March 18, 2024

What does a courageous practice look like? A Q-and-A with Enid Lee

Anti-racist educator and keynote shares about her upcoming talk at Conference for Post-secondary Learning and Teaching
Enid Lee on white background with coloured hexagons

Every year, the University of Calgary hosts the Conference on Post-secondary Learning and Teaching, which brings together hundreds of people to hear talks, presentations, and research about relevant topics in teaching and learning. This year’s conference, Courageous Practices, is focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in post-secondary learning and teaching.

Taking place over three days, the conference has multiple keynotes that will dive into various aspects of EDIA in the post-secondary space. Over the next few weeks, we will share insights from each keynote speaker around their upcoming presentation.

Enid Lee is an anti-racist professional development specialist, writer, and community builder. She consults internationally on equitable education with particular emphasis on race, language and culture and their roles in education. She began her journey as a teacher on the Caribbean Island of Antigua five decades ago. Over the years, she has consulted and collaborated with practitioners, policymakers and parent activists in educational, cultural, arts and community organizations across Canada and the United States. She will be sharing her expertise to conference attendees on April 26 with her talk, Checking and Changing Our Systems and Ourselves For Equity: It Takes Courage!

Q: Tell us about yourself and your area of research.

A: I think of myself as a person who has had the joyful experience of teaching and learning for decades. Those processes have taken place in my work as an anti-racist professional development specialist, within educational and cultural institutions, as a community builder, writer, speaker, evaluator and researcher, graduate student studying sociolinguistics, seventh-grade teacher, and playing school with my siblings on Monserrat and Antigua, where I received my early education. 

Anti-racist practice is at the centre of my research interest and the roles of language, culture, and race in the process of teaching and learning, including the provision of an equitable, humanizing and empowering education for all students.

Q: Why is courage an important element of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility work? 

A: Disrupting systems and patterns of exclusion and inequality require readiness to face challenges, since those systems and patterns serve some social groups and individuals well. Other aspects of this work involve imagining contexts and conditions in which all of us can flourish, access opportunities, express our humanity and enrich society. And the most important aspect is the willingness to work for this. All these things call on our ability to be bold, to keep at it even when we are not sure of the outcome. 

Enid Lee

Enid Lee will be speaking at the 2024 Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching on April 26.

Q: What does a courageous practice look like to you? 

A: It can be so many things! Raising a pointed question about an unequal practice or system, despite the anxiety you feel in your stomach or the hesitation you hear in your own voice; working with others, some of whom you are not overly fond of to change some procedures, or criteria that will contribute to representation, respects, and rights to those who have been denied them. Sometimes, it might be a clear and public acknowledgement that you have missed the mark in your own effort to work for justice.

Q: Your talk will explore ideas of disrupting systems of inequality, which sounds like a big task. How can people begin this work when they feel like it is overwhelming?

A: Disrupting systems of inequality sounds like a big task because it is a big task. One of the helpful things is recognize the size and the ongoing nature of the task early on. This recognition enables you to see what steps you have made so far, to learn from those who are undertaking it beside you and those who have done it before you and see the piece that is left for you to do. Perhaps the feeling of being overwhelmed subsides for a while when you begin to see opportunity and value being experienced by those who have been excluded, overlooked, and devalued.

Q: Why do you think that anti-racism is so important to teaching and learning?

A: Anti-racism is a perspective and a practice that enables us to transform features of teaching and learning that have been deformed by systemic racism. I have been a teacher for decades and I think of the individuals from marginalized and racialized communities who have been omitted, and continue to be, from teaching materials. I think of learners for whom schooling meant the loss of their home language, culture — or even their lives. I think of children from Indigenous communities — anti-racism aims to eradicate racism in all forms, and I have focused on forms we find in official sites of teaching and learning. 

Q: What can people expect from your talk on April 26?

A: They can expect to be reminded of their own experiences of taking a courageous stance for justice, some insights around systems to which they are connected, and stories and strategies which may have application in their own settings. And always, people can expect comments to challenge or contest, which will lead them to work for greater equity and accessibility in their own spheres of influence. 

I did some of my earliest work in anti-racist education when I was a student in the ’70s at the University of Western Ontario, now Western University in London, Ontario. I’m looking forward to a dialogue with my Canadian colleagues, friends, and fellow travelers on this journey for justice.

The 2024 Conference on Post-Secondary Learning and Teaching takes place April 24-26, with an in-person pre-conference and two days of virtual proceedings.

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.