York U welcomes 1,000 TDSB and HDSB students for social justice conference on May 7

TORONTO, May 5, 2014 –York University will welcome over 1000 students from across the GTA next week for And Social Justice for All, a day-long conference and fair that explores fundamental social justice and human rights issues with an engaging educational approach.

York University’s Department of Equity Studies is pleased to partner with the Toronto District School Board, the  Halton District School Board and York’s Centre for Human Rights in presenting this innovative event, which will bring together TDSB and HDSB students and teachers as well as 100 staff, students, and faculty members from York U for sessions dealing with some of today’s most pressing social-justice issues, including gender violence, mental health, poverty, restorative justice, and social engagement.

The conference is designed to connect these important social justice issues directly with students’ own experience through a roster of dynamic speakers and performers, hands-on workshops, and resource displays.

Keynote speaker Asante Haughton (9:40 am) has been harnessing the power of spoken word poetry and hip-hop to tell his story in hopes of fostering awareness and education about mental health, as well as reducing stigma. Haughton, who began feeling hopeless in his teens, sought out professional help and also found his love of music was therapeutic. He began writing rap songs and now speaks to students with the aim of eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health. Haughton has been featured on CBC’s The National, Global News’ Young Minds series, and in the documentary Three Voices. He hopes his story can be uplifting and help young people overcome the barriers they may face in their lives.

Workshop speakers include Sara Hildebrand, the founder of Millennium Kids, a youth movement creating opportunities for youth to propel Canada forward to keep its Millenium Development Goals promise by 2015. She is passionate about encouraging youth to use their voices for justice and the common good in the public sphere. Will Laracy is a Child and Youth Worker in Toronto who teaches graffiti as an artistic medium to kids in the GTA. He will discuss his own experience with mental-health challenges and offer some insight into how youth can approach such issues and educate themselves and their peers to seek out help and wipe out stigma. York U student Deon Ampofo will discuss the Policing Literacy Initiative, a new youth-led project that bridges research and action to improve policing in the GTA through constructive dialogue and public outreach.

York U’s own Delon Omrow will bring his soulful sounds to wrap up the conference. One-third of former pop sensations StarchildX, Omrow’s current solo act draws inspiration from a wide array of classic soul and R&B, including Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and many more. The song he will present at And Social Justice for All centres around a working-class narrative, speaking to a generation faced with insurmountable obstacles at every turn in life and serving as a reminder that the fire within cannot be extinguished by injustice or inequality.

“York University supports learning without walls, learning that values diversity and supports equity, human rights and social justice. We believe that learning experientially in collaboration with communities outside the university enriches our understanding of social issues, bringing theory and practice together,” says Dr. Tania Das Gupta, Undergraduate Program Director of York University’s Department of Equity Studies. “And Social Justice For All, consistent with York University’s vision for social justice and equity, will bring together GTA students from different ages and backgrounds to examine how to achieve a more equitable and just world.”

“The conference is about student voice and giving students the tools they need to be citizens for positive social change in their community and the world around them,” said Jeff Hainbuch, Superintendent of Education, Toronto District School Board. “The TDSB supports equitable and inclusive learning environments – And Social Justice for All is one of our commitments to this learning.”

“The Halton District School Board is delighted to be part of the And Social Justice for All conference at York University. As a Board, we strive to support all our students in promoting inclusiveness and an awareness of the challenges and choices they face in the broader community and world,” said Stuart Miller, Superintendent of Education, Halton District School Board. “This conference is an opportunity to enhance that endeavour and to help prepare our students to be valuable contributors to social justice in the complex society they will very soon inherit.”

WHAT: And Social Justice For All student conference to commemorate the World Day of Social Justice

WHEN: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 8:30 am to 2:30 pm

WHERE: Vari Hall, York University, Keele Campus (building number 30 on the map)

Please note: Media are invited to cover the conference. For interviews or further information, please contact Media Relations.

York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York’s unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York U degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre, York is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York’s 11 faculties and 28 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 288 leading universities worldwide. York’s community is strong − 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 250,000 alumni.

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 Media Contact: Tabassum Siddiqui, Media Relations, York University, 416 736 2100 x 44543 / tsiddiq@yorku.ca