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An interview with Marva Wisdom: Leader, Advocate and Activist

By Tatiana Poluch
3. Marva Wisdom. Image provided by Marva Wisdom
Marva Wisdom. Image provided by Marva Wisdom

As February has ended, we spent that month celebrating many Black individuals who have shaped history. Looking into our own community, we have leaders who continue influencing society every day. One of these community members is Marva Wisdom, a facilitator, moderator and professional speaker. 

I was privileged enough to share a chat with Marva. We discussed her lived experience as well as some of the numerous projects she is involved in. The questions have been summarized for article length and clarity.

Q: What are some current projects you are involved with?

I am currently recording a video for Trillium Health, which will be a tool to better understand what systemic racism is. Similarly, I am working with the City of Guelph regarding a follow up project from 2019. This new initiative is meant to work from a community perspective to spread awareness about systemic racism. I am also working with two different school boards, including parents and communities members, to transform the mindset of how we see each other and how we create safe spaces. I am co-chairing a task force with the Upper Grand District School Board which looks at policing in schools, especially relating to school resource officers in high schools. My other school board involvement is with the Avon Maitland District School Board (Stratford) as an equity committee member. There, we are working to break down racism in the school system. I also sit on the Guelph Police Service’s interview committee for senior officers.

Q: What are some positive changes you have seen regarding the Black Live Matter (BLM) movement ?

The pace of change is slow, but the change that is happening is hopeful. I see that organizations are recognizing that there is a problem. Peoples hearts and minds are changing. This isn’t a majority vs minority, this is all of us working together. Yet, there is still a lot of strain and stress on impacted communities. It is important to always be authentic but at the same time, be aware that there is still change that needs to happen.

Q: Has COVID-19 changed the way people have reacted to/ are reacting to BLM?

The pandemic has altered peoples empathy levels. It has increased peoples ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. COVID-19 has become a great equalizer. We all have very little control of our current situation. This allows people to be more thoughtful about others who might be in vulnerable situations. The pandemic has also surfaced our differences, particularly impacting Indigenous communities and people of colour (specifically Black communities). COVID-19 has surfaced the inequities that have always been there, such as health barriers, uneven education, or access to nutrition. Even government aid initiatives have surfaced questions on inequality. What does it mean to apply to CERB and what is the application asking of you? When we go back to normal, what does that mean for marginalized communities?

Marva’s other recent accomplishments include a book “Collecting Courage- Joy, Pain, Freedom, Love”, the Canadian Black History Project, the founder of the Guelph Black Heritage Society, and the Black Experience Project. Marva was recently appointed a fellow at Environics Institute and continues her work as a fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Listening to Marva speak, her passion and drive are quickly recognized. Marva has impacted the lives of so many through her dedication and lifelong journey fighting for diversity & inclusion. She reminds us of our need to be an ally to racialized and marginalized communities. She teaches us to always push for change and  change starts now.

Interview with Marva, January 27th, 2021

Article written by Tatiana Poluch, a new member of GAC’s Communications Committee. Tatiana holds an BAH from the University of Guelph and an MA in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. Growing up in Guelph, she has always loved the arts and hopes to work as a curator some day.

Learn More

Marva’s Book: https://www.collectingcourage.org

The Canadian Black History Project: https://www.marvawisdom.com/#

Guelph Black Heritage Society: https://www.guelphblackheritage.ca

The Black Experience Project: https://www.environicsinstitute.org/projects/project-details/black-experience-project-in-the-gta

Arts Everywhere Festival: https://artseverywhere.ca

 

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