Crossroads Keynote at BCTF’s Social Justice Summer Camp!

Crossroads team members Deblekha, Neffy, and Nova engaged educators from around the province at the BCTF’s Social Justice Educators Conference held at Evan’s Lake in early May. Delivered on a warm afternoon in the heart of sḵwx̱wú7mesh territories, their keynote “Seeding Courageous Conversations: Facing Fears of ‘Saying the Wrong Thing’ With The Invitational Power of Humility” began with the origin story of Crossroads

The trio went on to share anecdotes from their experiences facilitating workshops in schools–stand out moments, concepts that really landed with students, and some of the ways they try to foster an environment of trust with students they only get to interact with for a short time. Both Neffy and Nova spoke about the importance and effectiveness of leading with humility by sharing stories of their own learning-journey fumbles. They explained how doing so takes the facilitators off of ‘perfectionist pedestals’, puts students at ease, relaxes the tension often associated with these topics, and helps to normalize the reality that we’ve all been immersed in and harmed by systemic conditioning and biases. Modelling vulnerability, and naming the reality that everyone is on a life-long journey of learning and unlearning is central to cultivating open-minded and open-hearted spaces where we can honour our different life experiences while also conveying the feeling that we’re in this together.

“It felt risky to have some of the Crossroads characters express sentiments like ‘it’s time for Indigenous people to move on’, ‘it’s reverse racism that I can’t say the N word when it’s in a song’, or ‘you can’t say anything nowadays without the woke police coming for you’. But we ultimately felt that including these commonly held (but rarely explicitly addressed) points of views would provide much needed opportunities to reflect upon the many assumptions–both conscious and unconscious–that are compacted within them; that these mindsets can’t be truly unpacked unless they’re actually in the room, and that Crossroads was a way to bring them into classrooms ‘one-step-removed’ without putting anyone–those that might harbour such sentiments, or those who might have been harmed by them–on the spot”.

Deblekha

 In a similar vein, Guin spoke about how we can’t get a nuanced or a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics in play when oft-used concepts like  ‘cancel culture’ and ‘wokism’ are invoked without creating brave and curious spaces where reflection and dialogue are truly encouraged.  

Elaborating upon different ways they seek to seed safe and brave spaces, Nova and Neffy went on to acknowledge that learning about these dense and difficult subjects truly takes “patience and time” (First Peoples Principles of Learning). Neffy remarked that “it’s easy to tell students to ‘speak up when they witness injustice and unkindness’” but that there are lots of ‘soft skills’ that need to be developed to have these hard conversations in ways that don’t create more harm. Among them: somatic self-awareness and emotional literacy, learning the tools to set boundaries, distinguish generative from non-generative discomfort, and manage our own reactivity and defensiveness. 

At the end of the day Crossroads is a resource to help kick-start this messy and ongoing process, give our ‘future ancestors’ scaffolded opportunities to practise active listening and reflexive speaking, and develop our collective capacities to engage in critical dialogue about equity and liberation with empathy and compassion. 

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