KPU to host fundamentals of anti-oppression workshop

The KPU Equity and Diversity committee will facilitate the event led by renowned anti-racism expert

Cicely Belle Blaine, founder of Black Lives Matter Vancouver. (submitted)

A free workshop for Kwantlen Polytechnic University students is set to take place on Nov. 10 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and will be led by Cicely Blain, a renowned expert in anti-racism, diversity and inclusion.

A grant was approved to bring an interactive workshop that focuses on social justice, anti-oppression, and intersectionality to KPU. By using self-reflection, community-based inquiry, lessons from history and collaborative problem-solving, the workshop takes a closer look at systemic oppression, lived experiences within marginalized communities, privilege, unconscious bias, and microaggressions.

Arley Cruthers, a KPU communications instructor, applied for the grant to host Blain’s workshop through The President’s Diversity and Equity Committee, a group dedicated to encouraging diversity and equity within the KPU community.

The funding had been approved on the same day that COVID measures were mandated in B.C. but ended up being put on hold until a decision was made to host it online. Because of this, they were able to offer two sessions, one for the faculty and one for the students. The education session for faculty and staff happened on Oct. 14, and spots filled up in a couple of days.

“The nice thing about these sessions is that it’s really interactive. There’s a lot of sharing in small groups and learning. Based on the feedback we got, participants found it really, really valuable,” says Cruthers.

“I have to say that I was nothing but impressed with the content, with the delivery, and I think most of all with the number of faculty and colleagues who showed up to that training. We had such incredibly thoughtful and engaging discussions,” says Marsha D’Angelo, a KPU public relations and communications instructor. “It made me really proud of our institution that they are supporting that kind of training.”

With COVID-19 further highlighting inequalities in our society, conversations about injustice and inequity are manifested regularly, though some might find these topics difficult to discuss.

“People are not giving themselves, and giving one another, the time and space to sit with how things might make them feel and have those compassionate conversations,” says Blain.

“Conversations that could be really powerful and bring people together, actually push people apart because we’re not coming from the same standpoint or we misunderstand each other, or we don’t have the language to talk about things, so we just get frustrated at one another,” they say.

Blain says they hope that these workshops can help people learn the skills and language to navigate difficult conversations with thoughtful dialogue and compassion.

“These conversations are always just the beginning,” says Blain. “What I offer is a springboard into your own activist journey and your own growth … I offer language and dialogue. I encourage people to keep learning and keep being curious.”

KPU students interested in attending the free workshop can register on their website.