Social justice award winner Domunique Booker advises to lead with kindness

December 11, 2020

Sociology student and community activist Domunique Booker is passionate about the power of community and collective action to overcome poverty, race and addiction.

That's why she's this year's winner of SFU's 2019 Michael McDonell Award for Social Justice. This award recognizes undergraduate students in the SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences who have demonstrated a commitment to social activism and justice.

An SFU sociology major, she finds time to work at social enterprises Save-on Meats and Employ to Empower. She also works with the federal government to develop strategies to support black youth in Canada. Through curating art shows highlighting black artists, she now helps the Museum of Anthropology to update their African American collection to reflect current black culture.

Her passion for social justice and activism developed in childhood growing up as an African-American-Canadian with First Nations extended family members. She saw how marginalized people struggle and how intergenerational trauma persists. She also recognized the importance of community and collective action.

She says she felt lost, and didn't know how to help those around her who were suffering. After a personal tragedy, however, she realized her life's purpose is to "alleviate pain."

She turned to sociology, a field she felt would help her put words to her experiences and help her achieve her goals.

Her commitment to giving back can sometimes be challenging. The people she tries to help are not always in the best state of mind, which can lead to difficult situations.

But, she offers thoughtful advice, "Lead with kindness and treat everyone, including yourself, with respect." She adds it's important to set boundaries for yourself and approach everyone with authenticity and genuineness because, she says, "you can never know the person's experience and mindset."

She discovered some of the best ways to give back to the community through her courses at SFU. In SFU's RADIUS program she developed a social enterprise based on Truth and Reconciliation. And in SA 498, Fieldwork in Sociology/Anthropology, class members volunteered at a variety of organizations and then related their experience to theory and research.

"One of the things I've learned is that encouraging small-scale shifts in people, from changing their perspective by offering them a hot beverage or sandwich, can be just as important as large-scale shifts in society."