Meaningful changes

Meaningful changes

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story | Contributors: Mina Atia, Communications Coordinator | Published: April 8, 2021

The globalization of society has allowed us to challenge our way of thinking and learn new ways of approaching centuries-old issues. Our world stage has drastically shifted from siloed countries to a global community. It’s allowed us to have meaningful conversations to unite, listen and hold each other accountable.

The concept of leading with open and honest conversation rings true in most, if not all, possible situations. It's a strong and respectful way of interacting with everyone with whom we cross paths. There is a lot of division in the world these days. Open but difficult conversations are not being held––where people are listening to one another.

We are at a point in time and in history where there's never been a greater potential for division. Yet, there is an equally greater potential for unity.

“Looking over the past number of years, anti-black racism and many other related issues show us that we have a lot more to do, we have to be more open, we have to be uncomfortable, and we have to have those difficult conversations,” says The Honourable Tony Ince, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, Communications Nova Scotia, and Minister responsible for the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives.

“And when we talk about diversity and inclusion, that is separate from equity and anti-racism,” he says.

The Black Lives Matter is one of many important initiatives the Halifax Wanderers are actively prioritizing––others include LGBTQ+, Indigenous and feminist topics.

“We held a number of Zoom calls last year, following the untimely death of George Floyd, which has led me to getting the position and feeling the need to use our Wanderers platform, not just for sport but also for a lot of these important social justice issues that have been happening,” says Marvin Okello, Ticketing & Member Services Manager, and Diversity & Inclusion Officer for the Halifax Wanderers.

“We're very diverse ourselves as a committee; together we work with the different communities, like the Black Lives Matter movement in the black community, to make sure that we're providing them equitable opportunities and not just content and social media but solidarity and awareness,” says Okello.

The committee is currently planning on establishing long-term foundations through partnerships with various communities in Nova Scotia and outside of the province. A committee member with a matching background will act as a representative for the corresponding community to better engage and facilitate those partnerships.

“Before I went into the public service commission, I always believed that diversity is something we need to address on many levels. And when I say diversity I mean true diversity,” says Minister Ince.

“That means those with challenges that we may not be able to see like LGBTQ+ issues; diversity means we look at everything in its entirety.”

Diversity is at the forefront of our current global climate and yet it continues to be a challenge for many organizations. The current challenge is that diversity initiatives continue to be accomplished in the same way, in one specific sort of lane for the last few decades.

“Only now we can see how true diversity is benefiting us economically, socially, on so many other levels,” says Minister Ince.

April is Diversity Month. It’s a time to celebrate differences and similarities. It’s also a time to reflect on practices, initiatives and programs to celebrate successes in diversity and inclusion as well as plan to mitigate the gaps. It’s time to hold open and difficult conversations with those who are willing to listen.

“I think as a first step, it's great to either form a committee or a position that owns that role and the actionable items that a business can do to ensure, internally, they are very diverse and celebrating all their different ethnicities and genders within the organization,” says Okello.

Moreover, Okello recommends businesses to be inclusive and including of their staff in these types of conversations by allowing them to provide any feedback on what they would like to see the business involved in.

“Just like pulling the band aid off if you're a bit hesitant, dig into seeking out those individuals who can help you truly see and understand the intersectionality within diversity,” says Minister Ince.

Practicing empathetic and active listening can transform negative energy towards effective, positive and meaningful change.

“I think Nova Scotia is a good place to use as an example,” says Okello. “Because as a community, we've been really tackling a lot of these societal issues, like the HRP repurposing their budget of $600,000 towards actual programs for diversity.”

Being the loudest voice in the room can feel like the only option, but it’s not necessarily the best way to bring people together. It takes constant effort, trials, time and energy for people to process issues about diversity and take a stand.

📸: Nora Stankovic, Canadian Premier League

“It's important that we're up to date, educated on it and not seeking other people to educate us,” says Okello. “And then after that, it's important that when we see injustice happening, we use our voice as simply as during a meeting when a female co-worker keeps getting interrupted and say ‘hey, I'd like to hear what she has to say.’”

When people are willing to see the person in front of them and listen to them, having meaningful conversations can lead to positive change. Okello says it’s on each of us to learn, grow and challenge ourselves.

“As individuals, I think it's really important that we just talk the talk and walk the walk,” he says. “What I mean by that is we educate ourselves on an ongoing basis to make sure we're aware of what's happening in our communities–like what happened with the Indigenous fishermen situation last year. It's not just BLM; it's not just feminists; it's not just pride, but all of the things that are happening in our community on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.”

Everyone has their own set of experiences, made up of individual factors specific to each person. Nobody else is aware of those factors. And each person makes up a system––intricate and delicate and difficult to change.

“I'm not one to try to tell individuals what they should do. I can only speak from my experiences, in society, workplaces, and those places where we're interacting with one another,” says Minister Ince.

“I can only say that some of my best memories and best learning moments have been from individuals who help educate me, teach me and bring information about their differences. We could sit together and have the dialogue, and have a conversation about those differences. That to me was more rewarding than a number of things that I can put in my life.”

In addition to holding Zoom calls to engage community partnerships, the Wanderers host a podcast to start conversations on diversity and inclusion in a safe space. “But outside of that, there won't be too much specifically catered to Diversity Month, because we believe on doing that 12 months a year,” says Okello.

Asked for suggestions and advice to help other organizations follow in similar footsteps, Okello recommended to “participate in a network like the Black Business Initiative’s Boost program.”

In partnership with Volta, the Black Business Initiative launched a four-month program called Boost. Funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and led by industry experts, Boost supports the growth and development of Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada. The program runs workshops and skills-development sessions to build the entrepreneurs’ business idea and achieve their professional goals.

“We know we couldn't be where we are today without the support of all of those great members of our community,” says Okello. “As a community-focused club, we're always going to be giving back to the community that has given us so much.”

The Halifax Chamber, along with the support of its Board of Directors and other business leaders, has been actively working on diversity and inclusion in the business community. The Chamber is creating an internal position dedicated to community engagement and outreach. The position will focus solely on diversity and inclusion by ensuring our underrepresented groups are reflected and engaged in the Halifax business community.

“We have to be aware and conscious of all our unconscious biases because we all have them. And if we put that in the forefront, I think we can overcome our differences,” says Minister Ince. “I had some challenges growing up. And until I've faced those challenges, those unconscious biases that I had changed me and made me the kind of person that I am today.”

“It's kind of like the Michael Jackson song: Man in the Mirror,” says Minister Ince. “Take a look at yourself.”

Business Voice reached out to interview the Indigenous community but was unable to get a hold of community representatives to weigh in on the story.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Cover story

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