Say it With Your Chest: Anti-racist Organizational Change!

Say it With Your Chest: Anti-racist Organizational Change!

Since our grassroots beginnings, CCOC has always prioritized creating inclusive projects and spaces. Dismantling oppressive dynamics is difficult, but as a community-based organization, it is up to CCOC to continuously show up for our community.

Every Black History Month, we witness performative actions that begin and end in February. At CCOC, our anti-racist organizational change work is a never-ending process. There will never be an ideal time to do this work, but it is always the right time to start, and keep pushing forward.

While diversity has long been one of CCOC’s values, we first started thinking about the deeper, more impactful work of anti-racist organizational change in 2018, when one of our colleagues shared this toolkit on the topic. In 2019, the Board of Directors, as well as the Executive and Department Directors, attended their first anti-oppression workshop organized by CCOC and facilitated by Lukayo Estrella. Everyone agreed that the workshop was full of important information, and they wanted to be regularly reminded of what they learned. This led to the creation of CCOC’s Anti-Oppression statement:

Moving from words to actions

This statement is a great starting point, but we know that without action, a statement like this can quickly ring hollow. Since 2019, CCOC has been doing ongoing work to put it into practice. The Anti-Oppression statement is used to open every committee and board meeting to remind us of our commitments.

We have allocated a budget and dedicated staff time towards anti-racist organizational change (AROC). Among other things, this involves a thorough audit of all of CCOC’s policies for potential biases or barriers, and implementing changes to improve our policies based on what we find.

The Tenant and Community Engagement (TCE) Department has also been working to transform tenant engagement opportunities by identifying and dismantling barriers to participation. By encouraging everyone in our community to participate in decision-making, we empower tenants and community members to use their voice to drive the work of CCOC.

Without committing to this work and working at it consistently, CCOC would not be an organization that reflects, uplifts, and empowers our diverse community.

All CCOC staff are part of this work

Representing and incorporating staffs’ lived experiences and perspectives into the workplace helps us serve our tenants and community better. Over the past year, CCOC staff have been able to participate in an AROC management team facilitated by consultants from Connect2Knowledge. One staff member also created a weekly book circle to unpack biases following the structure of the book “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla F. Saad. Listening to staff feedback and inviting everyone’s participation has helped us find the best framework and consultants to support our anti-oppression work.

Empowering the community

In November 2021, CCOC had the opportunity to share our experiences and learnings with other housing sector organizations during the annual Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association conference. By sharing what we have learned about AROC and hearing from others, we gain perspective and encourage others to commit to anti-racism work within their organizations.

Moving forward with intention

We have lots of work ahead of us and are thankful for the opportunity and resources to better care for our staff, tenants, members and community. If we do not acknowledge and address the structural racism and capitalist motives within the non-profit sector, there will be no progress. Happy Black History Month, neighbours.

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