Last week, I spoke about Reconciliation to a room full of white people. I was invited by a local holistic health clinic to come speak before their keynote lecturer because a friend of mine that works there had let them know I am raising money in support of the Young Indigenous Women’s Circle of Leadership Cree cultural camp at the University of Alberta. I have done many talks for a variety of different audiences before, but this was the first time, in a very long time, that I was only one of four people in the room who belong to a visible minority. And I was certainly the only apparent Muslim in the room.

You can imagine my trepidation at suddenly realizing what I was about to do: I was about to stand in front of these people from a dominant socio-economic and racial strata of society, and I was going to talk to them about being on Treaty 6 territory, about our responsibility as settlers and refugees on Indigenous and First Nations land, about why adopting the language of reconciliation is important but why putting that language into action is even more critical to moving forward. About why this was their responsibility. About why someone like me –an ally – should not be ignored. This is difficult enough for anyone to do, never mind me as a Muslim.

I think the latter point is where my nerves kicked in: would this group of people see me – a veiled, Muslim woman – as an ally of the process of reconciliation and Indigenous peoples? Would I be harming the cause by appearing in front of such a group when so many view me and my Islam as a social adversary already?

Of course, I am not speaking to anxieties about this group of people in particular, but systemic uncertainties that made me think twice before talking to them – anxieties I hadn’t really had in over a year as a public speaker. The actual people in the room were friendly and inviting, and when I started speaking, I could see heads nodding as I acknowledged Treaty 6 and touched on points about our duties as people sharing this space with regards to how we could support the creation of safe spaces for young Cree women “to just be free to be Cree.”

After I spoke, the keynote was introduced and the main lecture began. I had to take off but I left an envelope on the side that people could put donations in, reminding myself not to be too disappointed if it came back empty. Yes, heads had been nodding, but no one clapped when I was done talking. And maybe my veil was just too much of a barrier for people to get past, even if they agreed with the words coming out of my mouth.

In the end, people did donate – enough, in fact, to cover all of the costs of food and crafting supplies for one young girl attending the camp for its two-week duration. But even if they hadn’t, I came to realize how powerful the whole experience was socially, if not monetarily. Rather than being anxious about talking to white people about reconciliation as a Muslim woman, I should have viewed it as an incredible opportunity to challenge what it means to stand in solidarity with one another.

I stood there as a Muslim woman calling for sisterhood, regardless of where our sisters come from, how they look and the culture they practice – a sisterhood that celebrates those origins and appearances and cultural elements. I stood there as a Muslim woman, enjoining people to what is just and compassionate behaviour – to contemplate their social position and what responsibilities it entails to others around them. I stood there as a Muslim woman imploring people to learn about one another and help create spaces for Indigenous people to learn about themselves. I didn’t do this in spite of my Islam, as I belatedly realized: I did this because of my Islam. Because respect, protecting the freedom to worship, enjoining what is just and kind, and seeking knowledge are all cornerstones of my way of life. In standing before a group of white people, talking to them about reconciliation, I was unintentionally dispelling misconceptions about my own people. And any chance we have to share with one another and explore intersections of knowledge to come to greater mutual understanding should never be taken lightly.

For some, what happened last week may have only been a ten minute fundraising speech to garner funds for social change. To me, it was the change itself that we are all looking for.

In solidarity,

Nakita

To donate to my campaign in support of the YIWCL’s Cree Women’s Cultural Camp, please visit: www.gofundme.com/creewomenscamp. Our next group run is on December 4th – pledge a runner today.

Image Credit: “Over Time We Come Together 2015″ by Cassie Leatham”


nakitaNakita Valerio is an academic, activist and writer in the community. She is currently pursuing graduate studies in History and Islamic-Jewish Studies at the University of Alberta.  Nakita was named one of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 under 30 for 2015, and is the recipient of the 2016 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, as well as the Walter H. Johns Graduate Studies Fellowship. She has also been honoured with the State of Kuwait, the Queen Elizabeth II and the Frank W Peers Awards for Graduate Studies in 2015. She has been recognized by Rotary International with an Award for Excellence in Service to Humanity and has been named one of Edmonton’s “Difference Makers” for 2015 by the Edmonton Journal. Nakita is the co-founder of Bassma Primary School in El Attaouia, Morocco and the Vice President of External Affairs with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council.

 

Businesses have gotten a bad rap because of a generalized understanding of how the business community works and stereotypes about evil corporations being applied to all modern business practices. In this article, we will explore the top nine misconceptions about business and how companies today are doing everything they can to break down these poorly conceived notions of how they work and do their work.

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  1. You have to be heartless. The mythological ruthless CEO who will stop at nothing to expand her business, including alienating her family, her employees, her clients and her competitions is a thing of the past. These days, people are interested in the morals on which a business is built. Is your business involved in community work? Do they contribute to a vibrant, non-profit culture in their neighbourhood? Do the goods and services they provide benefit society for the better in some way? These are all things the modern, tech-savvy consumer takes into account when making purchasing and service decisions about where to put their support and dollars. The heartless corporations that remain are the ones that have gotten too big to take down, but for start-ups, attention to community and moral integrity are the way of the future. As they should be.business-woman-in-modern-glass-interior-2
  2. Money and profits are always the bottom line. The best businesses are those that are interested in providing people with goods and services that better society as a whole –whether it be terms of information, health, fitness, quality food, environmentally-friendly and ethic products, artisan products or other noble efforts. Business owners that are passionate about what they do for the sake of doing it are much more likely to experience the success that allows them to continue and flourish in their business practices.
  3. Output is more important than your staff’s needs. The companies that cut corners on the health benefits, livable wages and ideal working environments of their staff are increasingly falling out of favour with consumer audiences. More and more people are dissatisfied with their work and unhappy in their lifestyles. Career changes are a commonplace occurrence these days, even after years of investment in employees in the form of training. A healthy, happy, exercised, celebrated staff member is much more likely to take ownership of their work and their position in your company, benefitting the company and its clients in the end anyway. Better to invest in the health and happiness of your staff and reap the benefits of being satisfied that you are not only doing what is right for them, but also what is right for your business and society at large as well.photodune-1313567-businessman-pressing-modern-social-buttons-on-a-virtual-background-xs-507x300
  4. Bigger is better. Companies that are obsessed with their growth into large-scale corporations aren’t always aware of the sacrifices that come from giving up small and medium-sized business practices. More of a corporate feel makes their company less friendly and approachable, but more importantly, it makes your company less flexible to adapt to the changing markets on a whim. Filtering everything through large-scale boards or committees and/or having to do the legwork required to alter simple company procedures can be a pain. In the mix, the personal nature of a company is lost. Bigger companies are less likely to support local artists, entrepreneurs and innovators in their communities and they tend to overlook the small stuff of value to smaller businesses: getting to know their clients intimately, being cornerstones of their community and serving the neighbourhoods they come from.
  5. Business and environmentalism are opposing ideas. This is definitely becoming a thing of the past. Any business worth their weight is going green these days, whether that means in-house recycling programs, going paperless, using Green-certified materials, investing in tree-planting program or any of the innumerable ways that companies can reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. One of the first things that prospective clients ask, regardless of the industry, is what measures businesses are taking to help with the environment to protect their legacy for generations to come.
  6. Business-owners are workaholics. While it is true that business owners sometimes don’t know when to slow down or might be particularly passionate, it is not always true that they don’t have downtime or sacrifice time with their family to run their business. These days, business owners recognize that the best leaders are those who help their team and delegate according to the strengths and weaknesses of their team members. A boss who does it all might seem ideal but in reality, it means that the business sinks or swims depending on them alone, which is never a good business model.
  7. Marketing is a waste of money and time. How many times have I heard that marketing managers sit around doing nothing, wasting company money and time? While that may be true for marketing managers you know, that technically shouldn’t be the case and it usually isn’t. While marketing departments might seem like a lot of investment for an immeasurable or undetectable return, don’t underestimate the power of social media, traditional advertising and other techniques for brand recognition. Even though you might not respond to or access those marketing mechanisms, it doesn’t mean that others don’t. Many studies (internal or otherwise) show that clients do respond to techniques that were purposefully applied by marketing departments, resulting in business for that particular company.
  8. Working longer and harder is more efficient. Those who work the hardest and the longest might be wasting a lot of time. In fact, recent scientific studies are throwing the entire 8 hour work day into question because it seems to undermine productivity, thus wasting company time. People with specific tasks to complete will often stretch out the time it takes to complete those tasks in order to “fill their day”, rather than taking the appropriate amount of time to finish their work. As well, longer work days require more breaks – usually one hour total for an eight hour day, divided or not – and the time surrounding these breaks tends to be highly unproductive as people wait for the break, take the break and then take a long time to get back to actual work when they return. Recently light has been shed on how crucial stay-at-home moms are for the job market because they are often engaging in a creative, entrepreneurial spirit in order to work from home and their time is highly limited, meaning that they have to work more efficiently than the average office worker to get their jobs completed while still taking care of their homes and families.monkeytype1_2
  9. Outsourcing is an ideal business practice. Gone are the days of prioritizing cheap work in foreign countries as a way to save a buck. Real business owners are realizing that employing people in their communities injects money back into the local economy which keeps them in business longer. Additionally, supporting local artisans and innovators is the latest fashionable business practice and with good reason, some of the best talent is found close to home.

There are a lot of stereotypes out there about a lot of different kinds of people and writers are no exception to the rule. However, as we know in life, most stereotypes don’t hold weight. Let’s take a look at the common misconceptions about writers and determine just how true they are.

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  1. We read too much. Ok, this is definitely true. But that’s all part of the craft. You can’t write if you don’t read because you haven’t been studying the masters of the craft. Sure, writers are also the types of people who will read the back of a cereal box or the ingredients on a shampoo bottle just because the always require something to read, but that’s what also makes us diverse in our writing skills. It’s the reason we can write blogs and marketing pamphlets as easily as we can short stories or poems. Writing and reading are mutually exclusive, kind of like love and marriage, but without all the messy modern divorce and heartache.
  2. We’re melancholic. How many writers out there are perceived as being sad, depressed or melancholic? Thanks a lot Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf. Now, any time you tell someone you’re a writer, they look at you like you need to be on Prozac. Yes, like all artists, writers can be prone to bouts of melancholia, but this is only because we’re looking at the world a little more carefully than everyone else and in doing so, we see its heartbreaking beauty and chaotic self-destruction. We also may or may not have a penchant for drama.
  3. We’re unemployed. The same adage that is true of students getting their Arts Degrees is often said to be true of writers: that the only thing we need to learn in University is how to properly pronounce Do you want fries with that? This couldn’t be further from the truth. While many writers are able to write one-hundred-percent of the time (lucky bums!), other writers have day jobs that support their writing lifestyle and ambitions. Click here for a list of famous writers and the day jobs they kept throughout their career.
  4. We have cats. Ok, while this may be true of Michelina, this is definitely not true of me. Writers tend to have cats over dogs because they are less maintenance which means that we can get more writing done. However, if anyone that has a cat can testify, cats tend to gravitate towards warm laptop keyboards and so can interfere with the modern writer’s work.
  5. We all want to be Steinbeck. While it is true that many writers tend to be ambitious, that ambition doesn’t always translate into writing the next great American or Canadian novel. Many writers are satisfied with being surrounded by words, glorious words, and immersing themselves in the lives of their characters and unfolding drama. In fact, some of the best writers weren’t ever concerned with fame or notoriety but simply wanted to write and write well. michelecats

Think that all writers spend their time in front of the laptop, notepad or typewriter? Think again. Some of the most famous writers in the history of literature also kept their day jobs –  some of which were more prestigious than their writing careers!

  1. Kurt Vonnegut : Saab dealership managerkurt-vonnegut
  2. John Steinbeck : apprentice painter, fruit picker, caretaker, construction workerJohn Steinbeck
  3. Stephen King: high school janitorstephen_king-coming-to-boulder
  4. J.D. Salinger: Swedish luxury liner director of entertainmentSalingerforweb_2761034b
  5. William S. Burroughs: exterminatorwilliam-s-burroughs
  6. William Faulkner: postal workerWilliam_Faulkner_1954_(3)_(photo_by_Carl_van_Vechten)
  7. T.S. Eliot: bankerThomas_Stearns_Eliot_by_Lady_Ottoline_Morrell_(1934)
  8. Robert Frost: paper boy, teaching assistant, lightbulb factory workerrobertfrost
  9. James Joyce: piano player and singerjames-joyce
  10. Nabokov: entomologistvladimir-nabokov
  11. Margaret Atwood: baristamargaret-atwood
  12. George Orwell: officer of the Indian Imperial Police in BurmaGeorge-Orwell-001
  13. Jack London: cannery, oyster piratelondon
  14. Jack Kerouac: gas station attendant, cotton picker, night guard, construction etcJackKerouac_NewBioImage_0
  15. Joseph Conrad: gunrunnerjosephconrad
  16. Lewis Carroll: mathematician, photographer, teachercaroll