Untangling the Web

Danielle is Atkinson’s summer intern. She’s working with us from May to August of 2022. Through her passion for storytelling, social justice, and community engagement work, she hopes to facilitate positive change in the world. Danielle is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication at Toronto Metropolitan University.

From the recent renaming of my university to Ontario’s upcoming election to starting my new position at the Atkinson Foundation, my life feels suspended in a whirlwind of change, opportunity, and unlimited possibilities. Now more than ever, I’m convinced of our ability to garner collective power for good.

Growing up in east Scarborough, I’ve always found myself drawn to examining overarching systems of oppression and their long-lasting effects on various communities. In my academic and personal writing, I’ve focused on narratives surrounding race, gender, sexuality, and mental health as they relate to pop culture and colonialism. Using an intersectional approach, I try to explore the historical foundations of these narratives and their socio-political implications on the reproduction of power. Recently, my focus has begun to shift towards the realm of labour, politics, and economics.

Like many others, the pandemic forced me to rethink my approach to work and productivity. Watching our work, school, and personal time become an increasingly tangled web, conversations surrounding the future of work began to call me in. On top of that, seeing how workers like my mother navigated the early stages of the pandemic encouraged me to further my understanding of decent work. My mom came to Canada in 1995 and has worked as a personal support worker for over 16 years. Immigrants and women of colour like my mom comprise the majority of this sector and have been dealing with the economic and safety issues amplified by the pandemic for years. My mom was a hero long before COVID. Why did it take a global crisis for her and her colleagues to be taken seriously?

In a society where our success and value as individuals is purported to derive from our labour, it is no wonder why so many of us continuously accept unsafe working conditions, inadequate pay, and push ourselves to our mental and physical limits. Our current approaches to work are unsustainable. We must unlearn, resist and shift traditional notions surrounding work, productivity, and the like. In my personal life, I’ve slowly begun working towards unlearning and defying norms concerning work and productivity; by investing in community, rest, and organizing efforts. I’m still fairly new to this. But that’s okay.

With public health measures lessening, it seems we are expected to “return to normal” and pick up where we left off pre-pandemic. However, I’ve begun to consider the possibility of change in our narratives and approaches surrounding work. What lessons have we learned over the past two years? How can we apply these lessons to reimagine the next chapter of movements for decent work and a fair economy? How do we ensure that women, immigrants, racialized communities, and disabled communities aren’t left behind? How can we ensure that they thrive?

I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one searching for answers to these questions. For 80 years, the Atkinson Foundation has promoted social and economic justice, and focused on strengthening movements for decent work and a fair economy for the last eight years. During my time with the Foundation, I look forward to exploring the possible answers to these questions with a team that welcomes and encourages them.