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   Ally Toolkit to Support Diverse Leadership

Allyship for Black Women and Women of Colour

This image is a black and white photograph of activist Audre Lorde.

In 1984, Audre Lorde wrote the following statement, which is still true today:

“Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women — in the face of tremendous resistance — as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.”

The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House

by Audre Geraldine Lorde. In Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches , by Audre Geraldine Lorde. (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984).

Allyship for Black women and other women of colour is important. Paulette Senior, CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, says: “it is really important having those relationships of people you can count on, and (even though they) don't always understand, they need to be there for you unconditionally, internal and external. Internal in terms of organization and external in terms of community.”   [minute 1:14- 1:33] 

The image contains a headshot of Paulette Senior, on a purple and blue background banner. It contains her title, CEO and President of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. It also says: “ For Black women leaders, such as Paulette Senior of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, one important strategy is identifying allies. Regarding allies, Paulette Senior shares: “ It is important having those relationships of people you can count on, and (even though they) don’t always understand, they need to be there for you unconditionally, internal and external. Internal in terms of organization and external in terms of community.“

In Paulette’s experience, “as a Black woman, it takes something different.” She speaks of having experiences when people she thought she could count on let her down. Sometimes allies “get it” and others don’t. However, talking to someone who is going through similar experiences or who have had similar roles before is important because they likely “get it.”

Paulette continues on the topic of mentorship/allies. “It’s important to know people that will have your back no matter what.” Paulette encourages us to be champions (mentors) and to champion (mentor) other young women. Mentorship in Paulette’s life looks like a meeting for tea/coffee/dinner where both people talk about their challenges.

Watch Paulette speak about her leadership journey on YouTube.

Dr Josephine Etowa’s headshot is displayed on a purple and blue banner. The banner states that she is a professor and Loyer-DaSilva Research Chair at the University of Ottawa. She shares: “Taking that first step is usually the most difficult one, and so that’s where you need your allies, that’s where you need to take the risk. We are encouraged to take risk and so taking that first step is the risk spot, even taking the next step- another step it’s the most important that you need and watching to be a follower. In most of what I’ve done I look at others. I see it as a mutual mentoring relationship as we move forward to address the issues that face us.”

Dr. Josephine Etowa shares that leadership involves taking the risk of the first step, and how this involves garnering support from allies. She shares her reflections on how building leadership competence can be achieved through learning from others, seeking out mentors, teaching or mentoring others, creating room for diversity, and embracing everyday opportunities to lead and follow. Watch Josephine’s full video on YouTube.

Embed an anti-racist approach to collective leadership

Anti-racism is "the active process of identifying  and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures,  policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and  shared equitably." - the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre

This is a comic strip. First box says: I recently saw a tweet that went something like this: “reading about anti-racism doesn’t make you an anti-racist.” This is a comic strip: Second box says : My defensive response was immediate: Is this putting people down for reading about anti-racism?

Third box says: Then, Wait a minute, What if I switched ‘Anti-racism’ with ‘mountain climbing?’
The last box says: Let’s try it out: “Reading about mountain climbing doesn’t make you a mountain climber.”

A person who practices anti-racism is someone who works to become aware of:

  • How racism affects the lived experience of people of colour and Indigenous people;
  • How racism is systemic, and has been part of many foundational aspects of society throughout history, and can be manifested in both individual  attitudes and behaviours as well as formal (and "unspoken") policies and  practices within institutions;

Anti-racist approaches to designing services and developing policies help to disrupt conversations centred on white privilege and supremacy and related systems of domination.

In this podcast interview with Jacqui Dyer and Natalie Creary on race, mental health and BlackThrive, an organization using anti-racist approaches in their work.

Jacqui Dyer and Nathalie Creary are two Black women working to dismantle systems of oppression in relation to mental health for Black folks in the United Kingdom. In this podcast, Jacqui Dyer says their work is founded on: “Having adult conversations with those who have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset (after 11:45).” This is the difficult yet necessary work that is required within an anti-racism framework.

Nathalie Crery says: “we try to bring race and racism into the conversation.” Naming race and racism is an important practice, instead of focusing on socio-economic status for example (which can be coded language for race). Nathalie says: “it is really difficult to disentangle race and class… we have to have that conversation, which is uncomfortable”

If you listen to minute 9:00 to 11:45, you will hear Nathalie Crery speak about a model that underpins their work. It is called “The Collective Impact Model.” She speaks about how the model involves identifying the root causes of problems. When thinking about mental health, experience with housing, in education, employment, and socioeconomic status and race are all relevant and have an impact. The type of mental health work that BlackThrive does includes, for example, reviewing the design of services, and trying to influence local policies. One important area for action is reviewing local city plans (called “boroughs” in the UK).

She says: “ It is not down to a single person or organization to address this [mental health]. You need to tackle it at all angles.”

Using the Collective Impact Model, Nathalie Creary brings people with different perspectives (service providers, clients, community members, etc.) to the table and asks: “Who within the system has those leavers?” She says, the people with the leavers/influence: “they’re the people we need to have conversations with…we look at where there are opportunities for us to change systems.”

Promote Racial Justice in the Workplace 

Dear White People: Here Are 10 Actions You Can Take To Promote Racial Justice In The Workplace is an article that offers some ideas allies can put in place in order to promote racial justice in their own workplace. 

This image shares 10 actions that promote racial justice in the workplace. #1- Get to know more people of color #2- Call a friend of color this week to discuss the current state of protest an upheaval #3- Join a diversity committee. If there isn’t one, start one.  #4- Talk to your kids about race #5- Mentor a person of color #6- Encourage objective selection processes #7- Don’t work for companies that aren’t diverse #8- Insist on diversity on leadership teams  #9- Challenge your own stereotypical beliefs #10- Speak up publicly


Listen to Black Women

Listen to Black women and if you are an academic, cite Black women. This advice might seem straightforward, but knowledge and ideas created by Black women are often disregarded, unacknowledged or appropriated (stolen) by white women. Taking time to listen, learn and cite Black women is integral to an anti-racist approach to leadership. Here’s a place to start.

Rachel Cargle is a writer, activist and entrepreneur. She is a Black woman who develops content on allyship, privilege and dismantling white feminism. She designed and delivered an award-winning lecture: Unpacking White Feminism. One of her posts includes a Social Syllabus: How To Be An Ally To Black Women. Mostly focused on the context in the United States, we suggest you augment her toolkit with information from CBC’s Collection: Being Black in Canada.

Learn about Intersectionality from Black feminists

Intersectionality is widely used and misused. It is therefore important to understand the history of the term.

Intersectionality is a theory and framework for action created that recognizes that larger structural systems of power operate at various levels to influence individuals' lived experiences. Intersectional work began in the 1970s and 1980s amongst BIPOC women (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) in the United States. The term was developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It refers to understandings of how interlocking systems of oppression –regarding, for example, ability, class, ethnicity, gender, race and sexuality–form a "matrix of domination" (Collins, 2002) that influences the lives of women of colour (Combahee River Collective, 1995). [The references for this definition are Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins and A Black Feminist Statement by the Cohambee River Collective statement.

In this TED talk, Kimberlé Crenshaw talks about the urgency of intersectionality. It is a first-person account of how intersectionality was articulated through Dr. Crenshaw’s work as a Black American critical race and legal scholar.

“I would go on to learn that African-American women, like other women of color, like other socially marginalized people all over the world, were facing all kinds of dilemmas and challenges as a consequence of intersectionality, intersections of race and gender, of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique. But in the same way that intersectionality raised our awareness to the way that Black women live their lives, it also exposes the tragic circumstances under which African-American women die.”

Dr. Crenshaw also hosts a podcast called Intersectionality Matters !  Listen to this podcast to better understand the concept of intersectionality and explore today’s most pressing issues.

Understand the BLACK LIVES MATTER Movement

In recent months, the BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM) movement and its supporters have massively advocated for an end to police and state violence as well as anti-black racism in general. Thousands of powerful protests across the world gathered those who were committed in recognizing and condemning systemic racism as well as to honour D’Andre Campbell, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and countless other black lives who were taken too soon by police brutality. 

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In Canada, the BLM organization and movement has a platform upon which Black communities can actively dismantle all forms of anti-Black racism, liberate Blackness, support Black healing, affirm Black existence, and create freedom to love and self-determine. Visit their website to find many resources available for ALL Black communities including African, Caribbean, Afro-Indigenous, migrant, queer, trans, and disabled Black communities.

Ways to support the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement

Here is a great place to start. You can also speak out on social media, sign petitions, support organizations in Canada that are dedicated to fighting racism and inequality and make donations. For a list of petitions and organizations to support, click here and here.

This article answers some of the most commonly asked questions about the Black Lives Matter Movement, take a look!  Maybe it will answer some of your questions as well!

The Government of Canada has also compiled numerous resources relevant to combating racism.

The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, an organization that works to generate awareness, dialogue and action towards recognizing diversity as an asset and not an obstacle, has prepared an educational resource guide. This guide includes webinars, articles, toolkits, books, movies, podcasts that focus on race and anti-racism. The Center also has a toolkit that helps organizations be more race-conscious and give many examples of race focused initiatives.

The article 103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice is a great resource for those wishing to take action now. However, when trying to support diverse leaders, remember this:

This image captures a tweet by @itsjacksonbbz that says: “ Reminder to white people: You will continue to mess up re racism. So continue to be teachable, open to correction from POC, and vigilantly monitor yourself for defensiveness and white fragility. You never “arrive” as an ally, you must continually *practice* allyship.”

FOLLOW:  #BLM #BlackLivesMatter @AntiracismCtr @BlackWomensBP @ColorOfChange @Colorlines @consciouskidlib @eji_org @Mvmnt4BlkLives @ShowUp4RJ @UNITEDWEDREAM



For Women of Color in Medicine, the Challenges Extend Beyond Education is a post by Jessica Yang on how societal structures influence the experiences of Women of Colour, from the medical school application process and beyond. The post includes an interview with Uche Blackstock, M.D. about some of her experiences as a Black woman in emergency medicine in the United States.

Headshot of Dr Chika Stacy Orewa

Dr. Chika Stacy Orewa started the first year of her Medical program identifying as the only black female in her first year in Medical School- among a class of 259. This has compelled her to be proactive in the mentorship of racialized youth. She challenges the narrative of #whatadoctorlookslike through poetry and her first slam poetry video called Woman, Black is a powerful video to watch. She dedicates this video to all the Black Female physicians who have come before her and those who will most surely follow.

The Black Physicians of Canada is an organization that encourages, empowers and supports Black physicians, physicians in training and the Black community in Canada. Some of the issues this organization tackles head on are:

  • Bias, prejudice and racism
  • Lack of diversity and inclusion
  • Lack of representation, mentorship and sponsorship
  • Lack of supportive-and sometimes hostile work environments
  • Obstacles within medical education
  • Social Isolation
  • Barriers promoting open discussion
  • Barriers to promotion and advancement
  • Erosion of mental health
  • Attrition
  • Racial assaults from patients
  • Discrepancies in health care outcomes 

They also provide a safe community for Black physicians and physicians-in-training as well as creating social networks and learning together. 

Similarly, in the nursing profession, Black nurses are largely absent from leadership positions and are often streamlined into areas that are more physically demanding and strenuous. Beyond physical challenges and visibility, Black nurses are subjected to microaggressions and racism from patients, colleagues and superiors. To learn more about the situation of Black Nurses, read the following articles:

Addressing systemic racism in health care

Addressing systemic racism in health care is an article that shares the racism experienced by Dr. Nabeela Nathoo, a second-generation Canadian of East-Indian descent.

The article Navigating systemic racism in Canadian healthcare speaks to the fact that members of Black communities across Canada are overrepresented in a number of medical conditions, including cancer, kidney disease, hypertension, HIV and AIDS, diabetes, psychosis and mental illness. “Biological determinants are insufficient to explain these (health) disparities. They result from long-standing systems of oppression and bias which have subjected people of colour to discrimination in the healthcare setting, decreased access to medical care and healthy food, unsafe working conditions, mass incarceration, exposure to pollution and noise and the toxic effects of stress.”

Recent protests have been seen paving the way for racial justice in health care. Indeed, we have seen academic institutions and healthcare organizations commit to advancing racial justice and adopting anti-racist practices.The work of making space for more diverse voices in the health sector must continue. 

This image depicts various crayons showing different shades of skin with the words “ Representation matters”. Artwork by @sylviaduckworth

Listen to podcasts on racism

The following are a series of interesting and helpful podcasts we have curated to support your anti-racist allyship journey:

  • BlackChat (Vancouver-based): Dedicated “to healing Black communities in the lower mainland through family reunion styled gatherings”
  • Colour Code: A podcast about race in Canada by The Globe and Mail - a series of 10 episodes covering a variety of topics about race in Canada
  • Cite Black Women: This bi-weekly podcast features reflections and conversations about the politics and praxis of acknowledging and centering Black women’s ideas and intellectual contributions inside and outside of the academy through citation.
  • Daily Dose of Blackness: Students from Surrey, BC “centre and celebrate Black youth, and their experiences and struggles.”
  • Desmond Cole on anti-black racism in Canada: Warrior Life episode 56 - Cole is described as “not only a stellar journalist, best selling author and multimedia broadcaster, but also a staunch advocate for social justice and condemns anti-black racism in all its forms.”
  • Desmond Cole: Celebrated and Resented: Hosted on Canadaland
  • Irresistible: Collective Healing & Social Change - “conversations with powerful social justice leaders, and accompanying audio practices to help resource you in your leadership and vision”
  • Race, Health & Happiness: Navigating professional life as a "racialized" person can be exhausting. Join Dr. O, a Public Health Physician Specialist in Toronto, as she interviews guests who are overcoming the obstacles of overt and institutionalized racism to achieve their professional goals while creating healthy and fulfilling lives.

Teachers Like Us: “Middle school teachers Alyssa and Andre... explore the ins and outs of today’s education system through the lens of equity and social justice.”

Subscribe to an Anti-Racism Newsletter

Anti-Racism Daily is a newsletter that each day, will send you an overview of current events and apply an anti-racism lens. This newsletter will help you consciously commit to practicing anti-racism in all that you do. Each daily email includes

  • An urgent and tactical action you can take to practice anti-racism each day
  • Insights on the systemic and interpersonal practices that uphold white supremacy and systems of oppression
  • Clear and tangible resources to support your education
This image captures a tweet from @spiceandswift that says: “ A really insightful quote from today’s Anti-Racism Daily newsletter on why saying “ I don’t see colour” is problématic @nicolecardoza (I really recommend subscribing to this daily email!) The quote @spiceandswift is referencing is : “ Saying you’re color blind means you can’t address racism in all its tentacled infrastructure- because you can’t address what you aren’t willing to see. - Autumn McDonald for KQED”
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