Over the last few days and weeks many media outlets have repeatedly focused on a particular phrase with a violent narrative. It damages the reputation of our city and negatively impacts the way we as residents see ourselves and the way outsiders looking in perceive us. To be referred to as divided again and again and again is a frustration to the many of us who participate in Unity building activities regularly. We are the Winnipeg that is united by committing to increase interactions between different communities as well as addressing our shared challenges together. It is important for us to be real and name/acknowledge the issues we are attempting to overcome but it is important to remember that our attention gives power and there is a lot of good happening here that we could be focussing on too. I think we would have a lot more success in addressing the challenges if we focussed on strength based approaches, measuring our successes instead of our sorrow and demanding accountability from our elected officials, the media, our neighbors, our families and especially ourselves.
Let’s change the narrative
Instead of obsessing over the issue of division as many have recently done, let’s acknowledge there is a divide, and let’s move forward in discussing/strategizing about how we can create the world we want to see. Let’s elevate and celebrate those who are role modeling the solutions in their daily actions. It starts with how we talk about issues and solutions. It is unproductive to talk about issues if we don’t also discuss solutions. These solutions hopefully contain actions that we each as citizens can apply immediately to our daily actions, or the way we talk.
Responding to violence
When I was involved in violence last week, I chose to share my story with the community so we could all collectively learn from this situation and respond together. I could have focussed on the violence when I retold the story or I could focus on the helpers at Robin’s Donuts, my family’s immediate support, and how grateful I am that nothing more severe happened. When I tell the story, the men who did this, who are struggling clearly with addictions among other challenges, get a small part of my attention and time. I acknowledge them to be real, and describe literally what happened. It provides enough info so in our collective responses we can include supports for people struggling with addictions as one of the reccommended actions. I also make a choice to emphasize how the North End residents and my own family responded quickly and with positivity. Now, I can add that thanks to the village, including many media, over 200 people came to the Meet Me at the Bell Tower 3 Year Celebration, and that I have received dozens of message messages of support, solidarity and encouragement. This support continues and so the strength based narrative of this particular experience can grow. It is alive. It is powerful. And it becomes more powerful the more attention you and I give it. The larger our community’s positive response, the larger the strength based narrative can become.
What if we start talking about how Winnipeg is in moments united? Where are the poll results that ask how many Winnipeggers feel our diversity is our strength? If we leave no room for a solution in the way we tell our stories, it will be more difficult for those solutions to become reality. Every Friday citizens of different stripes have gotten together for over 3 years to role model the type of world we want to see. We have three years of success. Pieces of art, photos, teachings, memories, music, prizes, stories of healing and of course laughter. Let’s continue to respond to violence with love & let’s have our actions do the talking. If we believe in creating a better world, we have to live and breathe it in our own lives. We can walk together and still be different if we celebrate what brings us together. The choice is all of ours to make.
With love, courage and humility
PS – Responding To Violence Series: In November 2015, I was assaulted just one block away from where Meet Me at the Bell Tower gathers weekly to stop this type of violence. In this 3 Part series I detail my immediate reaction, a clarification statement that I am not deterred in building a more peaceful community and finally a challenge to the city to measure the good and focus on unity.
Part One: “Responding to Violence”
Part Two: “MC Unstoppable”
Part Three: “Winnipeg United”
PPS – Check out this great article about how united our city is by Kevin Chief http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/winnipeg-a-city-united-by-its-strengths-278885251.html