Convivencia is a Spanish term that means coexistence and living together and “has come to be associated with the complex interplay between religious, social, and cultural practices of Muslims, Christians, and Jews.”
I learned about this Middle Ages-era term at a staff learning event my colleagues and I organized in early May featuring a keynote by the Innovation Fellow at the Bloomberg Centre for Public Innovation at John Hopkins University.
Our event was about how public libraries defend democratic values and our speaker said that libraries are public spaces where people from all backgrounds can co-exist together.
I don’t often blog about my work – as I value work-life separation – but I see this in my and my colleagues’ daily work and I feel proud of this.
In 2010, I worked on one of my favourite projects – helping organize our city’s first Human Library event, which allowed people to borrow a “human book” for a 30-minute conversation in the library.
This article provides a good overview of what we did and why we did it.
In a nutshell, the idea began in Copenhagen as a way to bring people together to combat prejudice in an effort to reduce youth violence.
You may have seen this meme below on social media. This photo is from our event – not Denmark – and my colleagues and I are amused how it pops up around the world all these years later! 😊
The man in blue at the back is a journalist, the woman in black in the middle is a disability advocate and the man in front is a Tibetan monk.
We also had human books talking about living in homelessness, being formerly incarcerated, living with a mental illness, and one of my favourites, a 99-year-old war veteran.
I was reminded of this project when Facebook user FASD Warriors NL posted about participating in a recent Human Library event in her community.
Now more than ever, in a world that has become so divided, we need to bring people together – to invite them to walk in someone else’s shoes, to challenge assumptions, to find common ground.
Last Sunday, I joined four colleagues for a community outreach event in the West end.
It was part of Pride’s efforts to raise awareness beyond the downtown core, in communities where 2SLGBTQ+ visibility is vital but underrepresented.
We showcased library books representing 2SLGBTQ+ voices and stories – many of which are banned or challenged in other parts of the world; cough, cough, looking at you Florida and Texas.
We gave out pronoun pins and handouts discussing gender-affirming resources for parents of gender diverse children.
We invited visitors to our booth to write about something they are proud of and as you can see from their responses on the photo above, the personal stories are incredibly moving.
The event organizers also arranged a drag show (pictured at top) and an amazing ballroom performance.
It was a small event – we were one of 5 booths and less than 200 attended. As I told my colleagues, the metric of success is not quantity but quality.
One of my most heartwarming conversations was with a young South Asian man who thanked us for being there, because 2SLGBTQ+ topics are very taboo in the conservative community.
The first Pride in our City only consisted of a small group of people and it has grown into an annual event celebrated by over a million people.
Seeds were planted in the community that day that will bear fruit in the coming years.
As a parent of a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, helping advocate and find common ground with those who will interact with T is important.
FASD is still a little-known disability that is often associated with negative stereotypes – and stigma and shame.
I recently blogged about being confronted by a parent during daycare pickup about a situation that happened between T and his two children.
I held my ground respectfully and used the opportunity to advocate for T – and shared his disability and how it affects him.
I tried to find common ground – which is two parents who want our kids to be happy and safe.
I think my message soaked in, because our kids are still playing together, despite him saying he would request they be separated.
What more could I ask for?
Last Sunday, after coming home from working the community event, T and the hubby were working in the garden.
The hubby said that T did a great job with helping him plant flowers in the garden.
We reap what we sow. When we seek to build common ground, I believe the flowers we seed will bloom brighter than hate.