A successful partnership between two socially engaged student associations

Posted on Thursday, April 7, 2022

Angela Davis

Professor Angela Davis

The “Re-examining Our Agency in Creating Change” webinar, given by world-renowned social activist Angela Davis, is now online with French subtitles. This event focused on such themes as law, liberation, reform, human rights, women’s rights, 2SLGBTQ+ rights and BIPOC rights. 

Professor Angela Davis has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world. Her work as an educator — both at the university level and in the larger public sphere—has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.

Shadé Edwards and Michelle Liu, who co-led this initiative, shared with us some highlights of the webinar and how the event came about.

Shadé Edwards

Shadé Edwards

What is the key takeaway from Angela Davis’ webinar?

With the knowledge acquired, we hope that participants find meaningful ways to tangibly give back to their communities and push the move towards liberation further along.

What are the logistics associated with organizing this type of event?

It took 1.5 years after the idea was first proposed to make the vision of hosting Angela Davis at the University of Ottawa a reality.

We did not really have experience in engaging a high-profile speaker like Angela Davis. We learned early on that speakers like Professor Davis often do not have predetermined speaking fees. They receive and consider offers on a rolling basis and accept or decline as they see fit. Without a set number in mind, timing became the main constraint in our fundraising efforts. We knew that given infinite time, we could likely raise an amount that would be difficult to turn down, given that the name “Angela Davis” speaks for itself. Of course, we did not have infinite time. After almost 18 months of working toward an arbitrary target, we eventually had to say, “let’s pick a date for the event and work backwards from there.” We decided we wanted the event to be sometime in the spring. Based on this, we decided that whatever we got by the end of September would be the amount of our first offer to the booking agency.

We had fundraised $11,000 (roughly US$7,800) by October 1, 2021, when we wrote to the booking agency with the offer. We were delighted when, on October 7, the agency let us know that Professor Davis had accepted the offer. We signed the contract on October 12.

This is not the first time that OUTLaw (the official association of 2SLGBTQ+ law students) and BLSA Ottawa (the Black Law Student’s Association, University of Ottawa Chapter) have worked together; back in 2020, they held a virtual teach-in, entitled “The Intersections of Blackness, Queerness and Activism: A Conversation with Desmond Cole and Reakash Walters” for a group of 500 uOttawa community members.

Shadé Edwards and Michelle Liu would like to thank all the people involved in fundraising and planning for this event:

Michelle Liu

Michelle Liu

  • Fellow law students, who supported us in this endeavour with their time, insight, and thoughtfulness;
  • Staff members Jhen Mason and Véronique Larose, who dedicated significant time and attention to ensuring that the logistics and tech all looked right for this high-profile event;
  • Professor Natasha Bakht (Shirley Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession), Professors Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (The eQuality Project), Professor David Wiseman (Law Foundation of Ontario Social Justice Speakers Series), and Professor Jamie Liew (Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies), who expressed interest and provided plenty of encouragement;
  • Angela Davis Planning Committee: Shaden Abusaleh, Jaiscelle Aristorenas, Layali Awwad, Zachary Davis, Shadé Edwards, Sana Fatima, Michelle Liu, Nurulayn Noor, Brittany Singh, Clémence Thabet, Sarah Yusuf;
  • Black Law Students Association leaders: Jaiscelle Aristorenas, Aye-Lama Bah, Matthew Baker, Wayne Cente, Shadé Edwards, Michée Kisembo, Zeinab Mohamed, D'antal Sampson, Gabrielle St-Juste, Sapphira Thompson-Bled;
  • OUTLaw leaders: Zachary Davis, Shadé Edwards, Robyn-Lee Hotte, Michelle Liu, Brittany Singh, Clémence Thabet, Sarah Yusuf;
  • External sponsors: Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP, Law Foundation of Ontario – Social Justice Speaker Series, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

Photo (from top left, clockwise): Jaiscelle Aristorenas
(Co-President, BLSA Ottawa), Michelle Liu (Co-President, OUTLaw) and
Professor Angela Davis

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