Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street

A screen capture of a team meeting in the time of COVID-19.

2020 in Review: Reflections on Our Pandemic Year

December 21, 2020
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To members of our community,

As this complicated and tumultuous year comes to a close, there is much to reflect upon. While our public programming has been limited to the virtual world for the time being, we look forward to welcoming our communities back to in-person programming in Fall 2021. This has been a year of profound upheaval that has included the COVID-19 pandemic, protests over pipelines, Indigenous sovereignty, Black Lives Matter and an ongoing opioid crisis that has resulted in an unprecedented loss of life. All this has happened against the backdrop of a heightened anxiety brought on by the unfortunate rise of authoritarian populism around the world.

More than ever, it is important to engage with one another in dialogue and debate in the spirit of what a university ought to be, alongside the communities we are situated in. We are committed to bringing you relevant programming that excites, inspires and provokes important conversations as we enter our 10th anniversary year for SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement. We will continue to program in the three areas of 1) social and environmental justice, 2) arts, culture and community and 3) urban issues.

We wish you a restful holiday season to recharge your batteries and look forward to the possibility of new, inspiring times ahead to rekindle the spark of being alive with one another, to usher in new times and to think together what a coming community might be.

Best wishes,

Am Johal
Director, SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement

2020 Highlights

Esi Edugyan (left) in conversation with Omar El Akkad at the 2020 One Book One SFU event. Photo by Greg Ehlers.

One Book One SFU: Esi Edugyan and Omar El Akkad

As part of our ongoing partnership with SFU Library, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement co-presented the 2020 edition of One Book One SFU. This year’s book was Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black. In January, we welcomed Edugyan to the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema. Edugyan was in conversation with author and journalist Omar El Akkad. The recording from this special presentation can be found in our Knowledge Democracy A/V Gallery.

Youth producers and seniors who participated in creating audio documentaries for Speak My Language shared their insights at the launch event.

Speak My Language: Celebrating Our Stories

Our Office’s close proximity to Vancouver’s Chinatown lends itself to collaboration with the community. We helped to host Speak My Language: Celebrating Our Stories at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts with Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice. This storytelling event celebrated the efforts of Chinese youth who collaborated with seniors from Chinatown. Together, these teams created audio documentaries of the seniors’ lived experiences navigating the BC healthcare system. These stories are available for listening on the Yarrow website.

A screenshot of some of the participants who joined for a live Q&A with Dr. Jack Qui during the Dallas Smythe Memorial Lecture.

Dallas Smythe Memorial Lecture 2020

The Dallas Smythe Memorial Lecture is an annual event hosted by SFU’s School of Communication. We were pleased to work with the organizing committee to co-host the event for the first time. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the in-person version of the event was cancelled so as to follow provincial health guidelines. As such, we had to quickly adapt the event to a virtual format. The digital lecture was given by Dr. Jack Qiu from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. This was followed by live Q&A hosted over Zoom.

Pandemic Conversations: A Below the Radar Series

At the onset of the pandemic, we were reeling from and adjusting to the situation unfolding before us. In lieu of in-person programming, we launched Pandemic Conversations, a Below the Radar series exploring how people are continuing to live, research, organize, and make art in a time of social distancing. We interviewed scientists, community organizations, activists, artists, and others about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people and their communities.

“When Jackie Obungah set out to create a mini-series for the Below the Radar podcast, she had a very specific goal in mind: to center and amplify the voices of Black youth.”

On the blog for SFU’s Community-Engaged Research Initiative, an interview with our summer co-op student Jackie Obungah on a two-part series she curated for Below the Radar about Black youth in policy making and community organizing.

Women Diversifying Cities: Dare to Run

Through a partnership with Women Transforming Cities, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement supported a webinar on the challenges and opportunities of running for public office as BIPOC women and gender diverse folks. Panelists shared their experiences of campaigning and building momentum in progressive local movements. This event kicked off a webinar series from Women Transforming Cities as part of their project: Systemic Barriers to Women’s Participation in Local Government. The recording for the event is also included in our A/V gallery.

Blog: 25K+ Listens for Below the Radar

Two years and nearly 100 episodes later, Below the Radar is going strong with 25,000+ listens. We launched this podcast in 2018 with the aim of connecting with our community in a new way. The connections we have made to our guests and listeners became even more dear to us this spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic made it unsafe for us to gather and be in community with each other in the same way. Read our reflections on podcasting in crisis times.

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