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It’s been nearly a year since I returned from my 1.5 year adventure travelling the world, and what a whirlwind it has been since then! I now live in the nation’s capital – Ottawa – where I work as the Communications and Development Coordinator at a job I love, for Women’s Shelters Canada, and have an amazing girlfriend. Life has really come together.
So in honour of all this positive, estrogen-filled goodness, I’m sharing a video of the footage I shot in the Nebaj region of Guatemala last year, where the Guatemala Conference of Evangelical Churches is training more than 400 Indigenous women in human rights, citizen participation, and economic empowerment through farming.
This time last year, leading up to Christmas, I was in the Holy Land. It was a bit of a weird experience, to say the least, as I spent half my time with Orthodox Jewish friends in Jerusalem and half my time with Palestinian Christians and Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza.
Here’s a video from the footage I filmed in Bethlehem, about conflict resolution and the work of an amazing organization called Wi’am. Enjoy!
During my travels in Europe and the Middle East last year, I met many Syrian refugees across Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. This story, which takes place just south of Beirut in Lebanon, is one of my favourites.
I’m very proud of this video that I produced – put together by the fabulous video editor Owen Sheppard. I shot all the footage while I was in Lebanon, interviewed the people featured as well as several others, took photos along the way, acted as Producer, and then wrote the script this summer. Please take the time to watch this amazing short video, about a school teacher who escorts Syrian refugee teenagers back into Syria from Lebanon to write their high school exams.
Calling people out is an important and necessary act, but it’s also really difficult. I’ve been on both sides of the equation – the one being called out and the one doing the calling out.
I think it’s especially difficult in advocacy or justice circles, when you’re dealing with people who are pretty well-versed in anti-oppression work and/or who might feel that they know everything there is to know and are above making racist or sexist or homophobic comments.
But the truth is that none of us are “above” that. We all make mistakes. We all live in a systemically racist, patriarchal and heterosexist society. We have sayings in our everyday vocabulary that we may not even realize are problematic:
“Lowest man on the totem pole.”
“I got gypped.”
“That’s so gay.”
There’s a whole discourse around dark/light imagery and how the word “dark” or “black” is almost always used to denote something negative or evil.
“Black sheep in the family”
“The dark side of America”
And those are just some of the ones I hear people in justice work use, or that I’ve used myself flippantly in conversation.
A few weeks ago, I got called out. While I meant to say something along the lines of “don’t want to step on anyone’s toes,” instead I said, “don’t know who’s territory it’s in” because I was thinking along the lines of things being territorial, when it comes to different areas of work. Because sometimes in my workplace things get territorial, as they can in most workplaces.
And I got called out on it. The person I said it to phoned me afterwards and called me out. And I got that sinking punched-in-your-gut feeling. Because I was wrong. I’d made a mistake. But even worse than that – I hadn’t even realized it.
We all make mistakes, and I’ve made my fair share of them, but I’ve started to at least recognize when I say something with racist undertones, especially in an Aboriginal context as I try to move towards Right Relations. I don’t say “let’s have a pow-wow” or “the lowest man on the totem pole” anymore because I know better. I used the totem pole expression while I was at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission last month, and as soon as the words left my mouth I realized what I had said. And I apologized profusely; the person I’d said it to was very gracious, saying we all make mistakes and that these problematic sayings are embedded in our culture. That doesn’t make it right – that doesn’t make it ok – but it also doesn’t mean that we’re inherently racist – or homophobic or sexist – for using these expressions. It just means we have something to learn.
Ironically, I had this link opened in one of my tabs on my work computer. I saw it again a couple of hours after my communications blunder, as I was going through my ever-increasing open tabs, closing those I no longer needed (yes, I’m one of those people who opens a new tab when I see something interesting, and then often forget to go back to it). It’s an article about calling people out and how to do it well; it links to a video that talks about the difference – and importance – of talking about what a person did rather than what a person is. “What you said was racist” versus “you’re racist.”
And I know all of that. So why, when I get called out on something, do I automatically jump to the “I’m a horrible person!” response? I’m not a horrible person. Few people are horrible people. I can be thoughtless – which I was today. I can be moody or tired or a whole range of things. But they don’t make me a bad person.
And the person who called me out is definitely not a bad person. Nor am I when I call other people out. Sure, I felt badly today when this happened. I felt hurt, and it was not because the person calling me out hurt me. No, I hurt myself. My thoughtlessness hurt this person – made them feel uncomfortable – and knowing that hurt me. I hurt me, and I have to take responsibility for that. And a little hurt is a small price to pay for a great learning, a learning about being more sensitive to the language I use.
I’m grateful to my colleague, my friend, for being brave enough and secure enough in our friendship and our professional relationship to call me out. I’m sorry for my thoughtless comment in this instance, but even moreso for the thoughtless comments I’ve likely made in the past – for the times my language has hurt other people and I haven’t even known it. Language is a powerful tool. And like all powerful things, it’s something we need to take care with.
Hello everyone! Welcome to my blog. I decided I should blog about my trip to Durban, where I’ll be participating in the “Youth for Eco-Justice” program. This is a transformational training program for young Christians aged 18-30 years. Addressing the links between environmental and socio-economic justice, it is jointly organized by the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation in the context of UN climate negotiations in the latter part of 2011.
I’ll be stopping off in London and Cape Town before arriving in Durban on November 26. Stay tuned for more updates!!
Ok, so it’s been about a year since I last wrote, but this is to officially announce that the blog is back!
Here’s a tidbit to get me started: Went to a club on Saturday night and security took my granola bar from Canada!! It’s those peanut butter nature-something (can’t remember the actual name) ones that they don’t sell here – they have the other flavours, but not the peanut butter one. So I keep one in my purse in case I miss dinner one night, etc. And they took it!! I said, “What if I’m diabetic?” and her response was “Do you have documentation?” Do diabetics usually have documentation? Maybe I should’ve gone with hypoglycemia…seriously, still miffed they took my granola bar!
Stay tuned for more fascinating anecdotes like that…
I found out yesterday that a man I went to high school with, Marc Diab, was killed two days ago in Afghanistan. It shocked me; it makes everything hit closer to home, even though I wasn’t good friends with him and haven’t seen him since high school. But I remember him, I knew him, and that’s what makes it so tragic, for me. This is something that I deal with everyday, in what I’m studying. When I read about atrocities and deaths around the world, both now and in the past, I do feel sad. I do feel upset, especially if there is a personal story attached, but it is much easier to move on after. To feel sad, or acknowledge that something horrible has happened, and then move on. But when it is someone you’ve known, personally, it makes everything so much more real. It makes me realize that every single person I’ve read about was a person, not just a statistic or a story. I always know this rationally, but there’s a difference between knowing it and feeling it. When it strikes close to home, it makes that all the more clear.