CSPS Virtual Café Series: Lived Experiences of Black Canadians (Video)
Description: This conversation between Dori Tunstall, Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University, and Adrian Harewood, co-host of CBC News Ottawa, is about their memorable achievements, letdowns, and hopes for the future, what the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic have taught us about working towards a better and more consciously inclusive society, what lessons they take from their careers in design and journalism that might inform a better path forward for the public service and what they believe organizations like the public service can do to achieve a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.
CSPS Virtual Café Series: Lived Experiences of Black Canadians
Date: February 1, 2022
[The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, opening it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. Text is beside it.]
[It fades out, replaced by a Zoom video window. The moderator, Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin, smiles. She is a Black woman with slightly wavy brown hair reaching her shoulders. She wears black glasses and a grey blazer over a blouse. Behind Nathalie, a blue and green painting hangs on the white wall, and a lush plant sits on a mantle.]
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Good day and a virtual welcome to the Canada School of Public Service. My name is Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin. I'm the Director General for Respectful and Inclusive Workplaces Learning here at the school. It's my pleasure to be with you today. Cet évènement se déroule en anglais, mais l'interprétation simultanée est disponible si vous en avez besoin. Les instructions pour se connecter à l'interprétation simultanée se trouvent dans le courriel de confirmation de l'évènement qui vous a été envoyé.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that the land by which many of us are viewing this event is the unceded territory of the Anishinaabeg Algonquin people. Some of you today may be viewing this from various parts of the country, and I therefore encourage you to take a moment to recognise and acknowledge the territory you're occupying.
Before we continue, a reminder that in order to make your viewing experience better, we encourage you to disconnect from the VPN if possible, and to reconnect to the event. Now, without further ado, I'm pleased to invite you to today's event, which is the next instalment of the School's Virtual Café Series, entitled Lived Experiences of Black Canadians, and to introduce to you our guests for today. This event kicks off Black History Month to recognise the numerous and significant contributions Black Canadians and Black communities in Canada have made and to continue to make, to the growth, well-being, and prosperity of our country.
First of all, I'd like to introduce to you Dori Tunstall.
[Two video windows appear alongside Nathalie's. In one is Dori, who waves. She is a Black woman with black and grey hair. A red headwrap covers most of her hair. She wears black glasses and a black blouse. Dori has a custom Zoom background of a burst of colours amidst darkness. The OCAD University logo is to the left of the explosion of colours.]
Dori is the Dean of the Faculty of Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, Canada, and notably the first Black Dean of a Faculty of Design anywhere in the world. Dori, thank you for joining us today.
Dori Tunstall: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited about the conversations.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Thank you. I'd also like to welcome Adrian Harewood, a journalist and co-host of CBC News Ottawa, who has been a vocal advocate for systemic change at the CBC, particularly on the need for equal representation at the management level and how this benefits the work of the CBC overall. Adrian, thank you so much for joining us today as well.
[In the third video window, Adrian smiles and gives a small nod. He is a Black man with a shaved head. He wears a red shirt with a blue, green, black, and white dotted pattern. Behind him is a full bookcase spanning the entire back wall beside a glass door.]
Adrian Harewood: Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm really looking forward to the exchange.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Great. Let's get started. I'd like to start by asking each of you to take a few minutes to tell us a bit more about yourselves and in doing so, to really help us understand what has led you to where you are today and to who you are today in terms of taking decisive action in your respective fields when it comes to championing equity, diversity, and inclusion. Dori, I'll start with you.
Dori Tunstall: Great. Just to give a sense of placement, I am in Toronto on the land of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabeg, Huron Wendat, and Mississaugas of the Credit. Just acknowledging where I'm located. I'm a Black Canadian as of four years, [she laughs] meaning I'm originally from the United States. I've been in Canada for four years. I'm very happy to have been in Canada for the last four years. How I got here is—I think as the first Black, and Black female, Dean of a Faculty of Design anywhere in the world, just realising that my responsibility to make sure that while I might be the first, I'm not the only.
My real focus is: How do I help decolonize design so that more diverse peoples feel that design is a place of belonging? Design is a place of being able to create worlds for, and by, BIPOC people—Black, Indigenous, and POC communities —to see themselves reflected in the world through design and really inspiring young people, the youth to take their beautiful, fresh ideas around how the world works, and again make it real and tangible in the world through design. If you can imagine a cup, you can imagine a city, you can imagine all of these possibilities. So if we're able to help young people feel confident about their ability to impact the world, then design is one of the most important vehicles by which you're able to do that and make it communicate that and connect that to other people.
I'm really excited about the work we're doing at OCAD University to diversify our faculty so that our students have people that they can look up to; to diversify our students; and to create a relationship with communities so that the distance between design at OCAD and the designs that they do in their everyday lives are one and the same. There is no difference.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Thank you very much Dori. Adrian, over to you.
Adrian Harewood: I should also once again thank you for inviting me. I am here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, my hometown, which is located of course on Algonquin Territory. I am first generation Canadian. My parents came to this country from the Caribbean in the 1950s and the 1960s, ostensibly to study. I'm the first of five children. I have four younger sisters. That's significant that I have four younger sisters. I think I also come from people who have always lived to make change.
When I think about my grandparents, my grandfather was an organiser. He was involved in labour unions in Antigua in the early part of the 20th century. My grandmother as well was a feminist before we labelled it, before she had that moniker. She was someone who was very much involved in trying to encourage women and provide women with support and skills.
I've always been inspired by the saying that Toni Morrison, the late Nobel laureate, said that when you have a little bit of power and you are free, then your job is to try to free other people. I think that my parents and my grandparents have been about that.
My parents were educators at the post-secondary level, but they were also journalists. In the 1970s, they were columnists for the main Black newspaper in this country, a paper called Contrast. Contrast played a really seminal role, particularly in the Black community, in that it gave Black people a space where we could tell our stories, and we could tell our stories without distortion. A lot of the way our stories were being told at that time in the mainstream media were misrepresentations, and they didn't honour our histories. So they were very much involved in that.
When I went to university in 1989, Nelson Mandela was still in jail. Apartheid was still in effect, and I became active in the anti-apartheid movement. Media was a way in which we could raise consciousness. It was a way in which we could tell different kinds of stories. It was a way in which we could more fully participate in this society. We got involved in media on campus and I was part of that. I've always seen media as providing a platform for us to impose ourselves on the world and to take space and to demonstrate and to reaffirm our humanity—the humanity which has often been challenged in this society.
As I get older, I feel as if I become more and more loquacious and more long winded.
[Adrian and Dori chuckle.]
Dori Tunstall: You have more wisdom to share!
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: That's not getting old, it's getting wise! So, thank you both for that. If I can go a little bit further and ask you another question. Acknowledging the societal context and Black Lives Matter, particularly in the wake of George Floyd's murder, and looking at lessons we can draw from that, starting with you, Adrian, what lessons are you drawing that are influencing the work that you're performing as a journalist in this particular context? It'll be the same question for you, Dori, but in terms of influencing your work at OCAD.
Adrian Harewood: Black Lives Matter is the latest iteration of our struggle. The struggle is not new. The struggle has been going on for a very, very long time. All kinds of people, people who are known and people who are unknown, have contributed to that struggle over centuries. What's changed are the actors. I've gained a lot of inspiration from looking at many of the people who've been involved in Black Lives Matter. I find it really heartening and gratifying and it's wonderful to see young people asserting themselves and making space for themselves and alerting the society to the fact that that they need to be listened to and that their humanity needs to be, must be honoured.
At one point, I was younger, and I'm in my dotage now.
[Adrian grins, and Nathalie chuckles.]
It's always great to see young people and how brilliant these young people are and how industrious they are and how resilient and resourceful and how much imagination they have and how much courage they have. They give us courage and they give others courage.
We should remember, though, that young people have always been at the forefront of our struggles. This is not new. 2020 marked the 60th anniversary of the emergence of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which might have been one of the most important social organisations of the 20th century in the United States. This was an organisation that influenced the women's movement, that influenced the gay and lesbian movement, that influenced the American Indian movement, that influenced all of the movements that followed. It was a youth-led struggle. That's important as well. It was a youth-led struggle. We should also remember, we celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday a couple of days ago. Martin Luther King was a young man! He was a young man when he helped to lead, and there were many people involved. There were many people behind and many people in front of Martin Luther King. But Martin Luther King was only 26 years old. He was a young man. We have always had young people leading the way and pushing us forward and urging us to be our best selves and reminding us of the possibilities for transformation.
Black Lives Matter is part of that long history, and that's not just in the United States. It's young people around the world, throughout the diaspora. If we think about, for example, the struggles of South Africa in the 1970s, those young people were fighting against Bantu education in South Africa and many of whom were slaughtered on the streets of Soweto. 1960 was also the year of the Sharpeville massacre. Sixty years. A lot of young people were cut down there as well, struggling for freedom, for liberation. So again, young people have always been there. They've always been at the forefront, always pushing us forward. It's just wonderful to see another generation taking up that responsibility.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Thank you. Dori, what has this meant for the work of educational institutions such as OCAD U?
Dori Tunstall: I think one of the important things about the... let's say the revitalisation, in some ways, of a different level of Black Lives Matter and the pandemic is that the reason why George Floyd and his murder is so prominent in the imaginations of people is that because of the pandemic, everyone had to stand still. Everyone was not busy occupied with the other aspects of their lives so they had to pay attention. They paid attention in a way that some people who, again, were able to ignore the issues, some people who weren't aware of the issues were all of a sudden were forced to stop and become aware.
So for me, what I think is really important about the moment of this summer, the summer of 2020 was the world responded to the murder of George Floyd in a way that brought alliances and coalition. Even when you think of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, there was a national movement or North American movement. Again, all of these struggles are related to each other. But what happened this summer was that you had people in Ireland saying "Black Lives Matter." You had people in the Middle East saying "Black Lives Matter." You had people all around the world saying "Black Lives Matter" in a way that opened up a lot of possibilities for knowledge, learning, coalition, and moving things forward.
In the context of OCAD University, it was a very interesting moment because we had announced our Black Cluster Hire. We successfully had a Black Cluster Hire where we brought in five new Black faculty members addressing the underrepresentation—the zero representation in design for 144 years. That week was the same week that we made the announcement. And for us, it meant that it helped us figure out what is our narrative and what is our place in the movement. We talked about the fact that all of these institutions are having a reckoning in terms of how they've ignored the fact that Black Lives Matter. They've not built the structures to allow Black people and the Black community to be connected to these institutions and served by these institutions. Our story became "you've messed up for a really long time and you have to acknowledge that." In our statement saying "we're addressing 144 years of zero representation" that was us as an institution acknowledging the fact that we had not embraced the Black community and Black lives in the way that we should have.
It also began to tell the story of how you make amends. This is how you listen. This is how you write a call for participants that is about what the community wants and needs, not just selfishly the skills that the institution wants to bring in and use and exploit and all those things that institutions can do. For us, the narrative became around, "all of you companies that are making black squares on your Instagram accounts and making statements about how you're going to address Black lives and be more inclusive, here's a way forward for you to begin to acknowledge and make amends for the harm and the ignoring and the not listening that you've done for as long as your institution has been existing." So we had to move forward with that.
I developed a course that we do in Continuing Studies on hiring for decolonisation, diversity, and inclusion to say that this is the way forward and these are the steps that you can take. We ran that in December and that was quite successful working with both large high-tech organisations but also small businesses to figure out how do you build authentic relationships with community. How do you acknowledge Indigenous demands, and how do you do all these things that, as an institution, OCAD had been doing before summer of 2020 and becomes amplified in that moment. There is a way forward and let us show you how we did it. You'll have to do it your own way because your own institution has its own history, but there is a possibility to go forward and to do the right thing for and with Black communities.
That was how we, as an institution, lived that moment and with a great care for our students. We had to hold forums where, for two hours, our Black students showed even with all the work that we're doing, all the ways in which we're failing them, all the ways in which their education is failing them, and ways in which our support systems are not taking into account the specificity of their lived experiences and how that impacts the way they work and how it impacts the way they build relationships with others in the institution.
We're still in that process of learning and responding and growing as an institution, because, again, in terms of decolonisation, no one knows how to do this. We have to be generous with ourselves and others around the mistakes that we make, but we also have to make amends. We have to acknowledge our mistakes and make amends. That, for us, is the important point of the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic. All these institutions, you've made mistakes. You've done harm. You have to acknowledge that and begin to make amends. Don't get frozen by white fragility. Don't get frozen by the impossibility of the task. Take concrete steps forward to make amends. And I would say in many of the corporations that at least I've been working with, they're trying. They're trying.
Adrian Harewood: Can I just pick up on what Dori was saying? I think Black Lives Matter has been a real catalyst for change. I think the change happens on a number of different levels. Change happens externally in terms of trying to change institutions, but it's also about changing ourselves. When we're imagining the kind of world that we want to live in, of course we're trying to change the spaces in which we live and occupy, but we also have to engage in that process of becoming better people. To become more human human beings. Asian-American activist Grace Lee Boggs, who I had the great pleasure of meeting on a couple of occasions and interviewing at length, she always used to talk about that. About becoming more human human beings. Enlarging our humanity.
One thing that Black Lives Matter I think has done is it's given people some courage. Dori talked about the reckoning happening at a place like OCAD. There's been a reckoning happening in Canadian media, and particularly happening at CBC. Four years ago—wow, time moves. 2021 already! I was going to say four years ago. It wasn't four years ago now! Five years ago, in 2016, there were a number of us who started pushing for change within the CBC, and we started pushing for it publicly. We weren't going to be silenced. We actually went public on social media and within the organisation.
At the time, there was a tremendous amount of fear. There was a tremendous amount of fear within our communities, amongst, for example, a lot of Black journalists at CBC that were afraid of being sanctioned, afraid of being ostracised, afraid of not being able to move up in the organisation because they might be deemed to be these ne'er-do-wells, or these renegades, or these rebellious people. I can tell you that in 2016, we tried to get people to sign a letter which outlined the contradictions existing within CBC/Radio Canada. It was a very detailed letter. Very, very explicit. We sent it to all the Senior Managers. We sent it to the Board of Directors. I can remember going to some of the most prominent names you know at CBC and asking people to sign. Very few people signed. We only had 23 people in the entire organisation, and we were across the country. Only 23 people. Many of those people who signed didn't really have a lot of power within the organisation. They were not the big wigs. They were not the hosts of all these programs. Yet, they were willing to take that risk at that moment. It was dangerous at that time to speak up in the way in which they were speaking.
Now, fast forward five years, thanks to things like Black Lives Matter, people are now speaking in ways that they hadn't spoken before, and they found their courage. They found their strength. It's instructive, isn't it? It teaches us something. We need other people. Other people help us to become our better selves. We need those kinds of examples, which can push us forward. When one person takes courage, maybe another person can take courage as well. If one person takes a risk, then another person takes a risk.
It's also demonstrated the importance of developing networks and developing groups of people with whom you can work. It's not just about allies. I'm always a little bit wary of this term, allyship. I think there's a role for it, but I prefer comrades. I want comrades. I want people who are willing to go into the fray with me and I'm with them. We are together. We both have something to gain and we both have something to lose. We're willing to potentially jeopardise something by getting involved, by getting engaged. I think that's happening more and more. So, that's been really gratifying. That's been really inspiring. I think we have Black Lives Matter to thank for a lot of the actions that people are taking in various spaces.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: I don't think we're going to have enough time to cover everything that I want to ask you coming out of what you've said, but I'll do my best to get a couple of things that you brought forward that I want to dig into a little bit more. I think there are many linkages that can be drawn between your worlds—the CBC, OCAD U—and the federal public service. To some extent, we're a vehicle for information exchange, a vehicle for educating. We serve the public Canadian society.
Adrian, I'd like to go back to when you talked about the youth. As I was doing some research prior to this, I know you're a very strong proponent for intergenerational engagement and you're working towards joining—and I'll quote you—"the skills, industriousness, and ideas of our young guided by the experience of those who have been there before." I'm wondering why you think that's so important and where you see the benefit of this value in this approach in terms of our efforts as a federal public service to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
Adrian Harewood: I suppose I'd start with this: we will not have a future if young people are not included. It's just not possible. You think about yourself, Nathalie, or you think about yourself, Dori. I think about myself. I think about how I've gotten here, what's been my journey to here, and how I've gotten here because people have sacrificed for me. I've gotten here because people were willing at key points in my life to pull me aside and to intervene and to help me out. I can think, for example, there was a time at the CBC when I was getting a little bit discouraged, and I wasn't making as much of an effort, maybe, as I should have been. I was becoming a little bit complacent and a little bit satisfied. An older head pulled me aside and kind of encouraged me, criticized me, made me accountable, and pushed me forward. Had that person not intervened, had that person not cared about me, had that person not loved me in the way in which he did—and that's why he did it—had he not made that step, then I might not be here right now. Mentorship is so key in all of our organisations.
We all need to be taking the long view. We're only here for a short period of time. In 15 years, I'm supposed to be retired! The thing is, I'm still a citizen. I'm still living here. I, we depend on each other. I want the young people coming behind me to have the skills and to have some of the things that I've learned passed on to them so that they can create a society in which we can live with dignity. All of us deserve to live with dignity but we have to learn how to do it. There are a lot of lessons that we can learn from the different generations.
[Adrian's video disappears. His window is replaced with a smiling photo of him clad in a suit.]
Sorry, my phone now is—
—camera. Sorry about that.
[Adrian's video resumes. He smiles.]
I'm back. Sorry about that. So, I think that's really, really, very important. It's always important for young people to recognise the limits and the possibilities of things. For example, journalism has all kinds of possibilities, but it also has limitations. Journalism has done much to free people and it has created space for people, but, as Dori was saying with design, it's also damaged people. It's also caused a lot of harm. We need to figure out how to repair and how to reform journalism or design or the public service or whatever the case might be in a way that honours all of us. Candis Callison, an Indigenous scholar, wrote one of the best books on journalism in the last year. It's called Reckoning. She teaches at UBC and she talks about this idea of good relations. Or SNCC would have talked about the beloved community. We're trying to create these spaces where our humanity is honoured. So we need to know the history of these institutions, what they have done, and how we can move in a different direction in the future.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Great. Thank you. Dori, I'm going to dig a little bit into this notion of respectful design. You've said in what I've read that the ethos and design at OCAD is respectful design and that you chose respect, and that in many Indigenous cultures it's one of the key principles for being in the world. It brings about humility, openness, and really understanding our relationship to others, but also the natural world. Understanding how this philosophy has informed your efforts to decolonize design, what lessons can we draw as a public service whereby our mandate is to design policies and programs to deliver services? Any lessons that we can draw from your experience around respectful design?
Dori Tunstall: It's really interesting because we have an initiative that we're doing right now called 'It's My Future Toronto'. We're working with community organisations to recruit 8- to 12-year-old BIPOC—Black, Indigenous, and POC—youth. The process they go through is, there's a design process where we walk them through the process of how to imagine problems that they have, how to imagine the solutions that they have to those problems, and then how to connect them in three particular ways, which is ironic given this kind of panel discussion.
One area of connection is with policy. We have our strategic foresight, an innovation program. There's a lot of policy that gets done in that particular program. We recruited some former students who are working in both federal as well as local government. We recruited a bunch of MPs and others to talk about actually what policy is and how it allows you to make a difference for community. We've done these short five-minute videos of: What is policy? How do you talk to a variety of people to figure out what it is you're going to do? How do you amplify the voices so that government can hear you? How can you get directly involved?
We've done the same for journalism. We worked with the Globe and Mail to do a short video on how journalism has harmed BIPOC communities. Then, how do you write a story? How do you do a video story? How do you do photography? How do you then put it all together in an editing process? This Saturday, we're doing the design workshop where you do the image, make, and connect to get the ideas. Next week, we're doing the workshop with the Globe and Mail around journalism. Adrian, I'm going to be connecting with you in a moment to participate in that.
Then the other area is advertising. How do you persuade people to change? How do you get them to change their ideals? How do you get them to change their actions? How do you get them to respond to a call to action? We're doing that workshop with the youth in March with the ideal of the call to action is to raise funding, to be able to fund the ideals that the young people are proposing as fresh ideas of how we could respond in Toronto to the legacy and current practises of racism, and how we can also respond to the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. For us, it's a thing where that is respectful design.
How do we pick these young people? We chose 8- to 12-year-olds because they are the ones who tend to get ignored. They're not kids, they're not teens. Psychologically, they're the most open. They're the age where the all the sense of constraints is not completely there yet. They're still open to the possibilities. They're still open in their imagination. If we can build that confidence and their ability to imagine, make and connect, and connect to the most powerful institutions that affect their lives, connect to government, understand what a policy is, understand who your politicians are and get their phone numbers so that you can call them and feel confident in calling them and sharing your ideas. How do you connect to the world of design, which makes everything? Everything in the world is designed. So if you do it with the thoughtfulness of what your ideals of what the world will be, that's how you change the world. How do you connect to the world of journalism, which tells the stories of representation, of what are the issues and what matters?
If at the age of 8 to 12 years old you feel that you have access to the power of those institutions, you have access to the people who are in those institutions, and those people look like you. They're Black, Indigenous, and POC. We made sure that the videos featured all of these profiles of people who are already doing the work. Then in some ways, you build that respect at a really early age for difference and culture and your perspectives and other people's perspectives and being able to share in that.
Again, we're coming from the Indigenous perspective of "all my relations." You don't just have to pay attention to other people. You have to pay attention to the land and what buildings might be on the land and what infrastructure is in the land and what your relationship is to the water and the air and all those things that affect you every day. Giving young people the confidence to feel that they can make that positive difference to themselves, to their families, to their communities that they care about and are part of, that for us is what respectful design is about.
In many ways, the work of government is to amplify that voice, to provide the resources, the structures, and the policies to help make these young people's ideas around a more just world, around a more fair world, a more sustainable world, real and tangible and more expansive outside of what's happening in their communities. That's the ethos of respectful design: we design everything in the world. We design policy. We design a story. We design an object. We design a building. If you give young people—and this expansive sense of young people—the confidence that they can do that, then they'll come with the respect. They'll come with a sense of connectivity and they'll come with the real desire and ability to change the world in ways that it's with them and for them. That's what we're trying to cultivate through the work that we're doing with this project. This project is It's My Future Toronto. We're actually in the middle of it right now. If it's successful, we hope to be able to expand it all over Canada.
Adrian Harewood: That was so beautifully put, Dori. You probably said it, but the one thing I just want to emphasise is that it's so important for young people to believe that they can take up space in this society and that they belong in these institutions. They have a right to be here. It's so important that they recognise that as citizens, they deserve to be everywhere their peers are. Wherever you are, I deserve to be, too! Just because I'm of this particular gender or I'm of this particular race or of this particular ethnicity. Whatever the case might be, you are a full citizen of this society, so you deserve to be here. Take up that space.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Very well said. Thank you to both of you. For the past several months, public servants have been, at all levels, engaging in these very important conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Having participated in many of those, I've noticed that there are some recurring questions that keep coming back. I'd like to respectfully take advantage of the fact that you're here to get your perspective as non-public servants on one of them, if I may. It comes back to this notion of power and power dynamics. Similar to many institutions, here in the public service, we have structures. We have hierarchy. We all have a boss. In the spirit of allyship and when you see something, you need to do something: How do you speak up or call someone out on these issues when they have more power than you? Any advice? Go ahead, Dori.
Dori Tunstall: I get this question all the time in one way or another because everyone says, "Dori, you're the Dean. You're the boss. Of course you can make something happen!" Speaking to Adrian's first comment, this is why it's really important to have BIPOC people in power. I know I have power because if I say no to something, it will not happen in the institution. But I always get the question: "I'm not the Dean of an institution, so how do I have impact? How do I make things move? "
The think I always suggest to them is, there's a book that I live by called Tempered Radicals by Debra Meyerson. The book is about how people make change in institutions. It's almost like in stealth mode because if you come into an institution and say, "I'm going to totally transform you" and you're not in a position of power then the tendency of an institution is to protect the status quo. It almost can't help itself by doing so. But if you come into an institution and you begin to build a network of relationships all throughout the institution—and that's having those conversations and meeting people to find out who in the institution shares your ideas—then you can come as a group and begin to present these ideas to various influencers and powerful stakeholders within the institution.
What happens is that through the incremental setting up the scaffolding of the ideas and the networks of people and ideals who can embrace them, when you're ready for the change to happen then it'll flow through the institution. Everyone will think it's a revolution, like it'll flow overnight, but they don't know that we've spent two years, three years, four years building up to that possibility.
For the Black Cluster Hire, I would not have been able to achieve that walking into OCAD University. Now, I told them that's what I wanted to do, but it took me four years to build the relationships, the networks, to get the data from all of the different aspects of the institutions, to do the training around anti-racism and anti-oppression so that when we brought these individuals into the institution, they would be understood and welcomed as to why we do that. It took four years of these incremental changes to make what seemed like a revolutionary change happen.
I say that to say when you are not in a position of power, your role for every decision you have to make is to figure out: how can I decolonise? How can I make sure this decision is protecting the most vulnerable? How can I use this decision to contribute to anti-oppression and anti-racism? You do have power over that domain of decision making that the institution gives you.
I talked to my students to say that if the only thing you're doing is being able to choose an image on a website, then choose the image that actually contributes to decolonisation, anti-racism, anti-oppression. The change happens through these small, incremental decisions that everyone in an institution makes to do better, to do differently. You have to build those networks and relationships so that I know this person is making this decision, which is linked to the decision I'm making here. Through the collectivity of all of those decisions, we can go to the powerful stakeholder/decision-maker and say, "this is what we've been doing. This is what the impact is. We would like to be able to do more, so help us change the structures of the institution so we can cascade these possibilities throughout." Everyone has a responsibility for those small domains of decision making and power that they have in the institution.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Thank you. Adrian?
Adrian Harewood: Dori said so much. There is hardly anything I can add. The only thing I would say is that I've always liked the idea that revolution is not instant coffee. I've always liked that idea. Revolution is not instant coffee, meaning that it takes time for things to change, as Dori was saying. It takes consistency. It takes discipline. It takes organization. Organization is key. Things don't usually happen by spontaneous generation. It takes struggle. It takes sweat and it takes tears. Sometimes you go backwards and sometimes you go forwards. But the idea is that you keep on keeping on. That's really important.
The other quick thing I will say—and I'm fearing that my technology is going to fail very soon, so I'm alerting you to that—is it's also important for us to realise that sometimes we do have to take risks. It's scary. It's scary when you don't know what's going to happen on the other side. You have to decide for yourself how far you're willing to go. Sometimes it might mean that you have to leave the organisation. Organizations aren't organic. It might be the case sometimes that an organization needs to die and then we need to start something new. We need to reimagine another space or different ways of acting. That is a possibility.
[Adrian's video cuts out and is replaced with his smiling display photo.]
I feel like my technology's about to go.
My comment would be a little bit truncated, so I'm going to end it there.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Thank you so much, Adrian. I'm noticing that we are running out of time, actually. Honesty, I just want to take a moment to say on behalf of the School—I could be here for hours. I don't know about you, but we'll have to have you back again at some point. But on behalf of the School, I really want to thank you both, Dori and Adrian, for spending this time with us and sharing your perspectives. Personally, I just want to say how humbled and grateful I am to be sharing this space with you as we talked about enlarging our humanity—I would say that is one of the key pieces I take away from our discussion today—and being with you today to really celebrate and recognise your accomplishments as Black Canadians. Thank you so, so much.
I'll also take the opportunity to thank the virtual participants who are joining us for the event today, and hope that they found this valuable and rich with takeaways. For those participants, just a reminder to please send us your feedback. You'll be receiving an evaluation form. We'd like you to complete it as soon as you receive it. Your feedback is really important to us. I would also like to invite everyone to continue to visit the School, to look at other events throughout the month of February that we're going to be bringing to you to celebrate Black History Month.
[A purple text box appears at the bottom of the screen, displaying the URL canada.ca/school-ecole.]
The next one is on February 10th in which we're partnering with the Federal Black Employee Caucus. Visit our website, follow us on Twitter, sign up to our newsletter to find out what's coming. With that, once again, thank you, Adrian, Dori, and everyone. À la prochaine. Thanks.
Adrian Harewood: Can I very quickly say something?
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Yes!
Adrian Harewood: I would be remiss, Nathalie, if I didn't thank you and your team for the leadership that you're demonstrating and also providing a space to have this conversation. We need more of this. Thank you for the initiative and also thank you for allowing me to meet Dori Tunstall.
[Dori laughs and Nathalie grins.]
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: You're welcome!
What a delight this has been. I only know her virtually. I've been watching her presentations on YouTube, so it's nice to actually meet her. Thank you. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.
Dori Tunstall: Oh, thank you. The same here. And thank you, Nathalie. Again, great moderation and great questions and prompting. Thank you for that. Adrian, I'm sending you an e-mail as soon as we're done.
[She laughs heartily, and Adrian and Nathalie smile.]
Adrian Harewood: We'll be in touch. Looking forward to it.
Nathalie Laviades-Jodouin: Thank you, everyone. Have a great rest of the day. Thank you again.
Adrian Harewood: Thank you.
[Dori waves and the Zoom call fades out. The animated white Canada School of Public Service logo appears on a purple background. Its pages turn, closing it like a book. A maple leaf appears in the middle of the book that also resembles a flag with curvy lines beneath. The government of Canada Wordmark appears: the word "Canada" with a small Canadian flag waving over the final "a." The screen fades to black.]