An introduction to Shades of Colour

By Rohan Dave

It’s not as though I want to spend my life making enemies or building walls—it’s just that I believe this city can be better. Maybe this whole damn world can be better. And so, I stay and advocate for our communities because I have been blessed to know and love these people— because I see their humanity, because they’re worth advocating for.

My name is Rohan Dave and I am a community mental health worker, and program coordinator of the QTIBPOC-specific healing collective called Shades of Colour. We host meetups for storytelling, and provide resources and connection.

Many of the folks who access our space are transient, struggle with chronic illness, and are marginalized in multiple ways. Shades of Colour honours their healing, their ancestry and their autonomy.

This city has been tough for us lately, and so I wanted to spend some time talking about who we are and the work that we do. Maybe this will clear up some misconceptions—or maybe I just like writing about my life—but either way, I hope this means something to you.

Shades of Colour was born from a community of people who longed for a voice. I think when people have felt silenced for so long, they don’t realize having a voice is possible. We aren’t taught the possibilities, and so we have to stumble around until we find them. We did a lot of stumbling back then, and are still constantly evolving and growing. Ultimately, we hope to create spaces for people who don’t have them. There’s no guidebook, although we are inspired by our QTIBPOC mentors and friends in other cities who engage in the tough work of holding us accountable.

We read our guidelines at the start of every meetup: Respect each other. Respect identities. Acknowledge your power. Hold space. The list goes on. We do this as ritual and sacred practice. We ground into the space collectively. Sometimes, we light incense, and bring in our ancestors and loved ones who are so often left behind. Every meetup has a different theme or narrative, and we bring in different facilitators when we can. This closed space is necessary for QTIBPOC to process and heal together from the ongoing effects of racialization embedded deep within our systems. We ask what healing looks like, and we hear a hundred different replies. However, a common thread tying so many unique perspectives together, is that within connection and community, healing becomes possible.

As a community mental health worker, I have seen how powerful connection can be. There are so many moments where I have questioned the validity of our collective. We have been harassed and threatened for the work that we have done and gaslit into believing we don’t deserve to exist. In these moments, I have learned to redirect my gaze to moments when QTIBPOC have told us that Shades of Colour saved their lives. When QTIBPOC have raised their fists to the sky, reminding us that they stand with us. I remember what it felt like to connect with other QTIBPOC healing and advocacy groups across the province, reminding us that we don’t have to do this work alone. I remember what it felt like to know that we had the power to empower ourselves and each other to be present as helpers and teachers and mentors, even when we fuck up and even when it hurts. We have the power to create the spaces that have been taken from us.

And so I am grateful to be supporting my community. I am grateful to learn from incredible people every single day, and for this space to share who we are and why this community matters.

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