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  • Writer's pictureChanel Grenaway

Rethinking Commemorative Days and Observances

I often feel a tension between commemorative days and their potential for performative behaviours and meaningful moment for awareness, learning and relationship building.

While days like International Women’s Day, Black History Month, and Pride Month are important, shouldn't we be working toward gender equity, anti-racism, anti-oppression, inclusion, and reconciliation every day?

Growing up I used to say, shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? Shouldn’t we show affection and appreciation to our loved ones on a daily basis? Yes we should, however our tendency (mine included) is to take our loved ones for granted, and in this culture of “busy, instant and urgent” we don’t stop to smell the roses or take that deep breath.

The truth is, we need these days because our default behaviours are not prone to pausing, reflecting, and taking the time to understand the experiences of marginalized groups. Just as we celebrate Thanksgiving to remind us to practice gratitude, these special days encourage us to suspend business as usual, learn/unlearn, and take action.

Until we learn how to integrate equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression into our daily lives, until we become aware of our unexamined biases and until we commit and take ownership of the ways we maintain the status quo, we won’t grow, and things won’t change.

So, I choose to engage in days earmarked for remembrance and action. I’m thinking about how I can contribute to creating spaces on these days, weeks and months for critical thinking, awareness building, learning, and opportunities that spark motivation and action.

The Federal Government designates the fourth week of September as Gender Equality Week, The objective is to increase awareness about removing barriers to equity and inclusion so that all people in Canada regardless of gender, sexual orientation, racial background or socio-economic status, have equal opportunities, rights and freedoms. This week happened to coincide with protests and counter protests and demonstrations across the country regarding the rights and freedoms of 2SLGBTQIA+ persons. Over the last few months it feels like we are taking steps backwards and the threat to fundamental human rights, safety and security feels real. This week has illustrated that we as a society are not there yet. We need these days of action to encourage us to:

  • Reconnect to core values

  • Examine emerging narratives

  • Continue learning and unlearning

  • Deepen understanding of others' experiences

  • Commit to action

  • Protest, demonstrate, speak up, and mobilize

  • Support, care and protect each other

I’m also reminded of (and continue to be motivated by) Rosemary Brown's quote - “Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.”

We are not there yet and there is still much work to be done.



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