At G(irls)20, we believe in amplifying organizations that are working to address barriers to equality and cultivate change in their communities. Meet Serisha Iyar, the founder of Leading in Colour and longtime member of the G(irls)20 community. Leading in Colour was founded in 2019 after a growing frustration with the rejection of racialized experiences in advocacy spaces. We’ve asked Serisha to write about why she created this organization and this is what she had to say:
As children and youth we were constantly advocating for ourselves, so-to-speak. We started by using our cries as a form of communicating our needs because we didn’t yet have the language necessary to express ourselves. Advocacy in my mind, is similar. I don’t remember a time when activism and advocacy weren’t a part of my daily life. In a small, predominantly white town, hearing those who were supposedly my friends “jokingly” call me racist slurs was a common occurrence. But, at the time, I didn’t have the language to articulate what I was feeling, why their actions were wrong, and why the words they used were incredibly offensive and dehumanizing.
It wasn’t until I began my undergraduate studies at university, that I was able to access the necessary advocacy spaces and resources that would help further my education both in and out of academia. This period of unlearning, education, reflection, and critical analysis was imperative to developing my advocacy skill set. However, since graduating, I’ve realized that the same spaces I was eventually able to enter are increasingly inaccessible to so many people.
What happens when you recognize your needs and additionally, the needs of others in your communities, but aren’t in possession of the resources necessary to take action? Advocacy tools, education, and spaces need to be made accessible and safe, not only for those who are privileged, but for those outside the elite bubble that educated activists sometimes close.
This is why I created Leading in Colour.
Leading in Colour is an organization dedicated to equipping young (~15-25 y/o), racialized activists and leaders with the necessary skill set to conduct their advocacy efforts effectively. We aim to provide FREE trainings in the form of live and recorded webinars, workshops, and events, across Canada. Our mission is to offer comprehensive, multi-sectoral content through organizational partnerships and in our own programming and development, that is accessible, culturally appropriate, and rooted in anti-racism, anti-oppression and decolonization.
For the launch of Leading in Colour, we partnered with Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based organization working on public policy at the federal level in the areas of refugee rights, ecological justice, and poverty eradication. This partnership consisted of a jointly designed webinar series dedicated to teaching the basics of advocacy alongside our sponsorship for their panel event, The Most Vulnerable: Intersectionality in Refugee Policymaking & Advocacy.
(L to R: Sally Dimachki, Refugee613; Deborah Mebude, Citizens for Public Justice; Serisha Iyar, Leading in Colour; Doreen Katto, Matthew House Ottawa; Jennifer Gammad Lockerby, YWCA Canada)
With many more exciting collaborations coming soon throughout the remainder of 2019, Leading in Colour is growing quickly with opportunities for passionate individuals to join our family and organizations to get involved as partners.
We serve young racialized leaders and activists because we desire for their demands to be heard at every level of government. They are central to our programming because we have grown tired of being excluded from conversations about issues that affect us. We welcome supportive and active allyship and are eager to strategically partner with individuals and organizations interested in recruiting us for educational trainings in the areas our values are rooted in.
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.” – Toni Morrison
Upcoming Webinars – Registration on leadingincolour.ca
By Serisha Iyar, Refugee Rights Policy Intern at Citizens for Public Justice and Founder of Leading in Colour