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This month’s blog is one that is long overdue. Starting in April, I have started and stopped so many blog posts because each time I got partway through, something else would feel more important or relevant and I would start over. I am writing this blog post with a reminder to myself that the goal of #thisisimaginationatwork blog posts is to capture the raw and behind-the-scenes thinking and work that goes into imagining equitable futures. This blog post series is not always going to include a polished ending or solution to the problem. 

As a person of colour, an Asian woman, in the nonprofit sector and in the world, I have been feeling really exhausted, frustrated, infuriated, and anxious about the weight and responsibility to be responsive each time something happens. 

CONTENT WARNING: Listing of acts of racism. It has been over a year since the murder of George Floyd, there has been an exponential increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, the attacks on Gaza, then the discovery of several mass graves Indigenous children was unearthed at residential schools and then an act of Islamicphobia in London, Ontario. This list is nowhere near the extent of continuous racial, social inequities and crimes that have occurred in the last year, but also over generations of colonization and oppression. 

The constant reminder of white supremacy is relentless. 

I find myself craving information, trying to learn, wanting to take action but so unclear of what I could possibly do to make change at this point. 

I am a settler on stolen land. I benefit from white supremacy too. I can choose to retreat within my privilege and comfort. Words are not actions. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need policy and systems change. 

The work we do requires us to do a lot of emotional labour alongside mental labour. We will not be able to think our way through this work. We need to feel it too. 

During Elevate & Amplify, we invited panelists and us as moderators to offer visual descriptions along with our introductions. My introduction included that I am an Asian woman. I was wearing a blue v-neck dress, behind me was my messy condo. I was wearing borrowed earrings – one red earring that reads OUST Du30 (meaning get out to Duterte, the current President of the Philippines) and then a rainbow earring that reads bakla (Filipino for Queer) – I shared that the earrings introduced me to the idea of activism through jewellery and I will be updating my jewellery box with new pieces shortly.

And lastly, I shared that I have long dark hair with shades of pink, blue and purple in it because I have needed superhero powers this past year, and apparently my superhero powers live in my hair. 

I said this jokingly at the time, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was true. There are several times over the past year, I have wanted to be a superhero. I know I can’t save the world, but I am seeing way more hate, injustices, broken systems, performative allyship and a desire to maintain mainstream systems. 

When I first realized that the pandemic was not going to be short-lived, I sought out ways to regain power and joy in my life. 

I went for vibrant colours – I have been through a mixture of pink, blue and purple.  In April 2021, I started to name this as my superhero hair. I have refreshed this supercharge each time I have felt like I needed strength, bravery and courage. The more I have reflected on what it means to have superhero hair or superhero powers, I am observing what that has looked like for me and others in my life. 

There are times I wish I had superhero powers to stop time, to fast forward time, to erase hurt, to heal wounds, to be invisible, to be stronger, to be braver, to literally be a superhero – but I know that is not possible. 

During Elevate & Amplify, one of our panelists Daisy named that a white person within the attendees was someone who had caused her harm – she also said she thought about asking to have this person removed, but decided not to. In a conference designed to centre the voices of BIPOCs and where we had specifically set up conditions for a brave space, it would have been Daisy’s right to ask for this person to be removed for her own safety. I immediately wanted to know more, how to solve this problem, how to take action. I could feel my protector/mama bear mode showing up. I also could feel my armour going up around times where I have had to share space with someone who has caused me harm, but where I didn’t say anything. 

Since the conference, Daisy and I have had a chance to talk about what happened. What she needs to heal, what tools are available to ask for accountability and reparations, and how to set up boundaries to mitigate future harm. 

I do not have the superhero powers to solve this for Daisy. My role here is to listen, to support, to witness, to just BE with Daisy as she navigates what she needs. This is easier said than done. 

The last year has brought far too many moments, heartaches, injustices – too many to name – and the desire to be a saviour has not served anyone well. We are in constant trauma, healing and grief while balancing joy, anticipation and uncertainty. 

I continue to witness too many people looking for the easy way out, the bandaid solution, or for the moment to pass rather than just feeling and being in the grief and discomfort long enough to process the impact that has been created. I want to see the desire for the truth to outweigh white supremacy characteristics and mentality. 

While my colourful hair does make me feel badass at times, it is also masking insecurities that I am not enough on my own. 

Jennifer Chan

Jennifer Chan

Jenn has been working with nonprofits and communities for over 10 years guiding design thinking and strategic foresight processes. Jenn believes in facilitating conversations lead by the community to find pain points that drive and ground new ideas.

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