Dr. Claire Ahn, Ampai Thammachack, Sabrina Bernard, Elamin Abdelmahmoud

Beyond the headlines brings alumni, high-profile panelists together for captivating talk 

On Jan. 26 members of the Queen’s alumni community gathered in Toronto for Beyond the headlines: Revealing Canada’s hidden narratives.    

Guests were treated to a panel discussion about education, media literacy, and cultural influence. Panelists Dr. Claire Ahn, Assistant Professor of Multiliteracies at Queen's, Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Artsci'11, CBC Radio host of Commotion, Sabrina Bernard, Artsci'25, National Writer at Her Campus, and moderator Ampai Thammachack, Artsci'20, MA'22, Founder and CEO of Step Above Stigma, engaged in a lively and wide-ranging discussion.   

The panel examined the impact of social media as a dominant source of news for younger generations with a particular focus on representations of George Floyd’s murder and the coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement on online platforms.   

Bernard emphasized the importance of social media as a vehicle for news coverage for young people but highlighted the need for intentional consumption to avoid surface-level understanding of important issues. “Some people are posting about social-justice issues in a performative way. Consumption doesn’t equal understanding.”   

Dr. Ahn shared research insights that echoed Bernard’s concerns regarding the temporary nature of social media as a tool for driving news coverage and awareness. “If you use Google Trends to look into surveillance and Black Lives Matter around the time George Floyd was murdered, you will see an incredible spike of interest. How do we donate? How do we support? How do I become a good ally? Then it drops considerably because it is a fade. How do we generate and keep these discussions going?”   

For Dr. Ahn, the answer lies with media literacy education and providing educators with the tools and professional-development opportunities to help students with important critical-thinking skills.   

Abdelmahmoud identified these viral social movements as one of the most powerful examples of change in media consumption in recent years.    

“Occupy Wall Street taught us to speak differently. It taught us to frame wealth differently. Now it’s in every media organization’s lexicon how to speak about the one per cent and the 99 per cent....The language of Black Lives Matter has been contested in the last year or two because it has been so successful at framing the violence Black people experience under the police in ways that we didn’t necessarily have language for and now we do.”   

Guests were encouraged to continue the conversation with the panelists and fellow alumni after the panel discussion during an intimate reception.   

Originally scheduled for December, Beyond the headlines is the latest instalment of the annual fall signature event series hosted in partnership with the Toronto Branch. The series offers the alumni community an opportunity to engage with thought-provoking panelists and timely topics addressing the concerns of equity-deserving groups.   

Alumni looking for Black Histories and Futures Month programming are encouraged to visit Smith School of Business’s site for more information on The Path to Leadership, which features conversations with Black leaders in Canada, at 1 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The hour-long webinar includes panelists Wanda Costen, Dean, Smith School of Business, Aziz Garuba, host of the Made to Lead podcast, and Roxane Ducasse, senior consultant at Walmart Canada, who’ll share actionable insights for today’s aspiring professionals. Alumni can visit the schedule for Black Histories and Futures month for a full listing of activities. Queen’s alumni social channels will highlight Black alumni profiles and Black stories weekly in February.