Rallying Cry

By Angie Cheng
  • Cheng / Photos by Cheng
  • Cheng / Photos by Cheng

The call for change is more palpable than ever, as voices are rallying around different causes and gaining momentum. Choosing to speak up and speak out about systemic issues in our communities is challenging. It is difficult to address issues when there is so much resistance to recognize them.

The time for action feels long overdue, be it tackling racism, sexual assault, artists rights, equality, inclusivity and beyond. But we need to address imbalances of power and the need for change within ourselves and our institutions and structures simultaneously.

It can feel daunting. The number of calls for change can feel overwhelming. We may want to retreat or wish for things to be peaceful. But we can no longer afford to live in a bubble. We are not beyond or outside of society, but part of it, and our very structures and institutions have faults. Being built within certain times, these institutions sometimes don’t adapt when times change – and they have. There are shifts in what we know is acceptable now, and our beliefs and understandings of how things function can lead to blind spots.

Within the resistance to change is resounding fear.

What can we do in the face of this fear? How can we challenge ourselves and understand our fears? For the ones who feel confronted with being questioned, it is very tempting to go on the defensive. These “calling outs” are not erasers of one’s contributions or accomplishments but rather opportunities to make connections. If we listen closely, we can understand that those who do the “calling out” are speaking to very specific choices and actions.

The time taken to defend and try to balance the good and bad detracts us from examining the specific. There is no cancelling out. The practice of listening and trying to understand, not only what people are saying but also where and why you made the choices and the history behind your beliefs, is valuable. How do we practise looking in and doing the work ourselves? Do we understand why it is so hard for many to speak up?

How do we empower those who are afraid to question? How do we stop practising using fear as a tactic? How do we dismantle these beliefs in hierarchy, commodification, disposability, star systems and rewarding silence and bad behaviour? What do we actually value?

And so, my call to action is asking those in the community to be self-reflexive – to listen if confronted by someone they’ve hurt or excluded (even if unintentionally) and, above all, to admit to being wrong if they are. It can be a blessing to be confronted with this learning experience.

There is a lot of re-evaluating to be done. Who and what does this system we are in serve? It is all interconnected and we cannot tackle just one thing on one level. Education(s), institutions, companies and individuals simultaneously need to be addressing their issues. There are no more excuses, band-aid solutions, no more waiting for different circumstances or others to take the first step. What is lost if we are not more proactive now is our beloved dance and its future.


This article was originally published in the May/June 2018 twentieth anniversary issue as part of the anniversary feature “Provocations.”

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