I know that you do a lot of work around diversity and anti oppression. How did you get into this work? What are your main goals when offering this training?
I think in some ways I’ve always been doing anti-oppression work. Of course, I wouldn’t have always titled it as such, but I’ve always been That Person - the one making a noise about injustice, bringing up uncomfortable topics, advocating for the little guy, dreaming up solutions to support community, forcing people to confront their privilege, raging about inequality... I’m super fortunate I now get to do that as a job and be compensated adequately for my knowledge and labour around justice and inclusion.
After graduating from UBC in 2016, I began working with LGBTQ2S+ youth, and one of my favourite parts of the job was traveling across BC to facilitate LGBTQ2S+ 101 workshops for students. I loved educating people about inclusion and anti-oppression. At the same time, I was doing a lot of work with Black Lives Matter Vancouver around anti-racism and supporting racialized communities.
Doing all this work was exciting but eventually became too much so I decided to take the leap and go out on my own and start Cicely Blain Consulting where I combine all my knowledge and passion for different inclusion and social justice topics!
This type of work must be emotionally and physically taxing. What do you do for self care?
For a long time self-care was a foe - I found it so hard to make time for myself and had very little separation between work, activism, and self. It’s something I’m still working on, but at the moment I’m really enjoying yoga, hip hop dance classes, the beach, Netflix, patio drinks, podcasts and manicures.
What can you tell us about your book of poetry that’s due out in 2020?
My book - yet to be titled (any suggestions appreciated!) - is a collection of poems and essays about place, art and self. I like to write as I travel as I am inspired by different places and people and their relationship to land. I also like to infuse history into my work and encourage people to think about the impacts of colonization on various parts of the globe.
This book is an outlet for me where I get to rage about things that I often feel restricted on opening up about in my professional life. I want to be able to talk about white supremacy and colonization and anti-Blackness and pinkwashing and all the things that make my blood boil. I am so excited and fortunate to have the support of Vivek Shraya and Arsenal Pulp Press through this process!
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown which is changing my life, my work, my everything! I am so inspired by the wisdom of brown to transform our understanding of organizational development and change-making and community organizing. Everyone should read this book!
Because I never just read one book - I’m also reading Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, which is an enjoyable read. The main character is described as “a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither” - which is almost exactly my life!
What do you want us all to know about what’s next for you? Promote!!
I’m so excited to be organizing a conference on workplace justice and equity in September 2019! It’s called Stratagem! Stay tuned for more information on Instagram at @stratagemcanada.
Cicely Belle Blain is an activist, writer and consultant; they are one of Vancouver’s fifty most influential people of 2018, as awarded by Vancouver Magazine, BC Business’s 30 Under 30 of 2019, an award-winning co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Vancouver, and a professional speaker with notable engagements including the United Nations Summit and the Black Canadian Studies Association conference. Professionally, Cicely Belle is the CEO of a social justice-informed diversity and inclusion consulting company with clients across North America, Europe and Asia. Their work is informed by their professional and academic background at the University of British Columbia and their lived experience as a Black, queer artist, a community builder, an intersectional feminist and a Black liberation activist. Cicely Belle’s writing has appeared in Daily Xtra, The Body is Not an Apology, From the Root, DIVA, Herizons and more. Also, they love dinosaurs, red wine, oil pastels, cooking and everything pink.