DR. MARIA ASSIF
ASSOCIATE CHAIR & SENIOR LECTURER
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO SCARBOROUGH
Dr. Maria Assif is an Associate Chair & Senior Lecturer in literature at UTSC English Department, concentrating on Arab North American literature and women‘s studies. Maria‘s views on world literature have been described as “not merely a window through which we ‘look at‘ the cultural production of another society; but [also] a mirror that reflects our collective misunderstandings of a given culture.” Maria uses her class as a forum for students to discuss issues directly related to Arab women as well as to touch on diverse and sensitive topics like racism, colonialism and the experiences of minority groups.
Her current research looks at the aftermath of 9/11 on Arab-American youth. Her future endeavours include working on the first database about Arab women writers and speaking at the Canadian International Conference of Education at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Maria Assif advances anti-racism… by providing spaces for Arab women writers to display their written and visual work while encouraging the audience to look beyond stereotypical images of the oppressed, voiceless, burca-clad Arab woman.
CURATOR IN RESIDENCE
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Photo credit: Red Works Photography
Wanda Nanibush is a First Nations activist, community organizer, writer and artist. At the University of Toronto, Wanda was the first ever Aboriginal Curator in Residence during which time she led to the acquisition of the single largest groupings of works by emerging aboriginal artists for the Hart House Permanent collection. Wanda has also recently served as the 2013 Dame Nita Barrow Distinguished Visitor at OISE, teaching graduate level courses on Histories of Indigenous Women‘s Resistance. Wanda also created a graduate exhibition on the subject of First Nations anti-colonial performance activism, titled Sovereign Acts (2012) and organized a national symposium called Nation to Nation Now (March 23, 2013) in conjunction with her activist work as one of the organizers of the Toronto Idle No More movement. The conference, being the first of its kind at U of T and in the city, brought together over 175 people, including leaders in the aboriginal community and public intellectuals from across Toronto, Ontario and Canada, and was complemented by an anti-racist concert (March 21st).
Wanda‘s upcoming project is a major exhibition with Anishnawabe-Kwe Governor General Award-winner, artist Rebecca Belmore, which will take place alongside the “2014 Big Perks” conference at U of T.
Wanda Nanibush advances anti-racism… through her work with and on behalf of Aboriginal artists, by working to create spaces for Aboriginal artists to display their work and challenge Eurocentric modes of artistic expression.
ABORIGINAL STUDENT LIFE COORDINATOR
FIRST NATIONS HOUSE
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Susan Blight is the Aboriginal Student Life Coordinator at the University of Toronto‘s First Nations House (FNH). For the last two years, she has volunteered as the host of the Indigenous Waves radio show on CIUT 89.5FM. Indigenous Waves focuses on social justice and environmental issues, from an Indigenous perspective, and works to educate listeners on Indigenous rights.
Susan is the co-founder of the Ogimaa Mikana Project, an artist/activist collective working to reclaim and rename the roads, streets and landmarks of Toronto with Anishinaabemowin. Her writing and artwork – focused on Indigenous activism, anti-oppression, and anti-racism – has been published in Shameless Magazine, Muskrat Magazine, Kimiwan and the FNH magazine. In 2013, she was recognized as one of the top 20 Indigenous women to follow on Twitter.
Susan Blight advances anti-racism… through her dedication to Indigenous language revitalization, tutoring, and mentoring of U of T students.
CHESTNUT RESIDENCE DON & ADVISOR
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Kevin Lunianga is a senior undergraduate student currently serving as a Residence Advisor at the University of Toronto. Over the past year, Kevin has built a close-knit and lively community with students where he prioritizes awareness of inclusive and equitable language.
Kevin created “Three A‘s for Halloween: Appropriate, Affordable and Accessible” – an educational program for students on cultural appropriation, racial stereotyping and their links to Halloween costumes, such as black face. As a part of the University of Toronto Students‘ Union, Kevin served on the Accessibility Committee where he supported the establishment of the “eXpression Against Oppression Week” which is an intersectional initiative that encourages discussion spaces against all types of oppression, as well as racism on campus. More recently, Kevin has continued engaging students in anti-racist perspectives through a series of residence life events surrounding Black History Month.
Kevin Lunianga advances anti-racism… by being a role model who builds cultural diversity and anti-racism awareness in the co-curricular and extracurricular lives of U of T students. Kevin sparks and facilitates continuous, day-to-day, informal discussions around questions of race with students, and actively works to incorporate an anti-racist perspective in to his role as a residence don.
JUSTIN LEIGH STRUSS
HEALTH STUDIES STUDENTS‘ UNION
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Photo credit: Cristopher Dew
Justin Leigh Struss is the Director of Technical Affairs on the Health Studies Students‘ Union at the University of Toronto. In 2011, Justin, along with Cara Evans, helped create an exchange program so that U of T students could go to the Six Nations Reserve during Reading Week. Currently in its‘ third year, the “First Nations Reading Week Exchange Program” allows Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth to come together and learn about Aboriginal perspectives on health. Youth will hear from a variety of community leaders regarding health, traditional healing, and sharing insights on culturally meaningful ways to work towards reconciliation. Justin has also played an instrumental role in securing funds for students who would otherwise not be able to attend the reading week exchange program.
Justin Leigh Struss advances anti-racism… by bringing together youth from diverse backgrounds to explore Aboriginal culture and dispel problematic stereotypes so as to combat systemic and institutional racism.
PROFESSOR NJOKI WANE
DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR INTEGRATIVE ANTI-RACISM STUDIES
ONTARIO INSTITUTE FOR STUDIES IN EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
SPECIAL ADVISOR ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN ISSUES, STATUS OF WOMEN OFFICE
Professor Njoki Wane is an active scholar who has written and published widely in the areas of racism, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, feminism, indigenous knowledge, spirituality and healing. Throughout her career as a scholar, activist, and pedagogue, Njoki has advanced and strengthened scholar communities at the University of Toronto that work on African indigenous knowledges, African feminisms, African Women & Spirituality, and anti-racist education.
Currently, she is the incumbent director of the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies (CIARS) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), an organization that has challenged the status quo through social justice praxis. Through her work at CIARS, her project “Investing in Diversity – Leadership & Mentorship Program for Aspiring Teachers”, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, provided a unique training opportunity for visible minority teachers wishing to use education to challenge the status quo. In addition, Njoki and Larissa Cairncross co-authored “Equity in Practice: Transformational Training Resource” – an anti-racist training manual intended for both scholars and professionals. In 2006, Njoki initiated the annual “Decolonizing the Spirit” conference, now in its 8th year, establishing an engaging space for students, community members and scholars to participate in a decolonizing dialogue, employing an anti-racist praxis on how to navigate and respond to social justice issues.
Njoki‘s passion for inclusive education encourages critical conversations in the classroom around institutional racism. Students have described her teaching as an effective practice for “broach[ing] the issue of racism in our society and empower[ing] individuals to deal with it through the lens of anti-racism”.
Professor Njoki Wane advances anti-racism… through her mentorship and guidance provided to current and aspiring teachers working to challenge the status quo and advance anti-racism. Her long-standing commitment and exceptional leadership as an anti-racist educator represents her quest to improve systemic circumstances for future generations.