We believe that affinity groups offer needed space for intimate conversations that support social change. Facilitated conversations encourage participants to reflect honestly about oppression, privilege, and anti-oppression work without judgment. By bringing together lived experience, a drive for change, and knowledge about social justice, affinity groups can develop capacity for those new to these conversations and reinvigorate those who are already putting social justice principles into action.
We are educators committed to anti-oppression, diversity, equity, and inclusion work. This is an ethical choice that calls us to advocate for social justice in all areas of our personal and professional lives.
In various forms, each of us has lived experiences of oppression and systemic inequality (as women, as people of colour, as LGBTQ2S+ people) that drives our personal commitment to this project. Through dialogue and practice, we hope Talking Together for Change will foster and support a community of educational professionals who are equally committed to social justice work.
Throughout our careers, we have participated in and led professional development opportunities focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice and have experienced first-hand the transformative potential of affinity group work that brings people together in deep and critical conversation about experiences of oppression, sometimes as members of an oppressed group, sometimes as people who benefit from systemic oppression but who are committed to dismantling inequity, often as both.
In 2020, we noticed an increased interest in social justice-oriented professional development and a sense of urgency in the educational community to make meaningful change in the areas of equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice. Inspired by the ongoing activism of Black Lives Matter, Indigenous led anti-colonial protests, and the Me Too movement, among other social justice movements, more people wanted to connect, learn, and bring about change. Additionally, on the world stage, the 2020 US election and the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the socio-political impacts of systemic racism and the unfortunately powerful appeal of divisive rhetoric, sounding a call to action for many.
Yet, the urgency of this work is not new. In Canada, since the early 2000s alone, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls along with protests movements like Idle No More, Unsettling Canada 150, and the national railway blockade in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs attest to the pervasive and ongoing impact of anti-Indigenous systemic racism in Canada. In 2019, the photographs released of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface as a student and teacher were a stark reminder that the historical legacy of anti-black racism in Canada chronicled by scholars and authors like Afua Cooper, Rinaldo Walcott, Robyn Maynard and Desmond Cole operate at all echelons of Canadian society.
Discrimination is not new; it is not isolated or unique. It takes many voices, sustained action, and ongoing commitment to change a system.