Perspectives On Belonging 2021

Kanwal Neel – Career Educator, public tv “Math guy” and respected member of the Sikh community

As with any project, The Perspectives On Belonging Project 2021, has been far more about the learning than a final product. Of course the framing of the project was far too grand in scope to accomplish within one year during COVID. I can take full responsibility for that. I am a BIG picture person. The pairing down emerges as I engage in the process and determine what is most important. Our committee has not created a feature length documentary pulling together the voices of a large group of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour representational of the racial and age diversity of people living in Vancouver, British Columbia and the Lower Mainland. However we did want to use our Human Rights Internet grant to do something meaningful. It has been for us. We created 23 iMovies that have been shared on the Carrie Froese YouTube channel under the Perspectives On Belonging playlist.

My personal aspiration was to step up as an ally, engage as an anti-racist, and create a model for facilitating conversations about racism and anti-racism to create more inclusive communities. Susan Ruzic honed in on the merits of amplifying BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) voices, particularly at this point in time when people are open to listening. Sandy Murray helped our committee to understand the feelings raised by the focus on “other” rather than the human need to belong. Alex Gangue-Ruzic brought a different style of approaching the task and the perspective of a younger demographic.

The project unfolded as a culmination of our background knowledge, a considerable amount of reading, listening, conversation and exploration. In the end, the technology, the lighting, and the sound equipment was quite simple. The taping was done outside in light of COVID using an iPhone, a microphone, and a tripod. Only two clips were distorted for some unknown reason. An iPad, Keynote and iMovie were used to edit and create the video clips.

I am relatively new to YouTube. The Carrie Froese YouTube channel has only been used for one other playlist – Ms. Froese Reads. The purpose was to connect with the students at my school during COVID by reading aloud picture books. Many of these titles focused on creating a sense of belonging in the school community. Most of these read aloud were shared through Office365 Teams so I do not have many subscribers. Although I initially created a different channel for this project, I discovered it was easier to locate and share it as a separate playlist on my original Carrie Froese YouTube channel and Tweet it out.

There has not been a systematic approach to selecting people to tell their stories. The volunteers have come out of conversations with people within the orbit of committee members who expressed interest and willingness to participate. Interestingly enough, they have provoked conversations that we have never had before. It has been fascinating. Kanwal Neel raised the interesting point about how perceptions of people and interactions change over time. By the time I met Kanwal, he commanded a huge amount of respect within the educational community at Simon Fraser University. Bindy Kang teases out the dichotomy of belonging with her reference to Maya Angelou: When you feel like you belong, you simultaneously experience a sense of not belonging. Nate Sheibley communicates the impact of his Indigenous heritage and the frustration when it is not valdiated as a result of his “white passing” appearance. Jason Bring communicates his connections with the queer community creating a greater sense of affinity than race due to the fact his family has been in Canada for over 100 years. Gale Yip and Karen Chong effectively communicate the quest to belong in their peer groups and frustrations when they are treated like the “other”. Anthony Hondier talks of the feelings of belonging in Vancouver with its’ multi-ethnic reality and the shift when travelling to other places in British Columbia that have largely white populations. Isaiah Smith, who made a deliberate move to Canada to escape overt experience with racism of the United States, expresses his frustration with the structural racism that exists in Canadian institutions. All of the people sharing their stories, talk about the overt existence of racism, but the difficulty in addressing it.

Anita Jack was featured in the Queen’s Alumni Review Issue 3, 2020, Volume 94. Thanks to my daughter, it arrived in the mail last year. Dr. Anita Jack-Davies, MEd’07, PhD’11 was named the EDII (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigeneity) Advisor at Queen’s in 2019. She writes with a strong voice. In fact her voice is so strong, that I can hear her words in my head when I’m reflecting and would love to sit down and have coffee with her. She shares how her grandparents told her that if she studied hard and “became something” that racism would disappear. We’re still waiting. As with the others interviewed for this project, she comments that racism is difficult to prove and it is often not safe to speak up about racial discrimination.

“When I speak about race, I am accused of “playing the race card”, even though that card is always in play, each and every day, in each and every moment of your life, whether you care to admit it or not. To speak about race opens me up to scorn, ridicule, and rejection.” p.20

Dr. Jack-Davies calls on the Queen’s Alumni to “…unearth other narratives that have remained hidden from view, buried, and unarticulated.” That is ultimately what we have started to do with this project. It is a beginning. Perhaps people will listen and share out the work with their networks. Perhaps it will create a paradigm for other groups looking to create a greater sense of belonging within their communities by teasing out and actively listening to the untold stories. Perhaps it will form the idea for a MA thesis, a PhD, a documentary or a book. Perhaps it will prompt other questions about the impact of background knowledge, or experiences, or age on perceptions of racism and anti-racism. We are sending it out into the universe.

To listen to the 23 iMovies sharing stories on belonging, racism bias, racism, inclusion, and antiracism, go to:

YouTube Channel – Carrie Froese

Playlist – Perspectives On Belonging

You can also search Perspectives On Belonging Project 2021 on YouTube

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Maya Angelou

Special thanks to all of the participants in this projects who provided their stories, their critiques, and perceptions. Thanks is also extended to Sandy Murray, Susan Ruzic, and Alex Gangue-Ruzic for their work on the Perspective On Belonging Project 2021 committee to make this project happen.

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