by Julia Jenne
October 22, 2015 | Arts and Culture
Dawson College is a school rich with culture. With so many different clubs and organizations to available join, it’s hard to know where to start. Attending club fairs and asking questions helps, but sometimes, in our quest to find identity in this school of some ten thousand students, we need more than just a surface glimpse.
This week, I got an in-depth look into one of Dawson’s biggest and proudest, yet largely untalked about clubs: The Legacy. The Legacy Club is heavily invested in heritage and culture, both inside Dawson and out. Originally a Black Student Association, The Legacy now prides itself on being a venue for students of all ethnicities to bond over cultural and social issues, and pure fun.
I had the privilege of interviewing Anthony, the Legacy’s president, and Shanti, their vice president of branding and marketing. They each enlightened me on what the Legacy does here at Dawson, and how it’s evolving with every passing day.
Julia: What is the legacy’s purpose as a club here at Dawson? How has that changed since it was founded in 1969?
Shanti: It’s the oldest student-run club at Dawson and every semester we get new people, so it’s definitely evolved. We started as a Black Student Association but more and more as the generations have passed we’ve been incorporating diversity. We’ve become a safe place for all students to come and learn about culture, meet new people and socialize. We also really care about the brotherhood-sisterhood aspect – our club is a place where you can come and connect with people on a deeper level. Our focus has definitely moved from black and third world issues, to African legacy, and now, a place for everyone, the Legacy club.
Anthony: Originally, The Legacy was supposed to be an outlet for minorities, specifically black students. Back in 1969 at Dawson there wasn’t a lot of that and the school was very racially charged. It was actually one of the first schools in Quebec to have a club like this. Since then we have grown to be more multicultural. We have all different types of ethnicities here; we have members who are black, white, Indian and more. Now, the goal is not only about preserving our legacy and preserving what our predecessors have done for this club but also pushing forward and growing every year.
Julia: How does the legacy club fit into Dawson’s community of clubs? What sets you apart from the other clubs?
Shanti: We try to incorporate many different areas of interest into what we do as a club. For example, we have a campaign going for AIDS awareness, and we’re planning different discussion-based events. We started as a Black Student Association, but we’ve become so much more than that. We try to really branch out and touch a little bit of everything by collaborating with different clubs, and I think that sets us apart from other clubs because we’re not just one thing, we’re many things. As we evolve, we’re only going to take more things under our belts.
Anthony: In terms of community, I think we’re generally all under the same umbrella as you. What might set us apart is that we’re more than just a homebase here at Dawson – we’re always reaching outwards. Right now we have a school in the UK discussing the AIDS awareness campaign that we’ve set up with Et Cetera and the Hive, so we’re starting to see the impact that we have not only at Dawson, but in Montreal and elsewhere.
Julia: Every club has its ups and downs (including the Plant – hooray for budget cuts!). What kinds of setbacks does the Legacy face now and again? How do you overcome these issues?
Shanti: We’ve had a lot of hostility brought towards us because – and I don’t want to use the race card, but I’m going to have to use the race card – because we are considered to be the Black Student Association.
We’ve had some issues with vandalism in the past; we’ve had racial slurs thrown at us. We’re trying to work on a racial awareness campaign because we feel that if we were another social-ethnic group, things like that would be considered hate crimes or acts of discrimination. We’ve kind of been given the attitude that, oh, you’re overreacting, but if something were vandalized in the Plant, you would take it seriously – same thing goes for us.
Within our own organization, we’ve had to deal with smaller issues – different characters, different personalities that clash. But overall I think we’ve always stood strong as a club and we’ve overcome whatever was thrown our way. We continue to push forward. I don’t think any of what’s happened has affected us in a negative way.
Anthony: I think with success comes an underhanded – for a lack of a better word – shade towards us. We do feel like people judge us without realizing that we’re only here to offer our services and help people. Two years ago we weren’t in the place we’re in now, and it took hard work and dedication. There have been racial slurs thrown at us here at Dawson recently – we aren’t sure where the hate is coming from, because its the first time that we’ve had to face that in years. That’s why right now we’re working on our racial awareness campaign. People need to realize that even if they don’t think they’re being racist or discriminatory, those types of things are not okay. That’s what our biggest challenge is right now.
Julia: How has being a part of the Legacy improved your time at Dawson? How do you think The Legacy Club improves Dawson’s community as a whole?
Shanti: When I first got to Dawson, I was kind of lost in a way. I never thought I’d be part of a student association, let alone be an executive. But the more I got involved with the legacy, the more it felt like family to me. It’s gotten to the point where being a part of this club has actually influenced my career choice. I’m studying Community Recreation and Leadership Training, and I never would have thought of going into that field if it weren’t for The Legacy. Running this club lets me get real-world experience for everything I’m learning in school. It’s the same with you guys who run The Plant – it’s getting hands-on. As for the Dawson community, I think we’re just a pleasure to be around. I think we try to incorporate different things so everyone can connect to us in some way. All of Dawson’s community can relate to the Legacy, not just people of colour.
Anthony: Personally, it’s really helped me learn new leadership skills – it’s a bit like running a business. It’s also helped me with the social aspect of being a student at Dawson. Before, I was kind of wandering the halls, not really knowing what to do, and this club gave me a sense of identity within the school. I feel proud when I’m wearing a Legacy sweater; I’m proud to be a Legacy member and now, not only am I a member, but I’m the club’s president. That, to me, is something to be proud of. As far as Dawson’s community goes, I think it’s our openness that makes us important here. We have a space for everyone, we don’t shut anyone away. For example, everyone figures that sitnce we’re the Legacy, we’re only playing hip hop and R&B, but if someone wants to come into the club and play their rock music it’s like yeah sure, that’s dope! In my own experience, the Legacy is much more inviting than some of the other clubs here. We’re so open to meeting new people; we’ll have games of UNO going in the club space with 16 people we’ve never met before. It’s a regular occurrence for us and I don’t really see that in other clubs: it’s kind of like once you have a clique, that’s your clique, and that’s it. Whereas the Legacy is constantly evolving, expanding, inviting new people. That’s why we have 116 active members now.
Julia: How do you incorporate the original ideas about heritage and culture into what you do today as a club?
Shanti: We definitely do a lot during Black History Month; that’s our busiest time throughout the year. But we always try to bring in the family aspect – it’s more the little things we do that reflect our heritage. Many of us at the club are from Caribbean descent: our parents were not born in Africa, but we still hold heritage there. So, for instance, our logo: we wanted to use the baobab tree to show our heritage. We also have flag day, where we bring in the flag of your heritage countries and we have a Caribbean themed party. There are so many ways we try to incorporate our culture. Even just being in the clubspace, a lot of topics will come up that relate to black culture, Caribbean culture, African culture.
Anthony: I don’t think we shy away from it. I think we actually embrace the cultural aspect now much more than we did before. Before, until a couple of years ago, we really kept to ourselves. Just in a corner like, this is the legacy, this is where we hang out, we talk about our own issues in the black community – but not reaching out. Whereas now, our goal is to show awareness of what our community can do for others, and to teach tolerance and understanding. We introduce people to different things through Our events like Flag Day, Love n Hip Hop, our AIDS campaign. We always try to encompass the Legacy’s original values through what we do now.
Julia: If you could tell Dawson students one thing about the Legacy club, what would it be?
Shanti: My involvement in the Legacy has changed my life.
Anthony: We’re a family. Since joining the Legacy I feel like I have 168 family members.