Skip to main content
Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo
COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Knowledge for living well

In a book chapter 'Towards an Indigenous Narrative Inquiry', Randy Jackson and his colleagues write about researchers in Indigenous contexts as storytellers, deliberately weaving together many sources of knowledge and deliberately linking past, present, and future. They describe creating narratives designed to reverberate into the future: stories crafted as medicines, sent out as arrows, carrying knowledge for living well.

We’ve given Salomeh and Sheila a daunting task…  we’ve asked them: what are the stories that reverberate from this weekend, into the future - what is the knowledge for living well?

Randy Jackson
Sheila Sammon

How do you maintain hope?

One of the questions that’s kept coming up, is how do you maintain hope? Particularly, how do you maintain hope with all the things that are going on in today’s world? With the complexities, the oppressions, when it seems like we’re going back to the 50s, if not before? And the observation from the women here who graduated in 1971, was that you do maintain hope because you pay attention to the things you do, you work with the people that you care about, you do it your every day and you see the changes. Things do change as long as we keep trying. But we have to really keep our eye on the critical hope because we know it doesn’t always go in the right direction.

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

Wanda also talked about the “Triple As”, Awareness, Analysis and Action. This warms my heart. Many of you came into the program with an awareness that maybe something isn’t right, maybe something should be a little different. This school helps you really think through awareness, what we know is happening. And Wanda commented that sometimes people move straight from awareness to action and I want to hold my head when I hear that. Because the School of Social Work, it’s not just moving from awareness to doing - it’s the analysis. Unless we can figure out the analysis: what’s the context? why is it happening? what are the social justice components? who is benefitting? who is not benefitting? where does privilege play and power play? Unless we can figure that out we’re not going to do any good. And hope will die. But we also have to move to action.

It’s not just awareness-analysis, you actually have to do something with it. It’s always about analysis and action and understanding the bigger social structures, but you have to know how to talk to the people in front of you who don’t want analysis right now, they want food. But you can’t forget the analysis.

Wanda called us to advocacy. This school has taught us about advocacy, about the responsibility to do something. We need to think about what we can do collectively. And I think we want to really take Wanda’s words and think about practicing what we preach. What’s our responsibility to say something when something is wrong? What is our responsibility whether it’s at a dinner table with people who are saying horrible things, or whether it’s on the streets, or whether it’s in a community group, or speaking to a Senator or other legislators? What’s our responsibility for doing that?

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

Ripples of change and hope

I like to prepare, but in good old social work fashion, you can’t for something like this. So you come with an open mind and open reflection. What I walked away with, was that this whole weekend is about the concept of hope. So that’s where I started. I started by recognizing this journey that we’re all on and that somehow, someway, regardless of our role, we’re part of a greater ripple. The ripple that started generations before us, the ripple that goes through me, and moves forward through the generations that are now, that goes through you, to the next that come. And to recognize that we need to keep that ripple going. We need to keep throwing those pebbles into the pond of change.

Salomeh Mohajer

Igniting that flame.

We’ve spent a long time talking about the gaps that existed, or that are in existence now and that academia has started to evolve and involve the voices of those in practice and those who are services users and we are going to effectively fill those gaps. And what that would look like. We also saw that we need to display a passion to learn from those who will critique our profession and that’s okay. We need to become comfortable with that. If we’re not comfortable, there’s a reason and we need to review that and reflect on that.

And like the sewing circle that we started today, I kept thinking about the greater picture that we’re all part of. The greater picture is filled with curves, it’s filled with bumps, knots, it’s filled with edges that are not complete, that we need to revisit. And although there are some smooth patches, it’s all part of a bigger picture, and outside of singularly ourselves.

Today, I walked away learning a lot. I learned things that reaffirmed this idea, this value, of fanning our own flame to fuel the change that is to come, to fuel the change and passion for social justice. And just as I possess that spark, and that spark was instilled in me by the generations that came before, I am happy to work towards igniting that flame within the generations that come.