On Tuesday, March 26, the Mosaic Institute, a ‘think and do tank’ that creates platforms for learning and dialogue among diverse Canadian communities, hosted a roundtable discussion in the Student Centre following a two-day interactive art exhibit focused on dismantling prejudice.

The UofMosaic Fellowship Program is the university campus-based initiative of the Mosaic Institute targeting undergraduate and graduate students with “an interest in difference and a commitment to promoting diversity and equity on their campuses.” In the current program year, the UofMosaic Fellowship Program brought together twenty fellows from nine Canadian universities to Toronto in September 2018 for a weekend of training and professional development.

Since this time, the UofMosaic Fellows have organized a national campaign targeting the problem of intergenerational prejudice. As defined by the Mosaic Institute, intergenerational prejudice refers to “an inherited set of attitudes and feelings toward a person or group of people based solely on that person’s perceived group membership for which there is no legitimate factual basis.”

The definition goes on to explain that these preconceived feelings are learned from parents or grandparents, but “can be unlearned.”

In their attempt to dismantle intergenerational prejudice, the UofMosaic Fellows designed an interactive art exhibit and roundtable discussions hosted at post-secondary institutions across Canada. UofMosaic Fellows stationed at UTSG, UTM, Concordia University, University of Ottawa, and the University of British Columbia hosted the events on their respective campuses over the month of March.

According to a statement by the UofM Fellowship, the campaign aims “to create spaces where individuals are able to reflect on, reveal and dismantle an intergenerational prejudice they have received or experienced.”

“We believe that our prejudices do not form at birth, but can often start inside our homes,” reads a description off the UofMosaic Fellowship webpage.

 Last Monday and Tuesday, UTM’s UofMosaic Fellows hosted the interactive art exhibit in the CCT atrium. UTM students had the opportunity to share their experiences dealing with intergenerational prejudice by colouring a Russian matryoshka doll and placing it within a larger doll frame. The art exhibit culminated on Tuesday evening with a roundtable discussion hosted in the UTMSU’s presentation room.

In attendance of the group debrief was the Chief Executive Officer of the Mosaic Institute, Akaash Maharaj, and UofMosaic Program Coordinator, Pallak Arora. Students from UTM, Sheridan College, and George Brown College were also in attendance.

Maharaj, formerly the CEO of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC), began the event by reinforcing the importance of introspection and reflection on personal values and difficult subject matter.

“Sometimes, it’s challenging to have these sorts of discussions. I think you should all be very proud of the fact you have come here today and are willing to confront [these issues].”

Maharaj earned his MA from Oxford University in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and was elected President of the Students’ Union. Maharaj has been decorated twice in Canada’s national honours for his contributions to peace summits regarding the Middle East, and for his services to integrity in international sport.

Over the course of the event, participants were invited to sit at tables and partake in small group discussions discussing their experiences dealing with prejudice under the facilitation of UTM’s UofMosaic Fellows. Shortly after, all participants engaged in a large group discussion sharing their insights and personal stories pertaining to intersectionality, biases, and intergenerational prejudice. The event was capped off with performances by two spoken word poets, Nasim Asghari and Maymuna Mohamed, who shared original pieces addressing identity, nationality, and family.

Omar Ali, one of the UofMosaic Fellows at UTM and an organizer of the interactive art exhibit, believes that the event marks the opening of a new discussion among UTM students about the nuances of intergenerational prejudice.

“It was a different sort of event that doesn’t get talked about. It was great to help organize and hear different people’s ideas on prejudice. It’s also interesting that people open up about their intergenerational prejudices even though you barely know them. I think it has to do with the fact that we all have these shared experiences that are passed down to us.”

Applications for the next cohort of UofMosaic Fellows is slated to open in the summer of this year.