“A world in which people have an equal opportunity to thrive- empowered, independent and self-sufficient.” What does it mean to have that as our vision? What are the barriers preventing people from reaching equal opportunity? How can we reduce those barriers, making this world a better place for ALL to live and thrive?
In each edition of our monthly e-bulletin, we plan to share some thoughts, reflections, ideas, and recommended reading to address some of these questions. Let’s talk social justice together, through “Equity Piece.”
An Inter-Connected Social Justice World
by Joanna Catterson
(August 2021 E-Bulletin)
During this pandemic, it seems that the lid has been lifted off of many issues that have been boiling just under the surface for quite a while. From the feminist backlash at the Trump Presidency, the racial tensions that erupted after the shooting of George Floyd, to our collective horror at the discovery of children’s unmarked graves at Residential Schools, the recent senseless killing of a Muslim family in London, and something as local as me having to field calls to defend the Pride Flag flying outside my school, we have been inundated with news of unrest, injustice, and tragedy. How do we, as an organization with a prime mandate of social justice, react to these situations, learn from their underlying messages, and apply them to our own situation and mission? We need to look at these happenings, not as unrelated incidents, but as call to action to support our own unique work in Haiti and the DR.
What is at the root of all of the unrest? We can look to these different situations and pull out the obvious things- misogyny, racism, colonialism, anti-Islamic sentiment, and homophobia. But, when you distill all of these items, they come down to one over-arching sentiment- fear and mistrust of the “other”. Fear and mistrust of the different, those who don’t fit into our world view, those who look different, believe differently, value different things. Fear of losing our place of power, our way of life, our comfortable existence. And how do we mitigate fear, temper our distrust, and cut through the worry? By building relationships. That is the one of the core tenets that Rayjon was built on and how we function with our partners in the developing world. We are good at building relationships. But now, I think, it is time to work also on building relationships locally with other social justice groups and seeking to understand their work , to inform our work in Haiti and the DR. What can we learn from our local First Nations about colonialism as we work with people who were colonized by Europeans? How do we take the lessons from the rich Black History in Southern Ontario and translate them to anti-racism work in the DR? What can we glean from our Muslim neighbours about being a minority group? What can feminist organizations teach us about intersectionality? How does our LGBTQ+ community help us understand marginalization? I believe that by partnering locally, provincially, and nationally with other groups whose mission is justice oriented, we strengthen our own skillset to improve the work we do in Haiti and the DR. We also use the collective voice created to amplify the needs of all. We truly are living in an interconnected social justice world.
Joanna is the Vice-Chairof the Rayjon Board. She’s recently retired from her career as an elementary school principal. Joanna is a social justice advocate and lover of travel by water.