“We were very good friends before. But… I don’t know why our relationship changed after the Russo-Ukrainian War.” A lady was sobbing with tears on her glasses. Her face was flushed red. She was sharing her pain in a precious interval of her friendship. She was Russian while her friend was Ukrainian. I gently placed a napkin on her hands.
“I was being asked ‘Why is your English so good?’” said a Jamaican lady. “Why do people do that? Is it because I am black, so I cannot be in a royal family?” Her eyes were widely opened, and I could feel that she was agitated and irritated. “I want to know… What should or can I do?” She asked with puzzles.
“Does the colonization in Canada is the same as that in Africa?” “I want to identify hope.” “How are the people living in North Sudan now?” …
The experience still impacted us. We had many questions in our minds. We were trying to find an answer and, perhaps more importantly, a support for inter-relationship justice, our voice to be heard, and a higher perspective to look at a bigger picture behind the scene of racism. That was the operation of misinformation, manipulation, and oppression.
We wanted to find healing in our conversations. We wanted to find a space to share our personal stories. And, I was glad that this was the right and safe place for us to eat, gather and share.
The purpose of this “Anti-racism Dialogue Circle” project was achieved. It was a two-part session to create a space to share personal stories of experiencing racism, identify tools to label microaggression, and deal with racism. This was to share meaning, heal together, and promote social justice, wordings of which was originated from “Lighter Living Action Pack for Neighbourhoods in BC”.
At first, I was by myself. I only had an idea. I did a little bit of research and wrote a preliminary small grant proposal. Then, I emailed it to and asked for advice from staff of different neighbourhood houses and nonprofit organizations. The staff were those whom I had contacted for registrations of their previous events and workshops. Although their schedules were busy, they kindly replied after a while, promised to promote for me through their networks, and connected me with the right people. Then, finding a venue was another challenge. I was suggested to hold the event in a park as it was in summer. I wanted too! It turned out that Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House was very generous to allow me to host the event without any room rentals! The first Zoom preparation meeting was held on July 15th, 2022. I went out to 29 places to distribute posters for promotion. Promotion emails were sent out to previously contacted staff for them to distribute in their networks. Thankfully, Community Connections Programmer of Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House became my advisor throughout the two-part session. I was covered from then on.
For the first part, 9 participants came on August 17th, 2022. Some were volunteers of Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House. For the second part on August 24th, 2022, 18 participants came. Many were invited by the participants who attended the first session.
Knowledge-wise, what surprised me the most was that the second facilitator brought us research supporting that African moors were the forerunners of science and arts in ancient times. Europeans went to Africa to learn from moors. The knowledge Africans shared helped advance European civilization. Portraits of ancient leaders’ faces, such as Egyptian pharaoh’s, were compared with that of Africans today. In summary, Africans were the leaders of Ancient World!
I realized that I could not understand the reality of Africans with distorted media projections. Nor could I trust the science of genetically predestined inferior race theory. I started to truly respect people with black skins, and we were of the same preciousness and ability.
Operation-wise, what surprised me the most was: “When you are gathering people having the same values as yours, a team is formed without efforts. People will be willing to help you without asking. Of course, always appreciate, thank them, and have high regards for them. A thank-you card with participants’ thankful messages means a lot!” I felt that it was a little family there. We were connected and felt that there was a shared space belonged to us.
Perhaps racism is not a “good” or “easy” topic to talk about – at first. However, we experience it at some points of our lifetime, especially in this multicultural neighbourhood environment in Vancouver. There are questions needed to be addressed, like “Why does Racism exist? How should I respond to it? How can I use my experience to help others, whom are being ‘pierced’ by the Cactus of racism? How can the pain be alleviated, and the whole person be healed? How can we move forward and educate our next generations to create a healthy, safe, good neighbourbhood in this city which meant to be with spectacular views of mountain scenery?”
“When you take the initiative, many will join. Collaborating with coordinator, committee member, and neighbourhood house staff made your life much easier too. With humility and patience, experienced staff may guide you with your plan, budget, venue, event name, timeline, and more. We are together to effect change in this community, aren’t we?”
Thank you, NSG committee, for your support in making our neighbourhood a better place to live! And, of course, thank you for your reading and considering initiating your own neighbourhood project!
Looking forward to reading your sharing soon!
Photo link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MuqrJAfYGURs8ukz7
Photo 1 & 2
Photo 1 Anti-Racism Dialogue Circle Part 1 – August 17th, 2022
Photo 2 Anti-Racism Dialogue Circle Part 1 – August 17th, 2022
(Cactus represented the source of pains of racism, drawn by facilitator Aisha Khan, who postured in second row, third from the left)
Photo 3 & 4
Photo 3 Anti-Racism Dialogue Circle Part 2 – August 24th, 2022
Photo 4 Anti-Racism Dialogue Circle Part 2 – August 24th, 2022
(Facilitator Rodrigo Silva de Paula, standing fifth from the left and behind, talked about microaggression and revisited a short African history from a new perspective)
Photo 5 Anti- Racism Dialogue Circle First Preparation Meeting – July 15th, 2022
Photo 6 Anti-Racism Dialogue Circle Poster – July 22nd, 2022