When the College began to prepare almost a year ago for this week’s Taking a Stand – Disrupting Black and Indigenous Racism Week, it became clear a new and more progressive approach to planning was in order.
Top-down decision-making was replaced with turning over control of the week’s events to Black and Indigenous advisors in our College community, who helped form an expanded Inclusion and Diversity Circle. This novel planning approach marks another step in further forging partnerships between our Black and Indigenous colleagues and learners and those of us working to be better allies.
Following the tragic death of George Floyd last year, there was a powerful and profound call to action. Hosting a series of events this week – and having them planned by Black and Indigenous leaders at the College – is another way we can answer that call.
Last year during one of our Inclusion Infusion events, noted speaker Hamlin Grange said something that has continued to resonate strongly with me. In this day and age, he said, it is no longer good enough not to be racist, instead you must be antiracist. By continuing to raise awareness, being open to change and exploring uncomfortable topics, the College community continues the ongoing work of building an anti-racist society.
As we learn together and take steps toward more equitable and inclusive classrooms, workplaces and communities, we can be inspired by the fact that a brighter future does not need to exist at some distant point. Change can come with every act of awareness, every opportunity to educate ourselves, every moment we opt for respect, caring and understanding. Complacency and ignorance are not options.
For inspiration, we can also look to the younger generation, and particularly students, who have been active leaders in this global call for change. They are not willing to wait years to see things improve. We are fortunate to have this same energy and passion for seismic societal change running through our student population.
The voices of our learners have been a catalyst to help Algonquin College take action. This includes being the first post-secondary institution in Ontario to develop an Inclusion and Diversity Blueprint. It includes our ongoing efforts on Truth and Reconciliation, including launching the Ontario-wide Indigenous knowledge and storytelling initiative, Lighting the Fire.
From a learning standpoint, it has always been true that being open to different ways of thinking, pushing our personal boundaries and seeing the world around us in new ways is when we make the most progress. Taking a Stand is another opportunity for us to broaden these horizons, and my hope is that everyone is benefitting from the experience.