Recently I've been confronted by the notion that there cannot be political or personal movement without risk. In the class I'm sitting in on we watched a documentary called Fishing on the Brink. It focused on the occupation of DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) offices by inshore fishermen and women who supported them. The participants were protesting legislation that had the potential to favor large multinational corporations over locals who had been fishing in Nova Scotia for generations. Later in the day I went to a community meeting that addressed the hiring process for the executive director position at the Africville Heritage Trust. There had been controversy over a white woman from Ontario receiving the job. Articles about those events abound, here is one: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1057587. My position is one that many of the meeting attendees share, mainly that a person of African Nova Scotian background is best fit to redress the admitted racism involved in destroying the Africville community in the late 1960s. It would make me uncomfortable if an organization that aimed to redress sexist policies in the workplace decided that the best person to head that organization was a man, not because men can't or shouldn't be involved, but because the life experience of being a woman, of negotiating one's identity and career in our patriarchal and sexist society provides fundamental knowledge and skills that can't be learned out of a book. You need the life experience to best carry out the job and the same goes for the challenges Black people face in a society that let racism destroy the Africville community in the first place.
Both the fishermen and the community members at the meeting reminded me that its important to fight for what you believe. Our democracy, our health and happiness all depend on active engagement, despite the likelihood of success. The fishermen risked jail time and ultimately the livelihood of their families by fighting the government which controlled licensing and fishing season guidelines. At least one member of the community who opposed the hiring of a non-Black Executive Director faced a call to this person's employer about their outside of work political activity. I'll be honest and say that part of me wonders what impact my husband's involvement will have on his tenure application. Our family's livelihood has the potential to be impacted should someone take offense....but there is no movement without risk.
The same goes for personal struggles/decisions. In order to grow, to be a better person, to live life as fully as I can, I must have the courage to fail, the courage to take risks. People have faced imprisonment, beatings, even death for me to have the freedom to make decisions about the direction of my life. I am able to freely gather with a group of men and women of various political leanings to discuss events like the contested hiring process because of the risks of my elders. I've decided that I pay the debt that I owe them by fully engaging in my community. But I also pay that debt by leading a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy life. This blog is a part of that for me, and hopefully when I reflect back over my life years or even months from now, I'll rest easy knowing that I took the risks to move forward.