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COVID Symposium Discussants

Opening Ceremony:

Denise Bladwin Headshot

Denise Baldwin

is a Black-Anishinaabe citizen from the Chippewa’s of Nawash First Nation located within the beautiful Bruce Peninsula. She is of the Turtle Clan. She has over twenty years of experience working on the front lines in prevention, supervision, mentorship, and community service for vulnerable populations specifically Indigenous people affected by the war on drugs. Denise is dedicated to community building and providing services to diverse communities, both socioeconomically and culturally. Denise is currently developing the Indigenous Harm Reduction Network that will be the leader in Indigenous Harm Reduction philosophy and practices. To learn more about Black-Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island please go to Proclaiming Our Roots

Closing Ceremony :

Joanna Meawasige-Vautour headshot

Joanna Meawasige-Vautour

is Anishinaabe Kwe (Ojibway Woman) from Serpent River First Nation. She is of the Turtle Clan, which comes from her maternal Grandmother. Joanna was raised by her Anishinaabe mother (Meawasige). My Anishinaabe family names are Meawasige (& Naogabow from Manitoulin Island) and Bissaillon (& McCoy & Mathias from the Algonquin Nation Maniwaki Quebec). As a registered Social Worker, she works through an intersectional and trauma-informed lens and integrates her Anishinaabe teachings into her role as a ‘Helper’ in the Indigenous Community. In carrying the Anishinaabe original instructions, Joanna’s mother taught her the ceremonies of the Purification (Sweat) lodge, fasting, and pipe.

Joanna has her Bachelors’s in Social Work, and she is currently completing her Masters of Social Work in the Indigenous Trauma and Resiliency program at the University of Toronto. Joanna has 20 years of Social Work experience working in the Toronto Indigenous (i.e. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) community in the areas of family & community development, youth recreation, child welfare, mental health, cancer care and palliative care. Her experience includes direct client care and system-level planning, where she was the Lead for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Engagement building relationships at the local, regional and provincial levels. Currently, Joanna resides in her First Nation community Serpent River and been engaged in community health-based research with First Nation communities and organizations.

Part 1: Session 1 May 29th, Friday 2-4pm EST

David Austin headshot

David Austin

is the author of the Casa de las Americas Prize-winning Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, Moving Against the System:The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness, and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He is also the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of  C.L.R James.

Lynn Jones headshot

Lynn Jones

throughout her life, has been active in the pursuit of justice, working tireless for many causes and organizations that seek to eradicate racism, secure human rights, and achieve fair labour practices. She has been honoured with many awards including the Queen’s Medal, the Congress of Black Women of Canada’s Women of Excellence award, and the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour Human Rights Award. In 2016, she was recognized with an Honorary Doctorate from Acadia University. Saint Mary’s University, in cooperation with Dr. Lynn Jones, African Nova Scotian leader and activist, now proudly houses The Lynn Jones African-Canadian & Diaspora Heritage Collection in the University Archives (

Rinaldo Walcott - headshot

Rinaldo Walcott

is a professor of Black diaspora cultural studies at the University of Toronto. Rinaldo’s research is founded in a philosophical orientation that is concerned with the ways in which coloniality shapes human relations across social and cultural time and focuses on Black cultural politics; histories of colonialism in the Americas, multiculturalism, citizenship, and diaspora; gender and sexuality; and social, cultural, and public policy. He is author of BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom (2019), Black Like Who 20th Anniversary Edition (2018), Queer Returns (2016), Counselling Across and Beyond Cultures: Exploring the work of Clemmont E Vontress in Clinical Practice by Roy Moodley and Rinaldo Walcott (2010), Rude (2003) and numerous peer reviewed articles.

Part 1: Session 2 May 30th, Sat 10-12noon EST

Ruth Cameron Headshot

Ruth Cameron

is Black lesbian, advocate, and researcher. She is the Executive Director of the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area (ACCKWA). Ruth is also undertaking her doctoral studies. Ms. Cameron is a Co-Chair of the Harm Reduction Coordinating Committee for the Region of Waterloo Public Health, and a steering committee member of the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy and for the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region.

Dane Record Headshot

Dane Record

is the Manager of Education at the AIDS Committee of Durham Region.  Since 2015, he has been active in amplifying the importance of Black health in agricultural work through the Durham Region Migrant Workers Network, a collective of service providers, researchers and volunteers.

Alexander McClelland Headshot

Alexander McClelland

is a sociolegal researcher and Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa in the Department of Criminology. He is currently examining issues of confidentiality for research with criminalized people. His work focuses on the intersections of life, law and disease, where he has developed a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary writing, academic, activist, and artistic projects to address issues of criminalization, sexual autonomy, surveillance, drug liberation, and the construction of knowledge on HIV. Alexander is a current member of the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization.

Part 1: Session 3 May 30th, Sat 7-9PM EST

Idil Abdullahi Headshot

Idil Abdillahi

is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. As a critical interdisciplinary scholar, she has published on a wide array of topics such as: mental health, policing, poverty, HIV/AIDS, organizational development, and several other key policy areas at the intersection of BlackLife and state interruption. Most notably, Idil’s cutting-edge research on Blackened madness and anti-Black sanism has informed the current debates on fatal police shootings of Black mad identified people.

Ruha Benhamin Headshot

Ruha Benjamin

is an Associate Professor of African American studies at Princeton University. She is the founder of the Just Data Lab. Dr Benjamin specializes in the interdisciplinary study of science, medicine, and technology; race-ethnicity and gender; knowledge and power. She is author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press 2013), Race After Technology (Polity 2019), and editor of Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life  (Duke University Press 2019), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

Desmond Cole Headshot

Desmond Cole

is an award-winning journalist, radio host, and activist in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, The Walrus, NOW Magazine, Ethnic Aisle, Torontoist, BuzzFeed, and the Ottawa Citizen. The Skin We’re In is Cole’s first book.

llana James Headshot

LLana James

is a public intellectual and scientist. Her career spans two decades in the private sector and public service. She examines how AI disrupts the practice of health care, and medicine, while increasingly redefining rehabilitation, public health and health care systems. Her interests lie at the intersection of race-ethnicity, health, data privacy, AI and the law. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, in the Faculty of Medicine.

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