Saskatoon discussion group BIPOC Coffee Talk YXE creates opportunities for connection
Monthly conversations explore a variety of topics
In what has been an isolating year for many, a new Saskatoon-based club is connecting Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour (BIPOC) for monthly discussion groups.
BIPOC Coffee Talk YXE started after a conversation between longtime friends Theodocia Quagraine and Dyana Castillo.
"We had a conversation about race and we were sharing each other's experiences," said Quagraine.
"I remember when I got back home, I'd just really enjoyed the conversation, and I was wishing that we could have more like that, but also get perspectives from different people that weren't in our friendship group."
Quagraine texted Castillo the next day to ask if she would be interested in starting a discussion group.
Castillo was eager to find a way to make this happen.
"Immediately it felt like it just clicked for me [that] this is such a great idea," Castillo said. "Let's do it. I'm sure, like us, there are others in the Saskatoon community who are feeling the same way and who might not have a healthy outlet."
Quagraine and Castillo launched the discussion group, which currently takes place via a Discord channel.
Those wishing to join the group can put in a membership request via a form on BIPOC Coffee Talk YXE's social media pages.
"Right now we are completely doing this virtually, but in the future we do want to meet in person, just for the personal feel of it," said Quagraine. "Of course we can't do that right now."
While there are some challenges that come along with launching a new group during a pandemic, Castillo said the events of this year have made it more rewarding in some ways.
"It felt really great to be able to provide something for the community that could unite us all," she said.
Quagraine's initial conversation with Castillo showed her how creating an intentional space to talk about race and ethnicity reduced barriers to engaging with her own experiences.
"A lot of the things she shared in that conversation are things that I felt," Quagraine said. "But I didn't tell anybody, because I felt like they're not going to believe me. They're going to finger every other excuse [for] why it's not race-related, and it's just something that I really repressed for most of my life because I didn't feel like I would be validated."
Every coffee talk will have a specific theme — last month's was about assimilation, this month's will be about the difference between non-racism and anti-racism.
In the months ahead, Quagraine and Castillo are hoping to see BIPOC Coffee Talk YXE grow. They say all are welcome to join.
"We're trying to make sure that everyone's voice is represented, and trying to get many diverse folks involved in this," Castillo said. "White allies of course are just as important, but we do want to make sure that people don't feel the otherness feeling that they are already feeling in this group as well."
Castillo said she is looking forward to all the discussions the group will be having in the future.
"There are so many different topics we have in store," she said. "I think all of them, to summarize, have as a common theme the idea that at one point or another we have felt this way. We have felt like we don't belong to the majority culture — because we don't. And our differences should still be celebrated, because diversity is beautiful."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Alex Soloducha