Towards a just and equitable future
Organize. Educate. Agitate. I heard a powerful Black female Queer activist from England, Phyllis Akua Opoku-Gyimah, also known as Lady Phyll, speak these words at a labour and Queer activism event that I attended as part of Pride Toronto 2022 this spring. They spoke to me. They fired me up. And they have sat with me throughout the summer and fall.
When we think of how to organize, as unionists, it must include reaching out to our allies and sometimes to stranger bed-folk. Finding community partners and helping them understand the vital role they can play in working to protect publicly funded education in Ontario is part of our continued activism. It means reaching out to parents and communities, listening to their needs, and sharing our vision for the future of education. OSSTF/FEESO knows the power of uniting with our communities and their leaders and we encourage all our Members to continue to do the important work you do, supporting organizations that strengthen our communities, and most importantly, supporting our students to find success and happiness. If you are involved in a community group, consider how it could possibly work with your local OSSTF/FEESO Members and leaders to strengthen partnerships and grow solidarity.
To educate is at the root of all we do. Education workers and teachers are first and foremost here to help students learn and grow. But when we think of activism and protecting the things that matter most to us in a just society, we also must remember that at times we need to educate the public about the issues students and educators face. We must also educate ourselves —specifically that without reconciliation and without addressing anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression, we are failing to be the change makers we must be. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the wrongs of the past, methods of challenging oppression, and ways to heal and grow.
I like to agitate. I’m always up for a rally or a protest where we can wave the OSSTF/FEESO flag with pride. But agitating isn’t always such an overt or obvious action; it is often about having the hard conversations with our family and friends, and it is at other times about continued pressure in the form of lobbying your local MPP or Trustee. Agitating for a more robust and well-funded public education system matters and we cannot underestimate the power of a sustained and thoughtful form of activism. We can change people’s points of view, one conversation at a time.
Lastly, I want to put in a plug for our local Labour Councils—they are the meeting ground for organized labour. These are the places where leaders are made and where solidarity is sown. If you are not already part of your local Labour Council, I urge you to seek them out and see what you can offer them and what they can offer you. Visit the Canadian Labour Congress site for information on your local Labour Council or reach out to your District office to find out how you can get involved.
Let’s move into the winter with a commitment to organize, educate, and agitate for a future that is just, equitable, and grounded in reconciliation.