Dawson College’s annual Peace Week has always been a platform for insightful discussions on pressing social issues. In 2023, the theme of the 8th Annual Peace Week was “Exultation: Queer Freedoms & Futures.”
This event, which was held Sept. 13-21, celebrated the vibrant history of queerness while exploring the possibilities of a world where freedom of expression, safety, and unconditional love prevail for all gender and sexual identities. The event brought together a diverse group of speakers who shared their thoughts and experiences on the path towards true liberation from oppressive norms.
Beyond Pronouns: Ensuring Safety and Well-being
James McKye, Dawson College’s 2SLGBTQIA+ outreach counselor, kicked off Peace Week with a thought-provoking talk titled “Beyond Pronouns.” In a world striving for acceptance and equality, McKye emphasized the importance of creating safe spaces and advocating for the well-being of 2-spirit, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals. The talk served as a reminder that each of us, in our respective lives and future careers, plays a crucial role in protecting body autonomy for everyone.
K.B. Wagers: Writing Queer Lives
Author K.B. Wagers took the stage in the Dawson Theatre, facilitated by English Professor Neil Hartlen, to discuss their personal journey towards self-discovery. Wagers candidly shared their experience of cosplaying as a straight woman for 42 years before realizing their true self. Their narrative shed light on the challenges of navigating this world as well as their chosen literary genre, military science fiction which has been traditionally cisgender, white, heterosexual, and male dominated. Wagers’ stories, both what they have written as well as their own journey to self-realization, served as an inspirational testament to the power of self-acceptance and the importance of dynamic, robust, diverse, and inclusive representation for the queer community in literature.
Towards Liberation: Black, Queer, and Joyful
In one of the most powerful discussions of Peace Week, Kama La Mackarel and Maurice Riley Case engaged in a conversation titled “Towards Liberation: Black, Queer, and Joyful.” These two remarkable individuals, both Black and queer organizers, artists, and creators, delved into the complexities of survival, resistance, and self-care within an embodiment of emancipatory politics. Their dialogue served as a profound reminder that the pursuit of liberation is not just about overcoming oppression but also about embracing joy, authenticity, and self-love.
Kelsey Smoot: On Mirrors: A Curation of Black Queer Poetry, Narrative, and Thought
PhD candidate Kelsey Smoot’s presentation was a powerful exploration of Black queer masculinity and boihood worldmaking. Kelsey’s work, drawn from their dissertation project, delved into the intersections of identity, scholarship, and activism. Smoot illustrated how their use of oral history, auto-ethnography, poetics, and public-facing scholarship led to a dissertation project that defied categorization. By intentionally blurring the boundaries between theory, art, and praxis, Kelsey demonstrated the transformative potential of inclusive scholarship in challenging existing norms.
Peace Week was not limited to academic discussions; it also featured community-wide events that brought people together. The Peace Centre collaborated once again with the Dawson Student Union to host seven days of Dawson Dinin’. Community members enjoyed free vegan meals by simply bringing reusable containers. Approximately 800 people received hot, fresh vegan meals over the course of seven days, prepared by students and staff under the guidance of Dawson Dinin’ coordinator Jamal Spence. This initiative not only nourished the community but also promoted sustainable practices.
Urban Gardening with Sustainable Dawson, an ongoing collaboration between the Office of Sustainability and the Peace Centre, invited staff and students to get their hands dirty while learning about urban gardening and biodiversity. Participants experienced the calming and anti-stress effects of connecting with the natural world, emphasizing the importance of sustainable living and the benefits of environmental stewardship.
Dinner & Drag – A Celebration of Queer Joy
Peace Week concluded with a flourish of vibrant queer joy and love in the form of “Dinner & Drag.” This special event featured performances by beloved local Drag Queen ensemble, The House of Manny, led by Manny, alongside Drag Queens CC Chenelle, Manu Brock, The Ruby Doll, and award-winning burlesque dancer Joy Rider. The evening was filled with excitement, beauty, and inclusivity, celebrating the diverse talents within the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Notably, $100.00 was raised during the event and donated to Project 10, a youth organization providing vital services to 2SLGBTQ+ community members.
Exultation: Queer Freedoms & Futures during Peace Week 2023 at Dawson College served as a testament to the power of inclusivity, scholarship, and community engagement. Through enlightening discussions, hands-on experiences, and vibrant celebrations of queer joy, attendees were encouraged to envision a world where love, acceptance, and freedom are the norm. This event highlighted Dawson College’s dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive community where everyone’s voice and identity are celebrated, and where a more equitable and loving existence becomes a daily praxis on campus rather than a dream.
-Submitted by Diana Rice, Living Campus