May 25, 2018

A place where we belong

Last week, I spent a few days surrounded by people who care about, and work in, global human rights at the RightsCon conference in Toronto.

Being in direct contact and in conversation with people who are passionate about human rights—many of whom who have made human rights their life’s work— was inspiring and galvanizing. It reminded me that I have passions in this space too, and that I am luck to work in a profession where pursuing those passions is part of my work.

I met a young man from Argentina who had been to many human rights conferences before, but never one in Canada. He was keen to share his thoughts about Toronto with me:

This is the first time I’ve been at a conference, anywhere in the world, when somebody out in the public, someone at a store or a restaurant, hasn’t asked me where I’m from.”

He was pleasantly surprised that his accent didn’t mark him as an outsider, that his way of speaking was normal and not strange in this city.

Toronto really must be as multicultural as people say it is if nobody hears me talk and thinks I’m not from here.”

His words resonated with me: this country has a lot of flaws, and we need to do so much more at addressing systemic injustice, but we also do many things right. One of those things is helping people feel welcome.

Of all the lessons I took from RightsCon, this one was the most salient: making people feel like they belong is one of the most important things we can do, in no matter what context. It’s why I love the work I do, and it’s why I’m glad, despite all its shortcomings, to live in this country.


A few things to read and explore:

On digital utopias and invisible labor, by Audrey Watters:

If digital utopia doesn’t see our bodies, it makes sense it cannot see our work. If digital utopia cannot imagine our existence, it makes sense it will not value our presence (or notice our absence).”

I knew Ta-Nehisi Coates was going to write something insightful and excellent about the whole Kanye West saga, and not only did he not disappoint, but he surpassed my already high expectations.

Something I tell all my friends and colleagues who work on civic issues: we transform government not by tearing it down, but by caring enough to make it better.

We’ve learned that the real change makers aren’t 24-year-old male engineers parachuted in from Silicon Valley, but often a diverse range of people who have worked in or around government for years, who are invested in their communities, or who simply like intractable problems.”

The Raptors fired Dwane Casey last week, despite him being one of the best coaches we’ve had in franchise history. In his farewell note to the city, he thanked us for teaching our all-American family the Canadian way.” A class act; he’ll be missed dearly.

Thank you for teaching our all-American family the Canadian way. That being polite and considerate to one another is always the best way. That diversity is something to be embraced and celebrated. That taking the time to learn about each other’s cultures is the surest way to find common ground and understanding. Thank you for making our children feel safe, valued, and comfortable in their own skin. We cannot express how important it has been to build the foundations of who our children are as human beings in a country that shows through its words, actions and laws that all people deserve basic human rights, and a chance to reach their goals through education and hard work.

I’m part of a mixtape club called The Mixtape Concern and this month’s prompt was to create our dream festival playlist.” I took some liberties with interpreting the prompt for my recent submission.

Something I need to get better at remembering, from a piece by Yotam Ottolenghi in the New York Times.:

Stressless cooking is not always about easy,’ but about ease’; it’s not about a dish but about a state of mind”

One of the things I’ve been most impressed with in Apple’s new take on the App Store has been the storytelling—through both text and illustration—in their featured” area. Khoi Vinh has been capturing some of that gorgeous illustration on a Pinterest board.

Has it occurred to you that nobody talks about sellouts anymore?” A fascinating, well sourced and referenced, look at authenticity in our current age by Toby Shorin.

Kyrie has also been nicknamed the Flat Mamba’ (平曼巴) because of his stated belief that the earth is flat.” An awesome article on Chinese nicknames for popular NBA basketball players.


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