Conference Provides Pathway to Inclusion at Aurora Cultural Center


Aurora Cultural Center facilitators aim to make sure the entire community feels like they belong at the table after a symposium this summer on Inclusiveness, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility — or IDEA

Held at the Aurora Armory in May, the IDEA Symposium was an interactive event for cultural providers and those interested in the field to share ideas and start a conversation.

The concept, according to Cultural Awareness Coordinator Glenn Marais, is to create a model where people feel “included in the experience so you can grow and learn.”

Reviewing the success of the symposium, Marais says conversation is the best way forward.

“A lot of the issues that we’re seeing in the world right now are presumptive, in that ‘I see this person and I think they’re this and I’m going to react that way’ and what that really showed us, it’s that there’s a lot of things that we just don’t know because we haven’t had those lived experiences and it’s about coming into those spaces, being open, asking good questions and to engage with an open heart,” says Marais. “You learn and grow from that – and that ability is there for everyone.

“Some are afraid to ask aboriginal people, ‘What happened to you? What was your experience? How can I help you?’ You have to start somewhere and a good place to start is to ask these questions and learn. If we don’t we will never learn and we will be stuck in this cycle of perception and ideas about people and we will never really learn. It’s a shame because the potential in Canada is enormous for us to be an example for the rest of the world.

“People need to speak up and get involved, learn and share a better message.”

This was exemplified at the first IDEA event when he said three musicians formed a triangle at the Aurora Armory, put a variety of international musical instruments in the middle, and each musician took turns leading and hosting a song. .

People were encouraged to pick up an instrument and try them out and as the session progressed people became more comfortable jumping, singing and participating in a very valuable exchange.

In the end, that’s what it was all about.

Marais was not interested in a conference of talking heads. Rather, the goal was for participants to engage and engage as much as possible on ways to increase accessibility across all facets of programs and demographics.

“The goal was to give people a voice so they could strengthen and embolden our community,” says Marais. “By giving people a platform to speak uninhibited and share their life experiences with you to grow as a person and learn from [others]. Many people were shameless in what they said, just candid and clear in sharing their experiences. We had someone from the Indigenous community, someone from the Black community, someone with accessibility issues, and someone from 2SLGBTQIA+ who spoke as speakers.

“We also had a professor from Laurier with a project where he is able to amplify the bio-vibrational energy of plants. It synthesizes the sounds so you can actually hear the music coming from the plants. The overarching message of this is that everything has energy, spirit and connection on this planet. In our story, we didn’t approach it that way. This is where this planet is with a harvest that we can choose from as a dominant spirit, but it’s tied to this concept of inclusiveness and fairness that it doesn’t just extend to human beings. . It’s a new concept, but it’s starting to develop.

Other key takeaways came from a workshop led by Indigenous Knowledge Keeper and former educator Jan Beaver, who facilitated a talking circle inviting participants to engage with Indigenous culture.

“His message is not to be afraid of Aboriginal culture and not to look [at] it is as if it were always reconciliation; consider it an invitation to come and learn and grow,” says Marais. “It was an amazing experience to have a talking circle and it brought out things that really blew people away. She said that when you have the pen in your hand, what you had planned to say will change and you will be amazed at what you will say.

What the community has to say to build on the findings of the Cultural Center’s first IDEA Symposium could provide Aurora with a few more surprises in the months ahead.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Auroran


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