Have I seemed confident over that last 6 days?
I haven’t felt that way. I have felt nervous and anxious putting my thoughts out into the world. Do they make sense? Or are my words a big confusing mess? Am I advocating? Or am I hurting?
To know me for a short time is to learn two things about me:
- I will tell you about a model or theory I’m thinking about
- I will draw a picture of what I think it looks like
I do this because the structure of theories feels safe. Seeing them makes everything look simple and contained in a nice little box or circle. And in real life it’s so much messier and harder than this. Here is a story about how community development and racial justice come together through capacity building in my life. It shares all the same stuff I’ve talked about this week:
- Shifting my beliefs and assumptions
- Gaining new knowledge and skills
- Acting on shared values
- Interacting with social systems
I work for Capilano University, and as part of my job I write grants for adult literacy programs in the Southern Stl’atl’imx territory. I started working with a new Lil’wat colleague this year, and so we wrote the grant together. As we worked together she explained that the last grant I wrote 2 years ago was racist. It was hurtful.
What I wrote was racist because I described the St’at’imc people and communities only through their deficits – through what is wrong with them. I have good relationships with the people who take the program this grant supports. I consider many of them friends. Some of them are very close friends.
So why dId I do something racist?
One reason I did something racist is that I was giving the funder the information they were asking for. So part of the reason was the rules and policy I work follow guided my actions. Another reason, possibly a deeper reason, is that through all the systems I am part I have internalized a shared Canadian value of white superiority.
Does this sound shocking? It feels shocking to say out loud.
My colleague showed incredible bravery to point out my racism. And I am so grateful! Because she spoke up my capacity grew. I learned new skills in how to write grants and my beliefs shifted. Her action also had a further reach beyond just me. I reached out to the funder to share what I learned, and made a request that they change their grant policies. And still further, maybe her feedback is touching you too. It is because of what I learned from her that I am sharing my thoughts this week.
I learned that like my art series I am a work in progress. Like the difference between Day 3 (Storm), Day 18 (Wind), and Day 90 (Golfer) I can change through consistent practice and making mistakes. If I get caught up in needing to be perfect I get stuck and do nothing.
I have almost 30 years of school and work experience in the field of community development. I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a worker, and an artist. I also still consider myself a learner. While I am offering what I believe this week, it will change, as I learn new knowledge and skills. Sometimes I still want to be perfect. Because perfection is not hurting anyone. But community development and racial justice doesn’t happen through nothing. It doesn’t happen when I’m stuck. It happens through acts of individuals and community capacity building.
Contributing to the Wellness Almanac is a step towards not only accepting, but embracing that I am a person in progress.