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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
October 1, 2016
Canadian Excellence




Dionne Brand Presented with Honorary Degree

Jun 15/12

Author and activist Dionne Brand presented with an honorary degree on June 13, 2012.

Wilfrid Laurier honoured poet, novelist, essayist, activist, and filmmaker, Dionne Brand by presenting her with an honorary doctorate at the spring convocation for Arts students in June 2012.  Brand is the author of 18 books, editor of several anthologies, and director of four documentary films about the lives of black women in the diaspora.  Professor Tanis MacDonald, who read the citation at convocation, noted that Brand is "a prolific writer whose work is renowned for the beauty of its language and for its intense engagement with issues of social justice, most especially concerning racism and global politics made immediate through local contexts."   

Brand gave a passionate address telling students that she read Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes, Jean Paul Sartre, and others as a student not to get a diploma, but for her life.  She said to the graduating class: 

What Im finally graduating for is really to be with you, the company of the like minded, and

because Ive finally taken a breath after being rushed off my feet for so many years, just to be

with you, the lovers of art and the geographers of the soul. We graduands of english, history,

philosophy, languages, culture, film, literature let me tell you, we are very important to the

world just think about the world without us and you will hear a dead silence, there will be a

barreness, there will be no human voice. So I am happy youve allowed me to join you today for

my first graduation.

I wish you joy, You have my kinship and solidarity, when I tell you, Go make something

happen, go do something wonderful in the world. I know the student's loan is hanging around

your neck but forget it, live big. This is your only responsibility. You have a responsibility to the

planet, make it clean, go stop the commercial debris orbiting the earth, go stop the continent of

plastic waste in that whirlpool in the Pacific, go stop the deluge of oil waiting to be spewed into

the oceans, go heal the scarred lansdscapes, go make sure everybody eats and not just a few, go

open some kid's mind to books, go bring an end to homophobia, and sexism and racism. Go

make a different world. Go make the world you want to live in. When you think of what you are

going to do next ask yourself whether it measures what Valery called Art - the two noblest

human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction. Occupy everything.

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