Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies

Dr. Bonita Lawrence and Faith Nolan - Robert Sutherland Visitors

February 11, 2016

Thursday March 10: 4:00-8:00 pm

Prison for Women Solidarity: Songs and Teachings
Robert Sutherland Hall, Room 202
138 Union Street, Queen's University (across from Smith School of Business)
Accessible venue


  • Four Directions Women Singers

  • Dr. Bonita Lawrence, acclaimed Indigenous scholar/activist and traditional singer, will speak on "Honouring the Sisterhood: P4W and Beyond"

  • Faith Nolan, celebrated social justice activist, musician and community/prison choir organizer, will speak and sing on "Women's Jailhouse Blues is Still News"

A light supper will follow with time to meet our special guests. All are welcome. Come listen, share your stories of solidarity, and continue the work for prison justice. CDs and books will be available for purchase at this event.

Friday March 11: 11:30 am-1:30 pm

Meet and Greet with Dr. Bonita Lawrence and Faith Nolan at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, 146 Barrie Street, Queen's University (across from City Park).

Come enjoy a light lunch and have a chance to talk informally with our guests who have done solidarity work in Prison for Women and in jails and penitentiaries elsewhere.

Dr. Bonita Lawrence is the author of Fractured Homeland: Federal Recognition and Algonquin Identity in Ontario, ‘Real’ Indians and Others:Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood. She is co-editor of Strong Women Stories: Native Vision and Community Survival. Currently Associate Professor in Equity Studies at York, she is not afraid to raise difficult and challenging questions about Indigenous and Black alliance building, including her often cited co-authored articles: “Decolonizing Anti-Racism” and “Indigenous Peoples and Black People in Canada: Settlers Or Allies?” She was a member of Voices of Our Grandmothers, a traditional Aboriginal women’s drumming circle that performed regularly at political rallies, social events and prisons in the Kingston and Toronto areas.

Faith Nolan has produced 14 CDs including her recent album, Jailhouse Blues produced in 2014. Its lyrics came out of workshops with women prisoners over seven years at two super max jails in Ontario. In the late 1980s, Nolan founded and directed the Kingston Women Prisoners Choir. She is a community builder who has worked with Afro-American scholar and prison reform advocate Angela Davies; Afro-Canadian writer Dionne Brand; the late folk singer Pete Seeger and more. Her most passionate project is prison reform. She has composed, performed and educated people on this issue for more than three decades. According to Nolan, “Music is a powerful tool that can be used for political and cultural expression.” Nolan uses this tool to educate the public and inspire activists who dream and work for a time of race equality and prison reform. She has received numerous awards including the EGALE Black History Month Recipient (2011), Afro-Nova Scotian Cultural Music Award (2009), Ontario Federation of Labour Cultural Activist Award (2008), numerous Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council award grants.

Four Directions Women Singers formed in 2011 as a result of a weekly drop-in hand drumming circle lead by Helena Neveu (Batchewana First Nation) at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre on Queen’s campus. The core group of staff and students met regularly and began performing at a variety of events in the Queen’s and Kingston communities. They enjoy sharing their songs and teachings in classrooms, churches and convocation ceremonies. They have performed with The Gertrudes, drummed at the convocation of the installation of the new Chancellor, Jim Leech, and honorary degree recipient Alex  McComber. They have performed during the Honorable Justice Murray Sinclair’s speak and visit to Queen’s.  Based on indigenous knowledges, they believe that the spirit leaves the body when someone experiences trauma.  Through drumming and singing particular Indigenous songs, they believe the spirit returns and the body can be healed.   

Sponsored by: The Robert Sutherland Visitorship, Department of Gender Studies, Kahswentha Indigenous Knowledge Initiative, Four Directions Aboriginal Students' Centre and International Women's Week Kingston 2016.