We Belong 2015

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First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who made the time to attend our We Belong event last Monday, Jan. 19th 2015. It was incredible to see the interest people had in making our city more inclusive and equitable. We would also like to thank our amazing panelists who had exemplified great courage to talk about their personal individual experiences during the recent municipal elections. Hearing their experiences was invigorating and motivating to further delve into difficult conversations around the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, classism and so on. Their resiliency through many years of advocacy expressed the passion they have in making a better tomorrow for everyone living in Toronto.

A part of the evening was dedicated for group discussions, which generated interesting questions for the panelists and replies. We thought that it was important to share people’s thoughts and questions that may not have been answered during the event. And so, social media being a great platform to share information and ideas, why not use it to ensure that these ideas/voices will be heard? Below, you will find compelling questions and replies from some of the event participants including some replies from twitter as well. As a disclaimer these questions and replies are of course anonymous.

IMG_4492What can you do as an individual/collective to help make our city more equitable and inclusive?

“Take an honest look around and acknowledge divisions in our personal and professional relationships along racial and class lines. Start to quest in why that is the case, and go out of your comfort zone to start breaking those barriers. We need to acknowledge the racists and classists in ourselves.”

“Refusing to be complacent and silent against all types of discrimination.”

“I love ‪@MuniraAbukar‘s message to her downtown pals about white privilege: don’t feel guilty, do something about it. ‪#WeBelongTO ‪#TOpoli

“Panel discussion given by such inspiring women of Toronto: Munira Abukar, Olivia Chow & Kristin Wong-Tam! ‪#WeBelongTO

“It’s absolutely devastating hearing what these brilliant women endured during ‪#TOpoli 2014 but their resilience is unshakable ‪#WeBelongTO

Questions:

“When creating a movement, energy is best spent reaching people already in motion. How do we keep the people in this room connected? Can we please use Facebook?

“Is justice the same thing as social justice? If not, what other kinds of justice are there?”

“How do you deal with the intersection between classism and racism in terms of political advantage? Sometimes there are interactions, sometimes there are not, how should the focus of these issues be narrowed?”

Once again, thank you so much for your continued support and contributions! Let’s keep the conversation going!

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From 3 to 3 Reflection by Courtney Villeneuve

Going into a situation where you don’t know anyone is always going to be uncomfortable, so I was understandably nervous on my first day as a From 3 to 3 tutor in a junior/senior kindergarten classroom. All these children—not to mention the teacher—were expecting me to be a competent, confident leader, and share my knowledge and love of reading with them. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was rather humorously surprised by the tiny size of the children I was tutoring. I don’t remember ever being that small! I expected to have to work to build trust with the children and instructor, and generally lower my expectations about what they would be able to accomplish.

I was extremely pleased with my experience on my first day, and subsequent sessions. The teacher I was assigned to work with had excellent control over the classroom, and knew how to engage students and help them learn, no matter the concept. I was given a specific list of children to read with as priority, and each of my groups has shown significant progress in their mastery of the English language along with story retelling and understanding. The bonds between the pupils and I were established quickly, as after one week some of the girls were coming up to me and asking if I could come back every day!

I don’t have aspirations of becoming a teacher, but this experience has proved invaluable in many other ways. First, it has reinforced in my mind the need for patience in all things. Whether it was waiting for the streetcar to take me to the elementary school on a freezing morning, or waiting for a child to give me an answer when it seemed so obvious to me, taking a deep breath and counting to three yielded worthwhile results. Second, I now have a better understanding of the struggles that these children are facing trying to learn English when they may not even be confident in their first language. I lived abroad in high school and quickly learned Portuguese, but not without countless errors. The children who are coming to school with no exposure to English outside the classroom and work hard every day to try and make sense of the puzzle from this foreign language. Finally, as I would like to work in public policy in the future, this first-hand exposure to the workings of Ontario’s education system has proved very valuable. Understanding policy issues from a financial or legal standpoint is useful, but being on the ground and making sense of the way schools work in practice is priceless.

I am very excited to continue my work in the same classroom this semester. It has been truly a highlight of my week to spend a few hours with children who adore me just for being there, and knowing that my work is making a difference in their lives.

Thank you Courney for your reflection!