Coalitions: bringing change to society

UTMSU president discusses the importance of safe spaces for the marginalized

Over the past year, UTMSU has embarked on the creation of certain coalitions in order to focus on the voices of specific marginalized people. These coalitions include, but are not limited to, the racialized coalition and the Womxn’s Coalition. People may be wondering why such spaces are necessary or why the name coalition is even being used to define such spaces in a university setting. This short piece is going to emphasize not only the importance of having these spaces, but why it is necessary for everyone to be involved in the work that arises from them.

There is a need for these coalitions because the intersectional experiences of many marginalized individuals tend to be drowned out in a society that was not built to serve them. We live in a racist, white-supremacist, patriarchal society and these coalitions are here to challenge those notions. The aim of the Racialized Students Coalition is to make available to UTM students a space where they can finally speak openly about the issues concerning race that have so often been dismissed. This space will allow racialized students to collectively heal, empower, educate, and mobilize one another, while also discussing ways in which they can resist and challenge issues of race and privilege.

The mandate of the Womxn’s Coalition reads as follows, “We as Womxn have the right to safe space, which allows for each of us to feel included and heard. As members of this coalition we must work towards ending the violence and oppression society projects onto us Womxn. By creating awareness as a collective, we as a marginalized group can fight for what is right to allow for our opinions, well-being, and safety to be recognized and accepted. During this period of time, this space belongs to only Womxn. Any form of discrimination that is not limited to but includes anti-race, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Xenophobic, and Anti-Semitic will not be accepted or tolerated. We as members of this coalition can act as social support systems, an active group, and even more simply as a space for all Womxn to feel comfortable.” This is why these spaces exist. This is why we have these coalitions.

It is important to acknowledge the fact that there are certain groups of people that have been and will be disenfranchised because of the society that we live in. These coalitions strive to change society so that folks no longer feel threatened by their identity or by the labels mainstream media imposes upon them. These spaces are geared towards empowering the groups that choose to participate in these spaces, to challenge and educate our society. Through campaigns and events we can make a difference not only at the University of Toronto Mississauga, but in our community, locally, nationally, and globally.

With the political climate that has been looming over us, it is clear that these spaces are necessary; however, it takes time to inspire and build understanding to the extent where folks feel the urgency of doing this work. It is very important for students who identify within these groups to come out to these spaces because input and representation from all perspectives is what will drive us to change, to rise. There needs to be more participation that leads to discussion, that leads to education, that leads to change within society. So before folks start to criticize and denounce the existence of such spaces, it is important to understand their mandate. If you identify as a womxn and/or as a racialized individual, attend these coalition meetings. If not, participate in the events and campaigns that arise to challenge your own thinking and expand your horizons.

Ebi Agbeyegbe
President of UTMSU

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