My experience at the Pro-Action Café – UBC Okanagan

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Story by Veronica Oyatsi

“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” Bell Hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism

As a student worker at the Equity and Inclusion Office, I had the opportunity to attend and work on the Pro-Action Café hosted by the UBC Equity and Inclusion Okanagan Campus Office. The event had a full attendance of about 30 people.

This was my first time attending a Pro-Action Café and I had no expectations of an audience-led discussion. It turns out the attendees were very active in the discussion; they were very confident and articulate in sharing their passions in relation to issues the Equity and Inclusion Office works on for our campus.

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This was an interesting experience as I learnt of other people on campus who share the same goals as our office. There were staff, faculty, community and student participation. Among the audience members were the 2014 recipients of the Equity Enhancement Fund (EEF). They had the opportunity to share their award-winning projects and ideas to the room. For more information regarding the recipients and the projects please visit http://equity.ubc.ca/employment/equity-enhancement-fund-eef/equity-enhancement-fund-2014/.

The event was divided into various sections to draw away from the customary come together and talk. My colleague, Jenica Frisque, the UBC Okanagan Equity and Inclusion Educator facilitated the discussion and I supported her where necessary.  The breakdown of the day was a three-part session-one small group discussion and two large (whole) group discussion excluding the introduction and conclusion.

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Right after the introduction, we had the first large group discussion where we asked the EEF recipients to speak on their projects. This was a highlight for me and my opportunity to hear of these projects directly from the recipients. It was simply brilliant to learn of the continuous efforts made by many individuals on our campus in terms of eliminating stereotypes and educating the community in a non-academic setting. After that we broke apart into smaller groups of about five members and into the various EEF projects. The aim of this smaller group discussion was to answer the following questions in regards to the EEF projects: “Why are you doing your project?” “How are you going about your project?” “What next?”

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I had the opportunity to sit in on Ashok Mathur’s project on Indigenous Activist Art. It is a residency art project aimed at bringing in an Indigenous artist to showcase their work to the campus. This was completely new to me, (I have been in this school for four years and that is the amount of time it took me to discover the Creative and Critical studies building). Ashok shared a video and a brief history of the artist, Alex Janvier, and all he needed was some marketing to get an audience and students for when the artist visited. After the small discussion we gathered into the larger group discussion and we heard updates from the EEF recipients then did an engaging activity.

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Near the end of the day it was up to me to write down the headings of newspaper articles that the group envisioned would be published five years from now in relation to the discussion we had. This activity led to many responses from the crowd, my favorite response, which was an example from Jenica, was “UBC Okanagan Equity and Inclusion Office Closed,” (based on the fact that no inequities and injustices were found on campus and it would be the most inclusive community). There were many headings that were similar, which I found inspirational.

As with all good things the discussions came to an end. I left the room with so many questions and just a few steps to the solutions. I felt satisfied with much food for thought. I am very eager for the progression of these initiatives and to see the outcomes of the EEF projects. Wishing great success to all the recipients.

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