Reimagine, Dismantle, Rebuild

Aldeli Albán Reyna is a Project Manager at the Atkinson Foundation.

When I first joined the Atkinson Foundation in 2019, I wrote a field note entitled “I am where I need to be”. I’ve learned a lot from this small but mighty team on the importance of understanding how narrative plays such an intricate role in our lives and how it shapes the world we’re in. It can create a shift from a poverty reduction lens to reimagine what a world in which decent work and workers can thrive looks like. 

Fast forward to June 2020, the world is having to reckon with multiple crises and narratives: a global health and economic crisis is changing the way we work, which workers ought to be prioritized and deemed essential, and an uprising of Black communities after centuries of dealing with anti-Blackness. Canada is no exception here. 

These issues are far from disconnected; we know that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and racialized people in the United States1 due to anti-Black racism2 and issues like precarious employment and making up the majority of frontline workers. Canada has to face its ugly truth of partaking in and benefiting from colonization and slavery, reconcile with, and provide reparations for Black and Indigenous people. The work to dismantle systems that have disadvantaged us for far too long is only beginning. 

Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi, two brilliant and foundational professors, wrote their book BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom with such community care to reimagine the world we live in. 

“[G]iven that the very foundations of capital, both its economic and ideological underpinnings, are structurally anti-Black, we have no choice left to us but to imagine and put into practice a different world, one in which having to claim Black lives matter is greeted with puzzlement”.

Shortly after I started at the Atkinson Foundation, I was thrown back into academia — ten years after completing my undergraduate degree —  and worked while pursuing my graduate studies part-time. As my first year of graduate school wraps up, I am making the tough yet right decision to step away from my role at Atkinson and focus on my studies. I am hoping to dedicate my research and the last year of my Masters of Public Policy, Administration, and Law degree to amplify Black voices, Black communities, and Black lives.

To the decent work movement, I leave you with this question: how can Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty be centered in your organizing, scheming, planning, and reimagining?




  1. Previous and current advocacy efforts are ongoing to make informed race-based data collection to gauge the impacts of racism in Canada. The COVID Racial Data Tracker is a US-based tool and a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center.
  2. Thanks to the tireless work of Black health leaders, the Toronto Board of Health declared anti-Black racism a public health crisis on June 8th, 2020.