Community Conversations, a new initiative in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies within the Global and Community Engagement portfolio, is designed to encourage stimulating, inspiring and inclusive dialogue among different communities on local and global issues that matter most to them.
“This first event truly embodied our vision of Community Conversations. It created a space for the community to identify strengths, build awareness and identify strategies for positive change,” says Narda Razack, associate dean, global & community engagement in LA&PS. “We want to actively enhance public engagement on a wide range of topics and to create inclusive spaces to exchange ideas.”
Held on Nov. 25, the first conversation in the series was titled “Youth, Higher Education and Community Engagement in the Portuguese Community.” Lusophone members of the Portuguese, Brazilian and Angolan communities gathered for the event hosted by the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers, with the assistance of the Working Women Community Center (WWCC) and the Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame. All these institutions are partners of York University’s Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies Program, whose faculty members spearheaded the event.
“In conjunction with the two other community partners, holding this event in the gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers was significant because it is a space that connects us to our immigrant experience and cultural pioneers. This allows us to celebrate them and remember their struggles while acknowledging the many new and often unexpected paths of Portuguese-speaking immigrants in Canada,” says Professor Maria João Dodman from York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics. Dodman and Professor Inês Cardoso, also from the same department, moderated the event.
“I am thrilled to learn about York University’s intentional and collaborative efforts to meaningfully engage and welcome Toronto’s students of Portuguese and other Lusophone ancestries into post-secondary education,” says David Pereira, a long-time tutor with the WWCC’s ON YOUR MARK tutoring program. York University students make up more than 50 per cent of the program’s 200 volunteer tutors.
“Working Women Community Centre is pleased to be working with York University in the delivery of ON YOUR MARK Mentoring and Tutoring Program for students of Portuguese ancestry. The first community conversation provided an opportunity to celebrate the marked improvement of our high school drop-out rates, but I was particularly pleased that the conversation also addressed systemic issues that impact our student success,” says Marcie Ponte, WWCC executive director.
“In this conversation, we wanted to highlight the need, as a community, to be attentive to the educational paths pursued by youth, ensuring that knowledge is widely available to them, and to reflect critically on these paths without victimization or a defeatist attitude, but as active leaders aware of our rights and collective goals,” says Cardoso, who served as the event moderator.
The community conversation attracted teachers, students, tutors, volunteers, community leaders and alumni of York University and the University of Toronto. Also in attendance was the Member of Parliament for Davenport Julie Dzerowicz, as well as Portuguese-language media from OMNI Television and Camões Radio.
“Community members applauded York University for coming to the community and bringing a different energy to a safe and an emotional space that validates our experience as immigrants,” says Dodman. “The overall interest by those who attended to stay informed on future community conversations was overwhelmingly positive.”
The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies invites faculty members and others to apply to host future Community Conversations. The formats of future conversations may vary and the Global and Community Engagement unit encourages moderators to share their innovative ideas.