Last night—Mon Oct 5— was the Canadian launch of my book, Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them, and it was fabulous! After a nerve-wracking but very successful launch in the US last week (I wrote about this a few days ago), this was a no-pressure event. Besides writing a speech, it mostly—as my publicist Matt Adams had wisely foretold— felt like a birthday party.
The launch was hosted by the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Toronto and we were at the fabulous and funky Annex location. If you’ve never been, it’s worth checking out: exposed, brick, immense wooden beams, and retro loungy furniture all over the place with an indie coffee shop open to the public.
I love it. But to be clear, my dad walked in and couldn’t really appreciate this particular downtown aesthetic. In his old-school manner, he wondered out loud: What the hell? What kind of banquet hall is this? By the end of the night though he, too, had fallen victim to CSI’s charms. “It felt really homey – like we were all gathered in someone’s [very large] living room!”
Although we’re not sure of the exact numbers, a friend of mine counted at least 50 people in the first couple of rows, so we estimate that about 200 people were spilling out of The Garage (a room with a literal giant garage door that opens up into the groovy lounge). This includes friends, family, and colleagues—about 50% of the crowd—and many people came that I did not know.
There was a short formal part of the evening, hosted by Tonya Surman, CEO of CSI. She set a very warm, welcoming and vulnerable tone for the evening by sharing her own journey of moving from being a little resistant to issues of diversity to understanding how she could be an ally instead of “the enemy,” as a white woman. She generously cited the work I’d done with CSI over the last couple of years using the principles from Deep Diversity as critical for her personal journey.
Marie Moliner, who holds many positions including being a regional director at Heritage Canada as well as serving on the Toronto Police Services Board, followed next. She shared how she saw echoes of her own personal story as a woman of colour in my book, including growing up wanting to be white. Marie also set a comical tone, describing how this book was going to serve as “pillow talk” with her husband!
The final speaker was Barb Thomas, someone is both dear friend and mentor, as well as an elder in the Canadian racial justice movement. She eloquently described what she found to be meaningful about my book and in doing so, helped me understand what I had written a little better. And with the powerful humility that comes from being wise, she honoured our relationship immensely by talking about the learning being reciprocal— that she had also learned from me.
By the time I got to the stage, I had to contend with eyes that were a little moist a voice that started chocking up. Not the smoothest start but I did manage to pull myself together. I talked about my book, read a few passages and took a few questions from the audience. Political issues, of course, emerged including current discussions about the niqab and the police practice of carding (I’ve written about this here).
Overall, it was a fantastic night! Thanks to all the friends and family who volunteered to help make the event run smoothly. Gratitude to all who attended because of their interest in the book. And special thanks to my partner, Annahid Dashtgard, who has done so many things including helping me develop ideas behind Deep Diversity, for looking after the kids while I was in my writing cave and for tending the home fires.
Author, “Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them,” (Between the Lines, 2015).