Care-focused Social Justice Forum draws community

A recent Brock University event welcomed the public to learn about and discuss a variety of issues impacting the local community.

Held Saturday, March 25, the Niagara Social Justice Forum (NSJF) brought together students, community members, artists and non-profit organizations for a day of workshops, performances and information sharing at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

The community-focused event has been organized by the Master of Arts in Social Justice and Equity Studies program (SJES) since 2007, with sponsorship from the Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI) since 2014, but had been suspended during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many people said how exciting the booths and workshops were and that they learned a lot,” says SJES master’s student Morgan Crosby, who received a 2022-23 SJRI Fellowship to support her taking on the role of lead organizer for the event. “Everyone was really excited to be back.”

Under the supervision of Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director Trent Newmeyer, Crosby and her classmates in SJES 5P01 — Janice Desroches, Maria Guiho, Sarah Pierson, Gabi Millsap, April Deisinger, Gurkirat Singh, Brittany Lawrence, Tiffanie St. Lewis, Kyrin Stuart, Bailey Amos, Guneet Bagga, Kathleen Taggart and Laadi Salifu — began pulling together this year’s event in the fall after settling on a theme of “Pedagogies of Care: Communities in Collaboration for Social Justice.”

“We wanted a care-based focus as well as a learning experience for people,” says Crosby. “Our cohort’s research is focused on a wide range of different issues impacting different communities, so inviting these groups to come join our forum not only related to our research but also meant there were multiple issues that people could talk about and learn about, so the event could raise awareness and make information accessible for people within the community.”

Sessions featured presentations from the Strong Water Singers, Justice4BlackLives, Ban Horse Carriages Niagara, Silver Spire United Church, Positive Living Niagara, Chapters4Change and Niagara Reproductive Justice.

Information booths from Centre de santé Communautaire, Plant-Based at Brock, Positive Living Niagara, Safe Space Niagara and Start Me Up Niagara were available to participants throughout the day, along with free child care and lunch.

Participants were also welcome to attend the free screening of the documentary film Love in the Time of Fentanyl, which was presented with Naloxone training and a panel discussion, after the NSJF wrapped in the afternoon.

“We wanted to bring back the Niagara Social Justice Forum as it has long been a space where students, activists and community groups could connect, learn from each other and collaborate on a wide variety of social justice issues,” says Newmeyer. “Community members told us they were very happy to have the forum back and in person.”

Crosby says this year’s event was smaller than some previous years due to the pandemic, but she hopes future events will be able to expand and welcome bigger crowds.

“As someone who’s new to the Niagara region, it was really awesome to see all the great work that’s being done here, focusing on issues like migrant rights, reproductive justice and banning horse carriages — all these different topics related to what’s going on in the area,” she says. “There’s great work being done in the community and the NSJF is a really great opportunity to learn about it.”

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