Angel Yuen, Canada
A few months ago, while cleaning my office I stumbled across a small colourful writing journal that I hadn’t seen in many years. Upon opening it, I flipped through the pages and partway through saw the heading ‘Michael White, March 22 1995’. My cleaning-mode was easily paused as I sat down intrigued to read through notes from my early narrative years. What stood out to me was Michael’s interest in ‘finding ways of subverting our power as therapists in white middle class positions’.
Fifteen years later, Michael’s statement continues to hold significance within the particular context I’m working. I happen to live and work in Toronto which is often referred to as one of the most multicultural cities in the world, as it is virtually home to all of the world’s cultural groups. Michael’s idea of centring people’s own knowledges and voices (and thus subverting professional expertise and power) has been carried on in many significant ways by a vibrant community of Toronto narrative practitioners. In particular, over the past few years I have been fortunate to be a part of and to have witnessed various local initiatives where the voices of diverse communities are being privileged. For example, it has been inspiring and hopeful to see and hear children from a range of cultures who are homeless living in shelters sharing their skills and knowledges of getting through profound hardship. Not only is it significant that they are representing and speaking for themselves and their lived experiences, but also meaningful contexts have been created where children are making contributions to other children who are going through similar difficulties. Young men from marginalised communities are now also committed to helping other young men step away from anger and trouble in order to move towards preferred lifestyles of non-violence. These are but only a couple of the latest interesting and innovative developments in Toronto which have been influenced from the recent ideas of collective narrative practice (Denborough, 2008) where collective documents are being created together with children and youth as a response to collective hardship.
From an additional perspective, Michael’s statement also had (and still has) me thinking about the lack of cultural representation in my own local professional context. Considering the demographics of our multicultural city, it remains perplexing that within many professional therapeutic contexts, the dominant position remains more often white and middle class. At the same time, it has been encouraging and promising to see community people from diverse backgrounds starting to engage with narrative practices within their own communities. This has included community leaders, pastors, consumers of mental health services, and community workers from varied cultures. Hence, it is exciting to imagine the futures of narrative practice with more platforms being created for children, youth, and adults from diverse and marginalised communities to share their voices, skills, and knowledges with others. My everlasting wish is that collectively we will find ways to utilise our power and privilege as professionals to open up possibilities for our vulnerable children and young people today to become some of the future voices and leaders of narrative practice in the field.
Denborough, D. (2008). Collective narrative practice: Responding to individuals, groups, and communities who have experienced trauma. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.