Tell us about your upbringing (family, where you grew up, etc.) and that may have played a part in the work that you do now as a Decolonial Racial Equity Educator.
While my ancestral roots are in Tamil Nadu, India, I was born and raised in Singapore before immigrating to Canada in childhood. Living in Canada, I have come to realize that Settlers here regard multiethnicity as multiculturalism. A country like Singapore however embodies true multiculturalism where, regardless of one’s race, culture or ethnolinguistic group, everyone knew each other’s cultural norms and understood these norms as fluently as we understood our respective norms. We knew how to conduct ourselves in each other’s homes and with each other’s families due to being well aware of our shared values. While Singapore isn’t without its own ethno-political tensions and race issues, I am eternally grateful to the people of Singapore for embodying the true meaning of multiculturalism and for teaching me about this in my childhood.
You’ve been an avid volunteer of different worthy causes over the years. What made you decide to choose the various causes that you choose to put your time into?
I knew from a very young age that I had a certain degree of privilege. Although I wasn’t able to name it as such in my childhood and in my teenaged years, I always felt a deep-seated desire, (perhaps a calling?), to give back to community and to show up for community wherever I could do so.
You have your own consulting practice as well. Tell us a bit about the work you do here.
I actually run a Life & Wellness Coaching practice were I also offer consultancy to organizations that are ready to do the work of decolonizing their respective policies, procedures and practices. The concept of decolonization seems to frighten a lot of people because it not only requires folks to contend with internalized racial or gender biases, it also requires folks to content with the reality that they/we are settlers on stolen land here in Colonial Canada. The work I do, whether it is with individuals or groups, revolves around approaching individual and systemic change with a decolonial lens. I work to build community amongst BI&PoC of various communities and groups, so as to approach systemic inequities from a place of solidarity and community. It is important to bear in mind that there is strength in numbers and the more united people are, the greater our chance of success for change that creates true equity for the most marginalized of us.
How do you balance your time between your full-time job and the work you do through your consulting practice?
I have an incredibly supportive family, my spouse and my parents in particular, who keep me well fed and nourished – lol ! I’m quite lucky to be surrounded by so many exceptional cooks 🙂 I also have the privilege of accessing excellent healthcare by way of monthly therapy with a brilliant South Asian Counsellor and I am under the care of a wonderful WoC Naturopath. I have a beautiful spiritual community, a siblinghood of powerful femmes who keep my heart and spirit nourished when the Equity Building work breaks my heart. Balancing my full-time work and my Coaching Practice can be tiring and I don’t think I could do any of it without my family and without the community I have around me.
How did the opportunity come about to speak at TEDx?
I completed a program called BIWoC Revolutionaries Take the Mike with a lovely woman named Sonali Fiske. Sonali is an Educator, a Coach, a Mentor and an Activist who coaches BIWoC to take up space and assert our voices in a capacity which feels most authentic to us. While the program is geared towards getting its participants onto a TEDx stage, many participants have gone on to publish books or take up space in different ways, The program taught me how to tell my story and it taught me that our stories as people of colour, especially as femmes of colour, are needed in this world because representation matters.
Why did you choose to speak about Racial Equity in the Workplace?
I chose to speak on this because I’m exhausted by systemic racism in workplaces and I couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore. Systemic racism in workplaces creates unsafe environments for racialized folks who are already navigating a lack of safety in other parts of their lives. I especially want non-Black and non-Indigenous folks with any amount of social privilege to know that their voices are needed in the quest for greater racial equity. As I mentioned in the talk, too much of the burden of racial equity work falls on the shoulders of Black and Indigenous folks, especially Black and Indigenous femmes. This is entirely unfair and it is a level of exhaustion that may very well be unfathomable to the rest of us. This is why the efforts made toward greater racial equity need to be multi-community based efforts.
f you were to summarize in 1-2 sentences, what are you hoping somebody gets after listening to your TEDx talk?
I think too often, we are afraid to speak truth to something because many of us who are racialized are functioning from a conditioned narrative of survival, which has taught us not to rock the boat, so to speak. I want those who have listened to the talk to know that you deserve more than survival: You deserve to live and thrive and have your truth heard because your story matters.
What role has your family, friends & general support system played in the choices that you’ve made in your life so far professionally? Have they generally agreed with the choices you’ve made?
I’m almost 40 so, it’s far too late for anyone’s disapproval to mean anything to me anymore – lol ! My parents and my spouse are proud of the chances I’ve taken. My community of femme siblings has been by my side through the fear that has inevitably shown up with the chances I’ve taken. My spouse in particular has always encouraged me not to play small, and my femme siblinghood has stood by me when I’ve said what I’ve needed to say because I have done so in the pursuit of equity. Being human, I have certainly made mistakes and my community has called me out on these mistakes. To me, call-outs are call-ins and if someone didn’t love me or believe in me, they wouldn’t think I was worth being told that I’ve made a mistake. I appreciate this show of Faith more than I can say.
What is a failure (or “learning lesson”) that you’ve experienced in the last 3 years and what did you learn from it?
A very humbling learning lesson I’ve learned is that no matter how well intentioned I am or how hard I try, I may never be regarded as a safe person to all persons of various marginalized identities. However, this doesn’t mean that I should ever stop trying to be a safer person for those of marginalized identities.