author: kristian ferguson | news editor
Prominent civil rights activist holding free talk
The Women’s Action Group (WAG) is a student run group on campus that has spent the better part of a year working to bring big-name speaker, Angela Davis, to the university.
The Carillon was able to interview two founding members of the group, Rita Panapasa and Hannah Grover, about how trying to get one of the biggest names from the civil rights movement has transpired.
Both Panapasa and Grover were excited that the event was coming up soon and that it had been quite a lot of work to get it organized.
“I am very relieved. This has been quite a journey for me and the entire team,” said Panapasa.
“I’m feeling very excited, but nervous,” said Grover. “I know everyone at WAG has put their heart and soul into the project, and I just hope everyone’s hard work shines on the night of the event.”
What was clear and apparent was that there is a general consensus as to how important bringing Davis is to the members of WAG.
“We felt that Dr. Davis represented intersectional feminism very well. Also, because of our political and social climate, it was important to have a speaker who could relate to all, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or religion,” said Panapasa.
“She’s accomplished and changed so much as a leftist woman of colour. I hope her talk inspires many others at the University of Regina to be more active in their communities, especially given some of the choices the Sask. Party has made as of late,” said Grover. “I’m very excited to hear what she has prepared for the event.”
Both of the WAG members held strong personal connections to the event as well.
“As I am a woman of color, Dr. Davis is everything I wanted to be growing up. She is outspoken, intelligent, and is very proud of her heritage and roots,” said Panapasa.
“Davis, represents the black intellect and how using your education is a tool for freedom. She taught us that being a person of color already gives you leverage in terms of life experience. Yet, being a person of color and educated makes you a force to be reckoned with.”
“I’m a leftist myself and I feel very strongly about getting involved in protests, rallies, and activism,” said Grover.
However, hosting a figure such as Davis was no easy feat for WAG.
“It was really tricky! Of course, we’re all students, so we’re juggling a lot in terms of our academic, professional, and personal lives,” said Grover. “I think the hardest part, for me at least, was finding a balance between all of the commitments I’ve made this year and ensuring that I help out as much as I can without getting too much anxiety.”
“Honestly, it was very difficult,” said Panapasa. “We got rejected multiple times for funding, and we always had to re-group and figure out a new way to solve it. However, with the help from the U of R Women’s Center, specifically Jill Arnott and Kobie Spriggs, then it became a lot easier. I am just happy I have my team and the Women’s Centre, because it definitely helped with the stress.”
WAG has seen exponential growth since its inception, though, and both Grover and Panapasa are proud of what has been put in place.
“It has grown, in terms of popularity. We have a lot of positive feedback and a lot of women asking to join, which is great for next year’s team,” said Panapasa.
“I feel I’ve gotten a lot closer to the members of WAG. We’re all great friends now and I hope the group continues to expand for future generations of women at the University of Regina,” stated Grover.
In order to sell WAG to those who may be interested in this kind of organizing, both of the members had glowing recommendations of their time involved with the group.
“My favourite part is that I get to meet other women and hear their stories. I got to build friendships and connections with other women who have the same goals and vision,” said Panapasa. “Also having an all-female army around you makes you feel part of something, and that’s always a great feeling, being part of something.”
“I’m so honoured to be part of a group of women who are passionate about intersectional representation on campus,” said Grover. “It can be so tricky, especially in Saskatchewan, to find space for yourself in activist communities. I think WAG is a fantastic opportunity for students at the U of R to get involved in activism and develop professional skills along the way.”
Panapasa had a final send off for anyone who was involved with WAG in its time to organize the Angela Davis talk.
“Thank you to all our supporters,” said Panapasa. “I want to give a special thanks to my business partner in all this; Samira Wagner. She deserves a lot of the credit, and I am in awe of her hard work. Also, to Khansa Irfan and Hannah Grover, for supporting and just being amazing women to work with. Also, Allie Somers and Natasha Labar, for always being ready to help and for all the positivity they emit to the team. I have a great team.”
Angela Davis will be visiting the university on March 8 from 7-9 p.m. in the Riddell Theatre. Admission is free.