“S0, Why Are You Here?”

As I prepare for an exciting new semester, I also prepare for an exciting new leadership role with UR S.T.A.R.S. A group dedicated to anti-racist/oppressive education; a group of inspiring, influential, and incredible colleagues and faculty members from the University of Regina. As I began introducing myself to the Executive Director role I will share with Cassandra Hepworth, I was asked about my journey here: How did you end up here? Why did you end up here?

I believe Indigenous peoples of Canada should not have to mentally prepare how to act around Caucasians; I believe we should be able to share smiles, handshakes, and equal education and career opportunities. I believe all individuals should be able to apply to any educational opportunity-there should be no exceptions made to the individuals with autism. I believe the stigma surrounding mental health needs to be removed; no one deserves to be labeled “crazy” or “pathetic” because they are fighting an invisible illness. I believe new Canadians should be welcomed with open arms, and not expected to meet the arbitrary “Canadian” list of values defined by the same government who maintain “The Indian Act.

It is the work UR S.T.A.R.S. does for these oppressed groups in society that drew me to join and work, and now lead, alongside great colleagues to provide resources, professional development opportunities ,and open panel discussions to make these topics less awkward and to influence others to provide anti-racist/oppressive education.

My obvious passion for education, an inclusive learning environment and society provided a strong foundation to my path. As my awareness of our history and relationships with First Nations peoples increased, so did my interest in learning and working to share this important information- sharing these truths to work towards reconciliation. The wise words “once you see it, you can’t un-see it” stuck with me, and I believe this is information and learning that must be seen.

Furthermore, as a friend it is an important component of my relationships. I do this work as the work of a friend. I work towards reconciliation and and inclusive society with the constant thought of my friends who, with their ancestors, have fought for this for hundreds of years; my friend whose transgendered child was terrified to share who he really is; my friends and family who refuse to be labeled “crazy” so they silently deal with anxiety and depression.

There is a strong personal element behind every step I take; these personal relationships continue to push me through the roughest terrain on the journey. While I know my steps are small, and I will be wrong and make mistakes, “if it is worth doing badly, it’s worth doing.” If our message positively affects one person out of 1000, that is one more person taking our message to 1000 others.

There will no doubt be difficult days with resistance and frustrations; it is in these moments we must remember to continue to learn. I look forward to building and forming many new relationships, as well as sharing many opportunities to learn and grow with Cassandra, the UR S.T.A.R.S. team, and each and every one of you!

 

 

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La Loche: My Call to Action

Today, I am at a loss. Motivated by social justice and bringing forth awareness to my classroom, yesterday’s school shooting in small town Saskatchewan resonates with me.

La Loche, Saskatchewan- the most recent site of terribly violent acts. A town riddled with deep rooted issues, most notably addiction and suicide, which are both three times higher than the rest of the province. Importantly, as media has not failed to strongly note, the community is “overwhelmingly Aboriginal.” 

These issues should not come as a surprise; these stark facts should not be ignored. Are they scary? Yes. Should they trigger an emotional response? Yes.

Should they motivate us to respond in a helpful manner? Yes.

But will they?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has been shining light on these serious issues- they should not come as such a surprise as they have been the last two days. Recently issuing their Calls to Action, our nation has been told it is time. It is time to acknowledge the history, the pain, the wrongdoing and work together in assisting our First Nations people towards regaining their culture, their language, their place in the country they too call home.

Yesterday’s shooting puts things into perspective. I see the hashtag: #prayersforlaloche. And, yes, I am praying for Laloche: the devastating loss of two teachers and two brothers and the families, friends, and community. I am also reading, learning, pushing myself to understand why. Pushing myself, as a future educator, to respond to the TRC and act. Spread and provide knowledge, awareness, support, respect, and assistance- not just the information, those basic facts, those chilling statistics.

Because it is time we actively answer in a helpful manner.

 

 

Hashtag For Change

The past year, there hasn’t been a current event that didn’t have it’s own hashtag you felt obliged to take part in because it was EVERYWHERE. Whether you wanted to or not.

#blacklivesmatter   #lovewins   #fergusson   #idlenomore   #yesallwomen   #bringbackourgirls   #amInext

Twitter is always the place to go if you are looking for social justice support. What starts with a single tweet, results in thousands of followers. We see it currently with the current police brutality towards African Americans in the USA with #blacklivesmatter and with the recent Supreme Court ruling of gay marriage and #lovewins.

The other hashtags included were created in response to the young Trevon in #Fergusson who was shot by an officer; the First Nations’ protest against the legislative ignorance towards Treaty rights. #Yesallwomen was created in response to the struggle women have in a misogynist world; #bringbackourgirls was created to support the young girls who were abducted in Africa. Lastly, #amInext was created to show support of the current crisis Aboriginal women in Canada face as there are hundreds that are missing and there is little being done to find these women.

The trouble with mixing social media with social justice is you begin to see people throw out support without fully understanding what it is they are supporting. In my opinion, a trending hashtag is social media’s version of peer pressure. I’ll be the first to admit I rarely shy away from sharing a humiliating #tbt.

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I’ll also be the first to admit I do shy away from declaring my strong stance on social justice issues on social media. Why? Because I prefer to save face. Do I support gay marriage? Absolutely. Do I agree #blacklivesmatter? Completely. Am I frustrated with the gross amount of missing First Nations women in Canada? Entirely. Do I need to blow up your Twitter feed with my tremendous support? Definitely not. Because I can support these social issues in more beneficial ways than a 140 character tweet.

How so? By spreading awareness, effectively educating friends, family and students about these serious issues, and putting my best foot forward to physically make a difference for the lives of the people who are personally affected by these issues in their daily lives. Case in point- I believe personally making a direct statement to Brandon Debert would resonate and positively impact him more than if he scrolled past my #lovewins tweet.

I understand the importance of using social media to unify our minorities and spread the word faster than we ever could in the past; I also understand that after one sends that tweet of support, he still has more work to do to as a supporter of social justice. It is more than a tweet- there must be a further, personal action of spreading education, awareness and support within one’s community.

As an educator, I value the importance of effectively educating my students of the importance of supporting social justice issues once fully understanding the issues true importance and meaning. My students must understand it takes more than a tweet with a trending hashtag to truly be a supporter of those who live the struggle every day.