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Recognizing outstanding leaders

Ban Righ Foundation hosts celebration of influential women in the Kingston community.

  • Erin Clow, Ban Righ Foundation co-chair and Queen’s Equity Advisor, and Carole Morrison, Director of the Ban Righ Foundation, greet attendees to "Inspiring Women, an evening at the Isabel." (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Erin Clow, Ban Righ Foundation co-chair and Queen’s Equity Advisor, and Carole Morrison, Director of the Ban Righ Foundation, greet attendees to "Inspiring Women, an evening at the Isabel." (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • CBC radio host and University of Victoria Chancellor Shelagh Rogers (BA’77) (left) moderates a panel discussion, featuring Sarah Harmer, Artsci'93, Dr. Jane Errington, Reena Kukreja, and Carol Ann Budd, Sc'89. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    CBC radio host and University of Victoria Chancellor Shelagh Rogers (BA’77) (left) moderates a panel discussion, featuring Sarah Harmer, Artsci'93, Dr. Jane Errington, Reena Kukreja, and Carol Ann Budd, Sc'89. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • The Shout Sister! Choir performs at the Ban Righ Foundation "Inspiring Women, an evening at the Isabel." (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    The Shout Sister! Choir performs at the Ban Righ Foundation "Inspiring Women, an evening at the Isabel." (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Georgette Fry, founder of the Shout Sister! Choir and recipient of the 2016 Ban Righ Foundation Leadership Award. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Georgette Fry, founder of the Shout Sister! Choir and recipient of the 2016 Ban Righ Foundation Leadership Award. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)

On October 18, the Ban Righ Foundation celebrated the achievements of women from the Queen’s and Kingston communities at their event “Inspiring Women – An Evening at the Isabel.” The event featured a panel discussion, poetry and musical performances and the inaugural presentation of awards recognizing two local women for their achievements as mentors and leaders in the community.

Queen’s professor Kathrine McKittrick (Gender Studies/Cultural Studies) was one of two community leaders to receive the first annual Ban Righ Foundation Award in recognition of her mentorship of students at Queen’s and across Canada. She was joined by community choir director Georgette Fry, who will be recognized for her leadership and community service.

“The Ban Righ Centre staff and board members are proud to celebrate the achievements of women at Queen's and in the Kingston community,” says Carole Morrison, Director of the Ban Righ Foundation. “The two award recipients are exemplary in their dedication and deserve high praise for the contributions they have made and continue to make in our community.”


Inspiring women to reach their goals

For her continuing mentorship of students at Queen’s and across Canada, Dr. McKittrick was named the inaugural recipient of the Ban Righ Foundation Mentorship Award.
 
“I feel like supporting students and mentoring them is part of our job,” says Dr. McKittrick. “I feel like that’s why I became a professor – to support and mentor students, especially students of colour and students from other marginalized groups, and provide for them a space to share ideas and also do their best work.”
 
Much of Dr. McKittrick’s research, as well as the research of her mentees fall into the category defined as “difficult knowledge,” – topics such as racism, marginalization, oppression, and racial violence, to name a few. Dr. McKittrick defines her role as to support her students – many of whom have first-hand experience in these topics –and to create an intellectual environment to explore these themes to bring about positive change in the world around them.
 
Dr, McKittrick says the influence of her own mentors, both during her graduate studies and continuing into academia, has shaped her own approach to guiding students in their research. She points to the examples of her own doctoral supervisor, Lynda Peake (York University) and colleague Rinaldo Walcott (OISE/University of Toronto) for encouraging her to take her research in new directions and inspiring her to view her field through a different lens. She also highlights Ruth Wilson Gilmore (CUNY) and essayist Sylvia Wynter for the impacts they have had on her continuing research.
 
”She’s been a wonderful friend and mentor to me and it has been an honour to work with her,” she says of Dr. Wynter. “The best advice she has given me was, ‘don’t conform to the academic demands.’ Keep pushing and pushing and asking questions about what Black studies can do in the academy.”
 
While Dr. McKittrick says the award comes as a surprise, she is quick to turn the spotlight back towards her students and the reciprocal respect and admiration she has for them.
“I’m so blown away by their nomination, but also how much I’ve learned from them and how they inspire me to be a good mentor,” she says. “They ask hard questions. I put a lot of demands on my students and they always do the readings, they show up every week and they’re deeply engaged and that is challenging and stimulating for me as a professor. I just adore them.”

Recognized for “giving women a voice”

The inaugural recipient of the Ban Righ Foundation Leadership Award, Georgette Fry has helped women from across Ontario find their voice as part of the Shout Sister! Choir. Started “on a whim” in 2002, the choir now has 23 chapters across Ontario.

“The choir started out as just me thinking it would be lots of fun to get together some women and have them sing songs that there weren’t necessarily arrangements for,” says Ms. Fry. “It was something that was designed not to be stressful. I started out with about 125 women and from there it has started to spread across Ontario. The music is fun, and I think it helps the women relax and be more self-confident because they’re part of a large group of women who are equally unskilled, but nobody cares about that. We care about the message in the songs we’re singing.”

A Juno Award-nominated vocalist in her own right, Ms. Fry’s leadership created an opportunity for others without a music background to perform in a safe and supportive environment with like-minded peers. Performances by the choir have also helped raise funds and awareness for local community groups, including the Food bank, the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, and the Sisters of Providence, amongst others. Ms. Fry says that the spirit of community and giving extends to the members themselves – describing how members have stepped up to help colleagues in need.

“The women are finding support from within the choir because we’ll be there,” she explains. “It seems to be the kind of choir that is as much if not more about the community as it is about the music. It’s been absolutely amazing the connections that have come out from simply opening your mouth at choir – If you’re sick, members offer to help out until you’re back on your feet. Someone who needs an apartment finds out someone else has a room to rent.”

Ms. Fry’s latest project involves providing northern Indigenous communities with the resources to start youth music and choir programs. Calling on the nearly 2,000 Shout Sister! members across the province, Ms. Fry has been able to provide musical instruments, choral arrangements and other education resources to communities in northern Quebec. Ms. Fry is quick to highlight the contributions of the choir members to providing the necessary tools.

“I might be the so-called leader of the choir, but it’s the women who are making this happen,” she says. “They brought out guitars and keyboards and banjos and mandolins, as well as non-musical supplies to help teachers and students. I’m less of a leader than I am a lightning rod.”


The Ban Righ Centre is a unique on-campus resource centre – the only one of its kind in Canada – that provides mature women students with advice and financial assistance, a lunch program with speakers and female faculty mentors, and quiet spaces to study. Founded in 1974, the Ban Righ Foundation (the Centre’s volunteer board of directors) is made up of Queen’s University alumnae, students, staff, faculty and community members. For more information on the Ban Righ Foundation, please visit the website.