Keeping the momentum going: What The Storefront is doing now to confront anti-Black racism in our work

Since our initial Statement on Racial Injustice in early June, here at The Storefront, we have begun designing a long-term process to confront anti-Black racism in our organization, and to support grassroots leaders and residents in our community to discuss and act together for racial justice in ways that are meaningful to them. 

In our community-building work, we often talk about complexity and grappling with tensions. This historic moment in the global movement for Black lives demands we grapple with intensely difficult tensions: even as Black communities and their allies raise their voices for change and celebrate unprecedented wins, we are reminded time and time again of the violent, anti-Black systems and institutions in which we are all embedded, and that continue to cause so much harm to Black, Indigenous, and racialized people. Even as we at The Storefront have sought to prioritize equity and power sharing in our work, we know we have also been complicit in perpetuating anti-Black racism in ways we are now trying to better understand and address.

Conversations and reflection with staff, residents and partners so far have made it clear to us that we are in this work for the long haul. Our goal is to confront anti-Black racism and embed an actively antiracist approach into all that we do with and for the East Scarborough community. We know this will take time and will be a collective and multifaceted effort. We feel it is important to keep our East Scarborough community in the loop with what we are doing as an organization to work toward that goal. As always, we work in emergence, so we know this work will evolve and grow in ways we cannot exactly predict, in moments where momentum meets opportunity. At the same time, we are committed to taking concrete steps now to serve as a strong foundation for the elements of this work that are emergent.

Here are some concrete steps The Storefront has taken so far to confront anti-Black racism in our work:

1: Staff is supporting resident leaders in East Scarborough in existing resident-led groups to convene and lead conversations with their peers about anti-Black racism and actions they’d like to see. 

  • Resident group Hanging at the Hub (HATH) has been having conversations about anti-Black racism and racial justice via their weekly phone gatherings. 
  • The Association of Committed and Engaged Youth (ACEY) is a grassroots group led by youth from diverse backgrounds who have always drawn from their personal experiences, as racialized youth. They convened an online conversation for their peers using the digital platform Discord in August, identifying  it as “a safe space for racialized youth to share their voices with discussions led by two WOC [Women of Colour].”  
  • Staff is currently researching options to provide training for grassroots leaders in the community relating to anti-racism, confronting anti-Black racism, and equity. This is closely linked to training currently in development for Storefront staff as well– see next point below.

2: In collaboration with our sister organization the Centre for Connected Communities, we dedicated a staff meeting in late June to opening up internal conversations about anti-Black racism and equity and gathering feedback on the next steps and priorities in this work. After holding this space for staff to reflect, there has been a call for training on disrupting our own biases and having courageous conversations.  A series of staff working groups are now moving to the next steps based on this feedback. Next steps underway include:

  • We are organizing a series of staff trainings this fall and winter (details still being finalized) that will engage all staff at all levels of the organization to reflect on themselves and the organization through an anti-oppressive and anti-racist lens (with a focus on anti-Black racism), confront biases and complicity, dig into what equity looks like as an everyday practice, and broadly build everyone’s capacity to have courageous conversations about anti-Black racism. This internal training will give us a foundation for future long-term planning, action, and accountability mechanisms with the community.
  • We are developing a glossary of clear, accessible definitions, visual tools, and other core learning materials for staff to ensure that we have a shared starting point to talk about anti-Black racism and our work. These materials will be made available to all staff and integrated into future onboarding processes. They will also be available to the wider community.
  • We’re working on a framework that looks at our community building work in the context of anti-Black racism and white supremist society. The purpose of this framework is to define ways to reflect on and adjust our current policies/practices through an anti-Black racism lens. We are also analysing the guiding framework for our work, the Connected Community Approach the ways it can be used to dismantle white supremist culture (See an overview of the Connected Community Approach (CCA) here. See also resources developed by the Centre for Connected Communities about CCA). 

We commit to keeping you, our East Scarborough community, updated as this work builds momentum, grows, and evolves. We also want to know: what does this work look like in your world? What are you doing to confront anti-Black racism, whether personally or as part of any groups, organizations, or community spaces you are part of? Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us – anonymously – below: