COLUMN: Jessica Iron Joseph — Nov. 16, 2012

Jessica Iron Joseph
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Everything happens for a reason.

Lately people have been emailing me; inboxing me, phoning me, and also approaching my husband to applaud the changes we’re pushing for in our community; and to bring our attention to issues that still need to be raised. I know it goes with the territory, and I’m happy people feel that this column is a doorway to inciting conversation and action. I love to see barriers break down and it is even more thrilling for me when I get to take part in it.

Realistically though, I know this column will not last forever, and I have begun to consider what might be the next logical step.

I’ve been reading about the civil rights movement in the United States, and through engaging discussions with those around me, it seems that we could unite and use our collective voices to push for all of those changes that are still needed today.

One major issue I think many people have is their lack of faith in elected leaders -- in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. For a variety of reasons, Aboriginal people and minorities often feel unheard. I know exactly how they feel.

I’ve been one of the fortunate few minorities to have a weekly space to express my thoughts on any number of issues, but I realize not everyone has such an opportunity; however that’s about to change.

My voice is only one voice. Half of the time when I write this column, it is following lengthy discussions had with my husband, best friends, in-laws or my mother. Many times I don’t arrive at these opinions by myself, yet I get all the credit -- which seems incredibly unfair to me.

When I get fan mail, I often like to point out how this column only exists because of the brave vision of my editors, who saw a need for its existence and acted on it.

It takes a community to make change, and I am a willing part of it, but still only one voice.

When I write this column, I like to think of the people who have inspired me, and who continue to inspire me with their courage and perseverance. I think of those people who have gone before me and those I have yet to meet. I believe there is strength in numbers, and so I have agreed to help create an association like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Naturally our Canadian version would likely give voice to Aboriginal and minority concerns.

The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

It has become glaringly obvious to people like myself, my husband, our friends and family that there is a need to unite voices, to collectively push for change – positive change. It’s not about Red Power or Black Power or even Gay Power. It’s about exposing and addressing those inequalities, systemic racism and all types of bias that often operate at a subconscious level, further dividing our nation.

Such an organization must be brought on by minorities because these are the people who understand what it is to be treated differently at all levels of society on a daily basis. Empathy is a wonderful trait in others, but it is not always exercised. If you have experienced discrimination because you belong to one, two, or even three minority groups, you likely know how unfair people can be -- for things you are powerless to change.

When we can unite our voices, those who feel alienated because of their differences may gain strength from those around them. With such an organization, we can empower everyone by creating an equality amongst people. This will undoubtedly increase the quality of life of everyone that lives in Canada. We’re all here, so now we must push to ensure that everyone gets along.

We do not need to wait for the right leader to make change, or to hand over our power to a select few. We all have voices and we can all be powerful instruments of change. When our voices unite, amazing things can happen.

We are still at a fledgling state of organization. There will obviously be much more discussion and the organization will evolve to suit the needs of its members. But the passion and drive are rising as people express interest in our mission to achieve equality and unity for all.

It is a very exciting time. Rather than fearing the end of a Mayan calendar, I look forward to the new year, and to each day that brings me closer to my neighbours. Perhaps this will be an awakening of sorts. I will update as this new venture develops and gains momentum.


Organizations: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP

Geographic location: United States, Canada

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