In Articles, Mixed-Media

by Sapphire Woods, Trish Starling and Sarena Johnson

Sapphire Woods, Trish Starling and Sarena Johnson come from different social locations but share a common goal of moving towards equity. The three of us sat down and had a conversation about how our social locations inform our work. Despite not being artists, we then agreed to each create a visual representation of that conversation. This is the first contribution to the visual series titled Three Truths, reflecting on exchange, and each will contribute different perspectives of how and why their work is important, collaborative, and requires constant reflection. This first piece was done by Sarena Johnson.

Three columns with pencil drawn images of women, surrounded by handwritten text. Column 1: I'm Sapphire and I'm Black Canadian with Trinidadian descent. I have experienced discrimination based on my own demographic (under 29, Black, of west-indian descent) from outside Toronto (Durham & Alberta). I am informed by working and middle class post-secondary in Education. (M.Ed at York). I work towards bridging access to education through program and curriculum building (SOY, Readers to Leaders, Freedom School). I love tech and graphic novels and am involved in projects like PAERE & Pop-Up Library. Dream Building through pieces of me. Column 2: I'm Trish and I'm a white settler Canadian educator and communicator. More recently I have come to see my role as a listener being a key aspect of both. I have worked with youth and young adults in community, non-profit and educational settings, and currently find myself at Hart House at the University of Toronto, where I organize storytelling and wellness activities and programs. I try to sit back and shut up (but I grew up expecting to be heard). I acknowledge my privilege and try to learn from hard conversations. Column 3: I'm Sarena and I'm Anishnaabe Kwe. I am a writer, editor, student, (M. Ed, Urban Indigenous cohort at York), educator and most recently an #SApro. My job, the school and other work I do, and the way I move through community are helping me to unlearn the negative and untrue. In turn, I can help others to do so as well, and teach those who don't understand. I walk in between spaces of pain and privilege. Healing is not meant to be a luxury, but available to all. I don't need your guilt, Just admit you don't get it and be willing to listen.

Click for assistive image description/text

This is the first of three visual interpretations. It is meant to introduce us, since Indigenous protocol is to first introduce yourself in any new space so others know where your knowledge comes from and where their identities might intersect with yours. I’m not a visual artist, and found it a lot more difficult to do this than anticipated. I didn’t love that I went to using columns, but I did grow up in a colonized society and I am working to uncover, unlearn and synthesize those compartmentalized aspects of myself. This piece was based on our biographies since they inform more than our work, but the way we move through the world. I used different pens/pencils to illustrate how different perspectives can be seen or voices heard more clearly in dominant culture. 

Read Part 2

Read Part 3



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