News | “You deserve to be here,” panelist tells women of colour in law

Panel discussion, coffeehouse commemorate International Women’s Day

The Women of Colour Collective of McGill Law organized a series of events in commemoration of International Women’s Day last week. The first event, a panel discussion called “Our Voices,” took place on March 7, and focused on the experiences of women of colour and Indigenous women in law. The second event, the “Speak our Minds Coffeehouse,” was held on March 8, and celebrated art created by women in forms of musical performances, spoken word, poetry, and dance.

“Our Voices” Panel

The panelists, who come from diverse fields of law and with unique identities, discussed barriers that women of colour and Indigenous women face in law. They highlighted the importance of creating a community in the workforce, among other ways of overcoming obstacles in a field dominated by white men.

Panelist Amanda Ghahremani, founder of Women’s Charters & Declarations and Articling Fellow for the Canadian Centre for International Justice, emphasized the importance of questioning hegemonic classroom practices.

“This is the most important message I want to impart to current law students of colour: your presence is the best way to disrupt the status quo.”

“This is the most important message I want to impart to current law students of colour: your presence is the best way to disrupt the status quo,” Ghahremani said.

“Challenge your professors, challenge your classmates, challenge the course materials, challenge assumptions, and also challenge yourself. As you engage actively and authentically in this space, don’t ever forget that you deserve to be here.”

Adelle Blackett, a professor of Law and William Dawson Scholar at McGill, highlighted the importance of community-building in law school. “Classrooms are not safe space, you need to find a group of people and carve your space,” she said.

“Challenge your professors, challenge your classmates, challenge the course materials, challenge assumptions, and also challenge yourself. As you engage actively and authentically in this space, don’t ever forget that you deserve to be here.”

In a message to The Daily, Ghahremani mentioned that an email was sent to the Law admissions committee asking them to reconsider their policies in light of some of the experiences expressed by the panelists.

Romita Sur, a member of the Women of Colour Collective and an organizer of the event, said, “As women of colour, we don’t see ourselves represented in the law and events. And so we wanted to have a space where we would hear from women of colour and Indigenous legal [professionals] on their experiences and how they navigated law school and their careers.”

Speak our Minds Coffeehouse

The second event focused on the experiences of women of colour broadly in society. The larger theme of the event was a tribute to the ways in which women resist violence in their communities, and performers also focused on themes of sexual assault, genocide, white supremacy, and diaspora, among others.

Alice Rougeaux, a U2 English Literature student, told The Daily that the event was simultaneously humbling and empowering.

“That is because the women who performed celebrated friendship, motherhood, laughter, sexuality, survival, solidarity, achievement, and the satisfaction of saying ‘fuck you’ to oppressors.”

Sponsors of the event included the Feminist Collective of McGill Law, Contours, the Black Law Students’ Association of McGill, Aboriginal Law Students’ Association, Rad Law McGill, and McGill Students for Feminism.

“Despite how harrowing the experiences are that call for resistance, I felt like what we were ultimately left with was positive energy […] and joy,” Rougeaux said. “That is because the women who performed celebrated friendship, motherhood, laughter, sexuality, survival, solidarity, achievement, and the satisfaction of saying ‘fuck you’ to oppressors. I didn’t really know what International Women’s Day meant before tonight, but now I think all of these things define it perfectly.”