With all of the recent events, protests and discussion around anti-black racism, it is has made me reflect on some valuable lessons I learned from Dr. Vern Redekop while studying at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution in the early 1990s. At that time, Vern was working on his PhD and I was honored to be part of a social experiment he was conducting as part of his dissertation. Vern was researching what would make people who had been discriminated against and harmed on many levels forgive their perpetrators and move forward, as well as increase understanding between the “victim” and the “perpetrator”.
To that end, Vern researched a number of different disciplines and conducted seminars that he invited a mix of people from various backgrounds, cultures, religions and ethnicities to participate in. At the beginning of each seminar he would share the research related to some aspect of the conflict process. Then we were divided into small groups to work on questions Vern provided. Following that we debriefed with the larger group.
There were many participants who shared horrific experiences based on religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. I recall a black man from Rwanda who had seen his family cut up in front of him as part of the genocide that took place in that country. There was an ex-policeman from Northern Ireland who had left the country due to death threats. There was a Sri Lankan woman who had been held hostage by the Khmer Rouge. So many stories and heart-breaking experiences were shared. As well, many of those who shared the horrific acts that had been perpetrated against them, also shared that they had learned to forgive their perpetrators.
There are several things that stand out for me from that experience that I believe can increase our understanding of anti-black racism and other prejudices and horrific acts. One was that in order for “victims” (those who had experienced atrocities and discrimination) to forgive their “perpetrators” (those who had committed the atrocities), the perpetrators had to acknowledge what they had done and issue a formal apology to that person or group. What also was useful in terms of process was for the “victim” or “victims” to sit in a circle with the “perpetrator” or “perpetrators” and for each to share how they were impacted by what had happened. This created increased understanding on both sides and also enabled the “victim(s)” to decide what type of punishment they felt was due to their “perpetrator”. This is how restorative justice is practised (for example among some indigenous communities in Canada) and it is interesting to note that the punishments that are decided upon by the “victim(s)” in a restorative justice process are usually much less harsh than typical sentences arrived at in court.
The other learning that stands out for me was some research Vern shared that demonstrated that the need to belong outweighs many other human needs, and historical events have borne this out. This is important when we think about racism and other forms of prejudice and acts of violence, because it helps us to better understand why people do what they do. It also helps us recognize that it takes a strong and courageous person to step away from a group he/she belongs to and take a stand that is in opposition to that group as they run the risk of being criticized, punished and ostracized.
These two “lessons” from conflict studies and from research on history, human nature and culture I believe are important, particularly at this time when the light is being shone on anti-black racism and other forms of racism worldwide.
Understanding and awareness are important for change to begin. It is also important to understand that there are many layers of belief and cultural conditioning that we need to “peel away” in order to truly forgive, heal and create a better world.
“(A) world free of war and violence;
One where all cultures, (races) and religions are accepted;
Where all people are respected and treated with respect;
Where people live together in communities that model
The values of contribution, collaboration, caring and connection …
One that believes in the power of groups and synergy,
That the whole is greater than the sum of the parts;
A world where women and men stand together as partners.:”
Based on these learnings what actions can we take to move forward and create a better world? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions below.
 Professor Emeritus, Conflict Studies, Saint Paul’s University, Founder of the Social Reconciliation, Just Peace and Development Research Group and author of From Violence to Blessing: How an Understanding of Deep-Rooted Conflict Can Open Paths to Reconciliation
 “Restorative justice is commonly defined as an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime while holding the offender responsible for their actions, by providing an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the crime – victims, offenders and communities – to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime. Restorative justice is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships. The principles of restorative justice are based on respect, compassion and inclusivity. Restorative justice encourages meaningful engagement and accountability and provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration. Restorative justice processes take various forms and may take place at all stages of the criminal justice system.” (Source: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/rj-jr/index.html)
 Excerpted and slightly modified from Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women by Pamela Thompson, pp. 153 & 154
loss; change is the gaining of something new.”
Last night I attended the screening of a documentary film
“Metamorphosis” by Canadian film makers Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper.
It was an informative, energizing and beautiful experience.
The topic was Climate Change. Many films on this theme are all “gloom and
doom”. In contrast, this film reminded me of the resilience and beauty of
nature and of the importance of slowing down. It gave me hope and inspiration
that we do have a “window of time” to make a real difference in the health of
We had an opportunity to meet and hear briefly from the film
makers about their purpose in making the film before it was shown.
The Documentary: Real
Through the use of dramatic cinematography a number of real
life examples of the impacts of climate change were shared through the eyes of
people who are/were directly affected. This included:
- The drought in Southern California characterized by swaths of cracked and desolate land, which due to the diversion of natural aquifers for the irrigation of large cities such as Los Angeles, has changed green, thriving and water abundant areas, to desert. Data was shared including the fact that a typical lawn in Southern California requires 4 feet of water per year to stay healthy and alive and rainfall typically is 13 inches per year. The rest is made up for by irrigation.
- More frequent and powerful typhoons in the Philippines and Caribbean resulting in loss of life, the high loss of homes (needing to be rebuilt) and the uprooting of ancient trees.
- Higher water levels and more frequent flooding in Venice
- Devastating fires due to draught. The experience of driving through a burning forest to reach loved ones. One family’s experience of losing their home and how their entire town was decimated.
The Documentary: Innovative
A number of innovative solutions were shared that are
currently being implemented in various parts of the world. They included:
- Garden Pools – and the “army” of folks trained to convert drained swimming pools into gardens and ecosystems which are similar to what exists in nature; symbiotic relationships where one organism is dependent on another; e.g. ducks, fish (fertilizer), water from rain and dew, facilitating the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Grid “Collective” – installing solar panels on roofs of homes in low income communities and training others to do this
- Sculptured Human Art – facilitating the growth of new coral reefs
- Garbage Art – to increase awareness of how much garbage we create as humans and using it to construct colorful and fun art pieces
- Earthships – using used tires, cans, bottles, solar panels as well as rain water capture to create self-sustaining homes that are “off the grid” 
Who was there and Why was it helpful?
After the screening, the film makers were joined at the
front of the room by an academic, and a local municipal councillor who is
advocating for “green” solutions, as well as a facilitator. The “floor” was
open for us all to share how the film impacted us, to ask questions and share
It was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the
panelists and the audience. A safe environment was created that enabled people
to share what they liked about the film, what they might have liked more of,
and how it impacted them. There was also a discussion of change and loss and
how it is important to grieve the losses associated with climate change, as
well as other environmental and life changes.
As the documentary touched on the importance of us as
members of communities sharing our gifts and talents to create innovative
solutions, a couple of special things happened that surprised me. One woman
asked for permission and sang a beautiful song about Mother Earth. Another
openly shared her painful, yet valuable learning experience of moving through
grief related to what we as humans have done to the planet, and how the
experience affected her mind and body; and the realization that this is part of
the process of change.
Lessons about change
that I took away from the film
- The importance of slowing down and being
grateful for the beautiful world we have.
- Reminded me that many of us are stuck in
“psychic numbness”; on a constant treadmill of making money, so we can pay our
bills, buy bigger and bigger homes and cars and consume more and more “stuff”.
Being on this “hamster wheel” prevents us from reflecting on our beliefs and
behaviors, experiencing and moving through the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of
change, letting go of beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving us and
moving toward creative solutions.
- The strength and resilience of the monarch
butterfly; how going through different phases from caterpillar, to chrysalis,
to beautiful butterfly and the 3000 or so miles each one flies each year, is
remarkable. The butterfly reminds us that change is normal and can lead to
increased strength, resilience and beauty.
- The human imagination and how creative we can be
to come up with solutions when we put our hearts and minds together toward a
- The importance of acknowledging that we all have
gifts and talents to share; uncovering and sharing those gifts to make a
- The need to forgive ourselves and others for the
harm we have done to our planet.
- The value of holding community conversations
around topics and engaging people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and
experiences to generate innovative solutions to “pressing” challenges.
- The power of the collective and community to support
Reflecting on last night’s experience and what I learned from the documentary, I began thinking about the importance of grieving all changes. I started thinking about how we might integrate video and film effectively into organizational change processes and to support social movements and societal changes we need in order to create a healthier world for us all. What are your thoughts?
I’d love to hear from
you. Have you used film and video to support change processes you’ve been a
part of? If so, where and how and what did you learn? I invite you to share
your comments below.
 View trailer here: https://vimeo.com/248189180
-  Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.” (Source: https://study.com/academy/lesson/symbiotic-relationship-definition-examples-quiz.html)
description: “An Earthship
is a brand of passive solar earth
shelter that is made of both natural and upcycled
materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds.
An Earthship addresses six principles or
- Thermo-solar heating and cooling
- solar and wind electricity
- self-contained sewage treatment
- building with natural and recycled materials
- water harvesting and long term storage
- some internal food production capability.”