In April 2021, members of the CIS Ontario’s Black Affinity Network participated in a two-part workshop led by registered social worker and psychotherapist Kamilah Clayton. Empowering Black Identities in CIS Ontario Member Schools was a professional learning opportunity for employees of CIS Ontario schools who identify as Black.
This two-part workshop series focused on amplifying staff experiences and developing recommendations for organizational changes focused on affirming Black identities and creating safe spaces to work and learn. Utilizing an identity affirming practice approach, Kamilah facilitated such powerful and rich conversations that allow us to feel supported and heard and nurtured a space of sharing, learning, and healing.
One of the first pillars Kamilah shared with us was reviewing the Sankofa symbol, a concept of the Akan people of West Africa, and what it represents as a launching pad for our mindset moving forward. The Sankofa symbol, as seen here, is based on a mythical bird with its feet firmly planted forward with its head turned backwards. Thus, the Akan believe the past serves as a guide for planning the future. To the Akan, it is this wisdom in learning from the past which ensures a strong future. The Akans believe that there must be movement and new learning as time passes. As this forward march proceeds, the knowledge of the past must never be forgotten.
We look forward to continued growth within the CIS Ontario community as we aim to propose next steps, and serve as a resource to our school communities for generations to come.
Camesha McKenzie, Branksome Hall
Kristina Udegbunam, Appleby College