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What I Am Sitting With Now

Hello everyone, my name is Abigail Lesage-Cooper, and I am in my fourth year of undergraduate studies in Nogojiwanong at Trent University. I am originally from a small town outside of Kingston called Amherstview which is a part of the treaty the Crawford’s Purchase and is the territory of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Huron Wendat. I am twenty-one-years-old, a cis-gendered women, and have a mixed ancestry of Anishinaabe and French Italian descent. I was very excited to take this Activists and Activisms course in hopes of learning how to become an activist and found myself leaving the very first class realizing that I did not know how to define activism itself.

At the beginning this course when thinking about activism, how it is defined, and what it entails, the first word that came to mind for me was strength. I thought of activism as noise, volume, being out in the world, and dominating. I thought of activists as vocal, outgoing, and being constantly in movement. Some of these understandings and ideas are not incorrect, however, this course helped to change my understanding and open my eyes to the wide spectrum that exists and helped me to explore the diversity of activist work. After being a part of this course, I still think of strength when I hear the word activism. However, my perception of strength has changed. I now view strength as community, conversation, storytelling, connection, and engagement. Through this course I have learned that activism is fluid and can take form in a multitude of ways which can look different for everyone. Activism to me means expression and being in conversation. I think there can be different stages of personal activism that have to do with self-reflection and exploration. This course has really allowed me to explore and question what that might look like for me.

Within this course we had the pleasure of having a few guest speakers come in and share their work with us, provide space for questions, and be in conversation with one another. Having these guests join our classes with all of them coming from different backgrounds furthered our understanding of the different form’s activism can take and what inspires someone to start this work. I think having these opportunities allowed me to reflect on my interests and passions and engage these with the course materials. I really valued having so many aspects of this course centering conversation. Another area that embodied this and informed my learning were two pieces of course content in particular. These were Angela Davis’s (2006) lecture titled, “How does change happen?” and Layla Saad and Robin DiAngelo’s (2019) Good Ancestor podcast episode on White Fragility. Both these resources were hopeful, powerful, informative, and demonstrated how we perceive and value knowledge production. The messaging within them drew connections that allowed for personal and communal engagement to be sparked. They also challenged more dominant ideas of activist work and allowed for personal thought to be had and sat with. Sitting with this knowledge has also changed my perspective of movement within activist work. I used to have the understanding that activist work was fast paced and constantly in motion, however, I’ve learned that there is a lot of work that takes place before and in place of this. For example, activism through the form of education and personal and communal conversations as working towards change. As well as confronting and pointing to the existing structural and systemic changes is a form of activism that demonstrates change-work to me.

I’ve really appreciated learning that activism can be a journey that is approached and executed in many different forms and mediums. Through this course I’ve learned to value action and work done at the communal and personal level. Self-reflection and being in conversation to come to a collective consciousness and shared engagement has really demonstrated the power of activist thought and how this leads to confrontation and moves beyond dominant understandings of activism. I look forward to this informing my work in the future and continuing to define this work for myself. I think it remains an ongoing process filled with continual learning, connection, as well as engaging in and opening conversation that provokes thought and acknowledgement.


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