This blog post was written by NYMAC’s Daniel Sadler, Carmelle Freudlyne, and Kristen Dyson. Find out more about Big Brothers Big Sisters National Youth Mentoring Advocacy Council here.
To paraphrase from Kevin Stone’s book “To Stand Beside: The Advocacy for Inclusion Training Manual”, advocacy can take these forms:
- standing beside people by assisting them to advocate their interests
- standing behind people by supporting them to represent their interests
- standing before people by representing their interests
The month of June provided many opportunities to exercise advocacy. Commonly referred to as “Pride Month”, it highlighted the rights, promotion, and acceptance for those of various gender identities and sexual orientations. June 21 was “National Indigenous Peoples Day” in Canada, where we reflect on the history of FNMI peoples and celebrate their cultural diversity and traditions. Finally, throughout the month of June demonstrations for “Black Lives Matter” were held across the world to address racial injustices to people of colour. As we reflect on the struggles of marginalized peoples and identities, people located in privileged positions can ask themselves how they can help end discrimination and work together towards equity and justice. This advocacy technique is called “Allyship” and is how people can stand beside those who are marginalized. Everyone can be an Ally and Allies are needed in order to create space and supports where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential.
Allyship is more than a title. It goes beyond words and acknowledgement – it involves continuous education, de-centralization, and re-learning of ideologies. It cannot be done without others and is embodied in the common phrase “nothing about us, without us”. In this way, while those with power and privilege need to be part of conversations of removing oppression, they cannot be the only ones to “fix” the problem. Finally, an Ally’s words and actions must be aligned. It requires anyone wanting to be an authentic Ally to advocate for people, create spaces and opportunities with people, and to listen and believe people’s experiences. To be an Ally means to recognize the history behind marginalization, and understand its fruition in today’s society.
Recognize the historical colonization of settlers and their systematic ways of oppression, and understand the hardships of our Indigenous peoples today. For example, the bureaucratic process of recognizing Indigenous culture through “Card Status”, a process created and still used today to essentially (and legally) eradicate Indigenous peoples. Recognize intersectionality, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. The term was initiated in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a black feminist and American lawyer, to describe the connection within the kinds of oppression that women can face. For example, a black woman from the LGBTQ+ community could face homophobia, racism and sexism in their daily lives.
By first learning and understanding the historical significance to our marginalized people and identities, we will be able to practice true allyship and make sure the eradication of these oppressions becomes a reality. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused by the process, that’s okay. Allyship is hard and tedious work, but a necessary revolution.
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