What's Going On? Dalhousie's Speak Truth to Power series marks one year with progress forum

- May 25, 2021

Dalhousie marks the first anniversary of its Speak Truth to Power series this Thursday. (Provided image)
Dalhousie marks the first anniversary of its Speak Truth to Power series this Thursday. (Provided image)

Theresa Rajack-Talley is vice-provost, equity and inclusion at Dalhousie.

In the last year, many of us have experienced the worst two pandemics in our lifetime.  Under one pandemic — COVID-19 — many ordinary things we used to do like in-class, face-to-face schooling, shaking hands, having dinner at restaurants, participating in sporting and other recreational activities, praying together, visiting elderly family members, and hugging a loved one were taken away from us.

The other pandemic — the violence of racism and protests erupting globally with the killing of George Floyd last May —  was also new for some, but for others, it is what has been going on for decades.

A recent CNN special highlighted that “in 1971, while the United States was also amid two ‘pandemics,’ that is the Vietnam War and social unrest, Motown singer Marvin Gaye took to the airwaves with a song of peace and conscious reflection.  Now, fifty years later, the song and album — What’s Going On — continue to speak no less vividly of this era of racism, poverty, police brutality and major social health and environmental issues.”

The message of Marvin Gaye’s anthem for the ages, What’s Going On, still rings clear indeed:

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today, yeah

Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
Oh, what's going on

Dalhousie’s Speak Truth to Power series was designed so we can talk to each other. It began as a conversation about two pandemics that converged around the need for greater attention on racial, socio-economic, gender, and other social inequity issues and their intersections, much like Gaye’s message decades ago. Moreover, while some continue to debate, deny, or avoid the systemic nature of these social-justice issues — the brutality, pain, loss, and disenfranchisement of individuals, groups and communities persist.  

What’s going on?  Why are some of us treated as if we have no humanity?   

Our series was born out of the pain that we were all witnessing in the news and experiencing in our own lives. Like the millions of protestors around the world, some of us at Dalhousie felt that we needed to speak out, speak the truth from our various perspectives, educate anyone willing to learn about social justice issues, and partner with the communities most affected in hopes of enacting change or at a minimum instilling greater understanding, compassion, and knowledge.

While the series began with a focus on anti-black racism, other injustices called out for attention as well. As George Floyd called for his mother in his last breath on the streets of Minneapolis, north of the border in a Canadian hospital an Indigenous mother of seven — Joyce Echaquan — asked for help and in the last heart-wrenching minutes of her life video recorded racist slurs directed to her such as, “You’re stupid as hell.”  Unfortunately, these are just a couple examples of a list that’s grown in the last year to include many other groups as well. A report by the Chinese Canadian National Council’s Toronto chapter has found 1,150 incidents of anti-Asian racism were tallied during the COVID-19 pandemic — with many of the incidents involving people physically attacking, spitting, or coughing on Asian Canadians.

Consequently, as our series grew with the anti-racism movement, we made space at the table for African Americans, Black Canadians and African Nova Scotians, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2SI+, the Asian community, and other underrepresented groups. We pride ourselves on being inclusive of campus and community, faculty, staff, and students.  

Our upcoming anniversary episode of the series, Has the needle moved on systemic racism in the past year?, is representative of these values and elements. Please join us.

Speak Truth to Power: Has the needle moved on systemic racism in the past year?

When: Thursday, May 27, 2021: 6-8 p.m.


Dr. Derrick Brooms
Vanessa Fells
DeRico Symonds
Yuan (Savanna) Cao
Dr. Pamela Palmater

Where: Microsoft Teams meeting


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