Making the Road by Walking

Originally posted in 2017, three members of the Central Hub reflect on a day-long reflection journey that formed the foundation for the South Central (now Toronto) Circle.

A woman walks down a gravel road with her back to the camera. In the distance another figure walks towards her. On either side of the road are bare trees, with a body of water on the right. The horizon shows rolling hills, and the sky is a bright blue with scattered clouds.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

We filled the United Steelworker’s Hall in Toronto that day with sixty predominantly female-identified people who are fierce, passionate and committed to dismantling oppressive structures and building up more just ways of being, with marginalized communities. For many of us it was healing to come together, to have critical conversations in the open, to say radical out loud and talk about what that means, and to remember that we are not alone, that adult education for social change is alive and well, and that together we are a force to be reckoned with.

What could a women-led network of adult-educators for social change in Southern Ontario look like?

We certainly didn’t try to answer this question alone – we asked the group body to help us understand what needs to be created and how. With the thoughtful and skillful facilitation of Creating Realities, we harnessed the collective wisdom of the group that day and walked forward with rich stories, visions, questions and inspiration to channel into the designing of the network.

From there we invited all participants from the Day Long Reflection Journey to submit an expression of interest to join a Working Group that would make meaning of the wisdom collected that day and transform it into a roadmap for our work together.

We made the road by walking. A dozen brilliant practitioners from all walks of life showed up because they were moved by something that day and felt a pull towards building this women-led movement. We were strangers at the beginning. And of over the course of six months we became friends and collaborators. We took the time to get to know each other, to hear our stories, to break bread, to play and to have vigorous discussions. We lay a strong foundation in our way of coming together that embodied a heart-centered way, a way that invited our whole selves to be present, that gave space for multiple truths and participatory leadership.

It’s been an amazing experience at so many levels. On the group level, the bonding, and sharing helped me work honestly and openly. At the personal level, I felt like a sponge, absorbing the information being shared, I felt empowered as well as felt getting more wiser. At my work level, it made me see the contribution I was making to bring back the information from our learnings at our group to my coworkers and reaffirming the importance of this work.
Lubna Khalid, Coordinator, Women Speak Out, Working for Change

We went to the root of understanding our present moment. What is the colonial history on this land? How has colonialism impacted migration, and how do we build bridges between Immigrant, Refugee and Indigenous communities towards truth and reconciliation? What is the neo-liberal economic context we live in and what does that tell us about how we do this work of radical adult education? The questions opened doors of new questions…

And at some point we began to converge our ideas into action. What do we need to learn and what do we need to do at this time to make more justice and wellbeing in the world? The group emerged with four learning themes they want to explore in the coming year: Community Organizing, Advocacy and Popular Education; Decolonization; Healing and Wellness and Labour Justice.

We look forward to continuing walking this road together, and hope you will walk with us.
Rehana Tejpar, Righting Relations

It has been something that I have been asking the universe for years – working towards Truth and Reconciliation with peoples of colour. I met amazing facilitators, made friends and co-conspirators, I met people that believe in social justice and radical change and now we have a plan to work together and conspire against all forms of oppression.
Maria Antelo, Hamilton Justice