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By Tricia Johnson

 

AFP Toronto’s Congress was an empowering and highly personal experience that is changing my outlook towards the fundraising sector. But it didn’t start off that way.

 

It started with my arms crossed against my chest and my mouth drawn tightly into a straight line. It was a frown to be honest, but it could have been mistaken for concentration.

 

Hadiya Roderique was giving the first plenary speech at Congress, Canada’s premiere educational forum for fundraisers. Ms. Roderique’s experience as a black lawyer on Bay Street made front page news of the Globe and Mail last fall, and here, her powerful and informed speech tackled the racism and exclusion present in Canada’s corporate culture. Her observations, statistics and personal experience brought the conference’s theme, “Disrupt Philanthropy” sharply into focus. It showed that philanthropic culture in Canada was not immune to the “-isms” that affect other sectors. For me it touched a nerve that I was used to covering up.

 

“Why is she talking about this?” I thought. “We already know this! Just deal with it and move on!”

 

Well, that’s exactly what she was doing. Head on. I too am a black woman. I am a fundraiser working in Ottawa since 2005. I know what it feels like to be the only person of colour in a crowded room. But I don’t talk about it. Instead I’ve gotten used to the discomfort and moved on. But am I moving? Really?

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