Through Our Eyes
The journey to authentically attempt to see through someone else’s eyes is to allow yourself to be open to seeing differently from how you usually see. It is about challenging your own thoughts, beliefs, and biases—conscious and subconscious. Ultimately, seeing through someone else’s eyes can only happen by creating and facilitating space for others to share their stories, their experiences, and their worldviews from their own perspectives with their own demonstrations of creativity and truth.
When I was a child, my creative energy was big. I loved to write short stories and create characters that resembled who me, my family and friends were. I remember one Christmas asking boldly of my parents for a video camcorder. At the time, my desire for this was to be able to capture fun moments and experiences on video (black and white film at the time) and to explore through a new creative medium. I now realize that what I was really trying to do was to tell my own stories through my own eyes through film.
As I got older, my creative energy moved from writing and telling stories to athletics and expressing my talents through sports which I believe is also a form of art and of course, creativity. Reflecting on my high school and university years, I may have said that I was not really a creative because I wasn’t so much into art via painting or drawing, I enjoyed writing poems, but I didn’t see myself as a spoken word artist or poet, and I stopped writing short stories and telling stories in that way. However, this was not true. You see, I now realize that I have been a creative all my life. Intrigued by storytelling, I participated in many creative mediums to do this such as a high school journalism class, summer jobs in my home community that centred capturing and telling the stories of African Nova Scotian community members, poetry workshops with the phenomenal Shauntay Grant, and acting in plays by the master creative, David Woods.
Fuelling the spirit
Now, a young adult professional and always a life-long learner, I fuel my artistic and creative spirit through creating and facilitating the space for story sharing and telling through talk show hosting. In the Fall of 2021, I had the opportunity to partner with Halifax Public Libraries to create and host, “Our Stories, Our Experiences”, a talk show series, opens a new window that shared stories and perspectives through, the eyes of African Nova Scotian community members, of the complexities of racial trauma, grief and loss, healing and wellness and community development.
This four-episode series facilitated a safe space to share, reflect and teach the broader community about social issues that African Nova Scotian people face daily in this province and country. It provided the opportunity for the African Nova Scotian voice to be heard and our stories to be told. As a story catcher and teller, I feel that I have a responsibility to assist in the translation of stories and experiences with efforts to encourage and facilitate actions for healing – healing for those challenged by the injustices we explored through the series. As well, the need for translation is also important for teaching – teaching the broader community about experiences that may be unlike their own however, recognizing their accountability and their role in learning about how they can be an ally in the healing process.
Listening and learning
“Our Stories, Our Experiences” is an example of seeing through our eyes through the conversations that were facilitated and the stories that we shared. It is important that we remember that to truly see through someone’s else’s eyes is to allow them to tell their own stories and not to tell them for them. While we cannot authentically fully understand any experience other than our own, we can open our eyes to others’ experiences through their own sharing and demonstrate our ability to empathize with others through the challenges they may have endured. We can and should also celebrate their stories, their strength and resilience while acknowledging ways to work to eradicate the current systemic barriers that exist, and the beauty that diversity brings in varying stories and experiences!
Watch the series
Exploring the Complexities of Grief and Loss
Be the Healing
For Us, By Us
About Rajean Willis
Rajean Willis, MSW, RSW, PP, PhD (Candidate), is a social worker and community connector in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Social Media: @RajeanWillis (Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn)
About African Heritage Month at Halifax Public Libraries
More than a month.
Every year in February and the months that follow, Halifax Public Libraries, in partnership with the Black History Month Association and countless dedicated individuals and groups, offers high-quality programs that highlight and celebrate the rich diversity, culture, and heritage of our African Nova Scotian community and people of African Descent.
The TD Ready Commitment is the generous presenting sponsor of African Heritage Month 2022 at Halifax Public Libraries. Their ongoing sponsorship—2022 marks 7 years of support!—increases our capacity to host important programs and conversations, and expand our collection, year-round.
Discover more stories, events, resources, and videos on our website at ahm.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca.
Check out the rest of our Community Voices series.
Creators have been compensated for sharing their talents.
This story was included in Halifax Public Libraries' 2021-22 Annual Report. Read the full report here!