‘Cairdeas le Chéile’ seminar a standout event of Social Inclusion Awareness Week in Mayo
As part of Social Inclusion Awareness Week 2023 from, October 9 to October 15, a thought-provoking seminar ‘Cairdeas le Chéile’ took place in Ballina Arts Centre, organised by the Mayo Says No to Racism Group supported by Mayo County Council in partnership with Ballina 2023. The event formed part of this year’s Ballina Fringe Festival and MC on the day was Angelina Nugent.
The seminar which looked at racism, its origins and effects globally was formally opened by Cllr Annie May Reape, Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Ballina Municipal District.
Cllr Reape remarked that the seminar was organised to positively determine how we can, together, make our communities better and safer places for everyone.
She went on to say that: “The seminar was a platform to hear and listen to people’s lived experiences and perhaps question ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, our bias, and our unconscious bias.
Cllr Reape added: “Social Inclusion Awareness Week and events such as this seminar are very much about promoting equality, diversity and social inclusion encouraging us all to hold out the hand of friendship to people new to our county and to those who already reside here.
“Now more than ever it is important for us to recognise and embrace our similarities, our qualities and what talents and characteristics we all bring to make this county more unique, more special and a wonderful place to live in.”
Deirdre Finnerty, Head of Community Section, Mayo County Councils remarked: “We are delighted to support this very important event on the topic of racism. It is an opportunity for discussion on the topic as well as hearing people’s lived experience here in Mayo and beyond.
“The seminar is a chance for us to learn more but also stand united against racism through our membership and our support of Mayo Says No to Racism group which comprises ourselves, the local Development companies SICAP representatives and other stakeholders, agencies and organisations.”
Dr John Mulloy, a lecturer in Art History, Contemporary Art Theory and Arts-based Community Development at the Atlantic Technological University, Castlebar campus delivered the keynote speech on racism and its origins, which was entirely engaging. As part of his work, John has developed a module on the Histories of Inequality, for a forthcoming part-time MA in Transformative Practices in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in ATU Castlebar. This research formed the basis for an exploration of racism rooted in history.
Speaking at the seminar, Dr Mulloy said: “The main ideas was to look at how racism has changed over the centuries, being based at different times on religious, pseudo-biological or cultural grounds, but always with the idea that some particular group has a perceived unchangeable difference that is regarded as incompatible with the society.” Dr Mulloy went on to discuss how racism is different in each time and place and has a systemic aspect to it.
Dr Mulloy then facilitated an interview with Ballina native Declan Walsh, Chief Africa correspondent with The New York Times, who lives in Kenya.
Declan talked about racism in a global sense and about his experiences through his work in Sudan, Kenya, Pakistan, and other countries in which he has lived and worked. They discussed his journey from Ballina to where he is now, and his 2021 book, The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Divided Nation, in particular the idea of using people’s lived experiences as the focus of the book.
During the interview Declan analysed the racial tensions in Sudan, before exploration the implications of global demographic change, with aging populations in China, Europe and Japan and the massive youth populations across Africa and the implications this might have for the future.
Next to speak was Sharon Murphy, singer/songwriter and an anti-racist activist. Sharon is a singer, songwriter and performer living in the West of Ireland. As an Irish person with Caribbean heritage Sharon has experienced the dynamics of racism in Irish society. Much of her music addresses the exclusion and isolation she feels in her home country. She also has a unique interest in recovering the knowledge of ancient African history that is omitted from mainstream education.
A panel discussion on lived experience followed by a Q&A session was facilitated by Dr Mulloy. The panel included comedian/writer Martin Angolo, Paddy Maughan, Mayo North East SICAP, Celeste Khosa, South West Mayo Development Company SICAP and Emmanuela Ubah, student of Applied Social Care at the Atlantic Technological University, Castlebar campus.
Following the panel discussion, three Ballina Social Inclusion projects were presented to the attendees to round off the morning’s event.
Artist Alice Dixon spoke about This Giant Tent, which works with a group of children from diverse backgrounds including children from the Traveller community. Volunteer Bridie McAndrew and fellow volunteers Fath Hamid from Sudan and Mu Lay from the Karen Community (formerly of Myanmar, or Burma) spoke about how the Ballina Karen Community Green Garden has brought volunteers from all backgrounds together, fostering both flowers and friendship. Finally, Ballina 2023 Coordinator spoke about the Ballina 2023 Volunteer programme, and how volunteering is a great means by which to meet new people and extend the hand of friendship.