamba, a Carleton University student, walked students through a black history lesson, verse after verse, reminding all to take pride in their roots

Following on the same path, hip-hop duo Patrick Michel and Eddyson Pierre took their music style back to the ‘90s, an era when hip-hop was a voice for the oppressed, they said. For them, hip-hop was more than a vehicle for hedonistic promotion, but an instrument for social change.

A poetic performance by U of O sociology and anthropology alumnus Anny Sam detailed vivid feelings of internalized racism, and how it pushed her to minimize cultural aspects of her upbringing in the hopes of blending into her surroundings. It was a theme that resonated with many performers that night, who said that at one time or another they stopped themselves from being all that they were because of feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred.

Several poetics used artistic wordplay to emphasize how people who have been marginalized are portrayed in the media, and the importance of peeling back the layers of the system that continues to perpetuate these inaccuracies. Amy Iliza, a third-year student in international development, described this phenomenon.

“I believe that it’s difficult to not point the finger towards the people who belong to the race who has pointed their fingers at us,” said Iliza. “But it is primordial to remember that the systems are poisonous, the systems are unjust. It’s the systems that need to be abolished, not the people that they protect.”

Iliza, who has written since high school, discussed during her spoken word performance what people see when they look at hermainly the “angry black woman” label that has become overly used to describe a woman of colour. She said she hopes that the event will serve to encourage those who feel alone in their racial struggles.

“When people hear you speak about things they relate to, it gives them the courage to speak up for themselves as well.”

The night ended with a call to action from poet Louise Boileau, a third-year social sciences student, who said that people of colour are in a “state of emergency” and that all people need to be there for each other.

“We continue to be told that these lives don’t matter, but it is crucial that we protect each other,” she said. “We need to speak loudly and clearly that our lives do matter.”