Recap of Equity in Practice: Community Capacity Building

July 07, 2021

Chloe Sjuberg
Communications Coordinator, SFU Public Square

On June 22, we were honoured to help host an evening of inspiring stories from the most recent cohort of learners in SFU's Community Capacity Building Certificate program and their growth as emerging leaders working towards equity in their communities. The certificate program supports learners as they engage community by sharing lived experiences and adopting new tools for building projects and movements.

Below, you'll find video clips, resources and calls to action from each of the learners' presentations so you can learn more, follow and support their work. You can also watch the full event recording above.

The summaries of each learner's work were adapted from these profiles written by Kim Mah.

Emerald Asuncion and Desmond Williams

Emerald Asuncion and Desmond Williams are two friends working to build a new healing space and cultural hub in Chinatown for Vancouver's racialized communities.

The multipurpose space, called Sari-Sari Mi Nah Sari, will bring together a collective of healers who work in everything from reiki and meditation to space for intergenerational sharing circles and trauma-informed healing practices. The collective will also include a retail shop inviting all to support local artists, craftspeople and small businesses, and serve as a rental space for cultural activities such as music, dance, comedy and poetry.

“If we create a space that is run by and employs only people of colour, and offers food and art from people of colour,” says Desmond, “we will create a space that feels inviting and safe for people of colour to gather and access the healing they need without cultural barriers.”

Andrea Wheeler

In the midst of the pandemic, Andrea Wheeler moved from the west coast (unceded W̱SÁNEĆ territory) to the southern Ontario farmland she had inherited after her father's passing. The farm is located on the unceded territory of the Kanyen’keh:ka (Mohawk), Huron-Wendat and Haudenosaunee peoples. “My generational land wealth came from stolen land,” she acknowledges.

In reflecting on what legacy and land ownership mean on stolen land, she realized she could use her privilege as a landowner to share resources and support reconciliation and anti-racism.

Under the umbrella term of “reparations collective,” Andrea has initiated several projects on her farm in collaboration with her new community, including a street help group, an artist/activist residency, and growing food with Indigenous communities and new immigrants.

“We’re collaborating to make the farm a place for the people that we support to come be with the land, a place where we can share knowledge and bring healing,” says Andrea.

Jshandeep Jassal

Growing up in North Delta and Surrey, Jshandeep Jassal recalls feeling frustrated by negative stereotypes and narratives she faced as a South Asian youth.

As co-director of the non-profit Solid State Community Industries, Jshandeep already works with racialized youth, but she is now launching a new effort: the SAH peer support network for South Asian youth. SAH stands for South Asian Healing, but sah also means “breathe” in Punjabi.

“The name speaks to the whole idea of creating a safe space for South Asian youth to just breathe and be able to talk about issues facing our community,” says Jshandeep. “We want to change our cultural mindset on what healing is. Rather than looking at mental health as seeing something wrong with a person, we want people to see that a person is actually strong because they’re taking control of their wellbeing. It’s a cultural shift.”

Mateo Tobar

Mateo Tobar is a young social innovator who dreams of empowering Ecuador's youth to create a better future. For the past year, he has been developing a project called Youth Education Lab (YEL).

“I dream about an Ecuador where every youth has access to meaningful learning, to experiential learning opportunities through social innovation or social entrepreneurship,” he says. “I want to empower youth to realize they have the capacity to transform their ideas into visible projects.”

Mateo’s pilot program for YEL involves working with youths in three specific communities and providing them with a capacity building process based on their individual needs. He hopes to be able to provide funding for the youths’ projects to bolster their professional profiles and help them access university or scholarship opportunities.

Jónína Kirton

Jónína Kirton is a poet and a builder of bridges. Of mixed Icelandic and Métis ancestry, the award-winning author works to connect other Indigenous and racialized writers to the literary community, a sometimes-elitist world where non-white writers can struggle to feel at home.

Jónína works with the Indigenous Editors Association, which provides a supportive network for Indigenous editors and publishing professionals. She also serves as “BIPOC Auntie” for the Writer’s Studio program at SFU, supporting and guiding students who are people of colour.

“For writers who are new, especially if we come from a marginalized community, it’s difficult,” explains Jónína. “What we need is people who have similar experiences as us to edit our work, to mentor us, to help us make our way in this world. It’s not the same for a white writer who has privilege, education, money. When they enter a room, it’s a very different experience for them than it is for us.”

At the event, Jónína shared a newly written poem.

"It came to me as a gift from my niece," she said. "She's 17, and she's Métis, like me. She sent me this Virginia Woolf quote, but she added to it: 'I am rooted, but I flow, and I grow.' I thought that was really lovely. I have grown so much in this program, and this poem really has a lot to do with the wonderful learning here."

rooted

for my niece Gabby

I am rooted, but I flow.
– Virginia Woolf, Waves

I am a story within the stories of many
I am a paradox
one thing and then another
parts of a whole
that does not know itself
turning towards the invisible
I can see the limits of knowledge
the places where formulas dissolve
into knowing that can only come
when quiet and walking in a forest
where the standing ones watch and wait
for us to return to ourselves
to the new stories that are waiting to unfold

Community Capacity Building class agreements

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