What we learned from each other

Emily ORourke
March 31, 2017
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

IMG_2572The standard definition of the term “broad” means to cover a wide scope of area or subjects. The informal definition? A woman.

Broad Conversations, an idea surrounding communal discussion, held its first gathering on March 21 at 541 Eatery and Exchange, gathering over 50 like-minded woman-identified, non-binary and gender fluid folk to discuss issues that matter.

The idea behind Broad Conversations emerged out of a desire for collective learning and informed conversation. Through gatherings and newsletters, Broad Conversations ultimately aims to promote community and host informal, discussion-based workshops. The first gathering, which coordinator Erin O’Neil stressed as an experiment, served as a space for individuals to discuss their feelings, questions, and ideas about the world in a communal setting.

“I realized that part of what I found so sad about what was happening in the [United] States and what I felt so much about the change in politics was that there’s a lot of apathy and a lot of hatred in the world. It wasn’t so much about one person getting into office, but it was the fact that people allowed that to happen,” said O’Neil.

“I realized that the antidote to that is getting people together… Broad Conversations is an opportunity for feminist broads to get together and converse about the world in a safe place,” she said.

The first gathering was themed around “Conversation”, and began with a panel of speakers with backgrounds in practice, activism and academia. The panel acted as conversational starters before guided conversations and open mingling.

The speakers, including Gachi Issa of McMaster Womanists, Broad Conversations coordinator Erin O’Neil and Elizabeth Maracle an Indigenous feminist, social worker and counsellor at the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton Area), discussed themes of conversation from their own experiences and the importance of conversation as a whole before guests were invited to discuss these topics amongst themselves.

“We need one another,” said Maracle. “Connection, respect and talking with one another can restore circles of support and trust. Oppression and violence disconnects and isolates people. Anything we can do to change that has great value. Conversations can give spaces to rage, grieve, question and challenge oppression. Conversations have the power to repair, heal, and restore social connection.”

Each gathering hosted by Broad Conversations is free. Instead of charging admission, attendees are asked to donate to a Broad Conversations giving group in order for a collective financial impact to be directed at a local feminist cause.

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“These events give a chance for feminists, change makers, seed planters to be with one another. They provide opportunities to connect, heal, strengthen, plan and mobilize. Living in colonialism is hard; I lose circles of connection all the time. I know it’s normal to disengage for safety’s sake but need connection and support in my life, especially since one of my life goals is to eradicate oppression and violence. When we acknowledge and listen to one another’s voices about our lives, we can expand our knowledge and momentum to impact social change. When we gather and discuss we resist oppression, we heal and strengthen our movements,” said Maracle.

O’Neil hopes to host gathering three to four times per year and has been approached with ideas of collaboration events from other like-minded groups, which she says could happen whenever there is an opportunity.

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