Coping with COVID-19, understanding the Black Lives Matter movement, the “Me Too” movement. News headlines have been overwhelming in 2020 and it struck entrepreneur Jillian D’Archi as an opportunity to help and learn with her West Niagara community.
D’Archi, who lives in Grimsby, operates Yoga Vine Integrated Health Studio in Beamsville with partner Lorna DePetrillo. Together they have been supporting the wellness needs of West Niagara for over two years, but when the pandemic hit the duo saw a need to expand services.
“When the pandemic hit, I noticed there was a lot of tension in the air. Conversations were getting heated. I felt that (as a community) we need to be able to explore hot topics and current issues in a safe respectful environment,” said D’Archi.
Series examines hot global topics
As a response, D’Archi teamed up with Educator and Course Facilitator Charlene Rennick, who is also a yoga instructor at the studio, and also felt the same. Rennick drew from her sociology background and the two designed and launched a learning series called Social Change Conscious Revolution. The course is an effort to spark community dialogue and to educate on hot global topics that are impacting West Niagara residents.
D’Archi and Rennick had the idea for the course long before the pandemic. They are both regularly engaging with studio patrons, other community groups, and friends, and it tuned them into an emerging community need.
“I get the feeling people want to talk about (deeper) things. I can see that people are looking for something socially that has meaning and purpose behind it,” said D’Archi.
Rennick has experienced the same. “Many people are unhappy with the state of the world, but don’t know what to say or how to go about changing it. The first step to making changes is to believe that they are possible. This project is about talking through challenges, making contributions, and learning how to work together,” said Rennick.
Many business owners today are also faced with not only providing great services and products, but also communicating their positions on social issues. D’Archi admits she’s eager to learn too. “How do I own my mistakes when I am trying to talk about important issues? How can I do better?” said D’Archi.
A natural extension of Yoga Vine’s mission
The lecture series is, in part, a natural extension of Yoga Vine’s mission, which is to create a safe, non-judgmental place for the community to grow, transform, and find whole-body health.
Expert speakers will be featured. Each class will also centre around a book that explores a socially relevant topic. Rennick will teach students communication, mindset, and healing techniques, as well as, moderate discussions. Ultimately, attendees will learn how to navigate social change, both personally and as part of their community.
“The intention is to support community members to more positively adjust to new ideas, to feel empowered, and to be catalysts for change (themselves). The challenge this course aims to solve is, how do we as a community come together to become activists, and to come at topics from different perspectives without shame and judgment. These things hold us back,” D’Archi told Niagara Info.
The course also includes meditation sessions, access to a collection of curated multimedia materials, and an online Facebook forum where students can connect with each other. Attendees have the option to either participate in a socially distanced, safe environment at the studio, or virtually.
Rennick drew on her background in sociology to narrow down topics for the program, and to create a flow for the course. Participants will learn more externally about social topics and then go inward and look at their own internal processes and emotions around them.
Does not shy away from less comfortable topics
Attendees will explore hot topics that affect them personally, and that carry into their close relationships, and influence the way they connect to their community, at large. The classes examine everything from love, to perfectionism, to Canadian issues. It also does not shy away from discussing the potentially less comfortable topics, such as racism, shame, as well as trauma and grief.
“The idea is not to be provoking, but rather to come at it from a learning perspective,” said D’Archi.
The Social Change Conscious Revolution course starts Sept. 21 and runs once per month for a year. Each session explores a different topic. Attendees can sign up for the entire series or attend just the sessions that interest them.
A portion of the tuition will be donated to various local charities. The first charity is The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. The centre’s executive director Kojo Damptey will be the first speaker.
Damptey is an interdisciplinary scholar-practitioner, musician, and decolonial advocate. His work revolves around communication, music, African culture, African politics, International Development, and social movements. He will speak on the topic of anti-racism, which is the theme of class one.
The registration deadline for the Social Change Conscious Revolution course is Sept.20. Tuition is $60 per class plus the cost of a required book. For more information, see the following webpage: Social Change Conscious Revolution Course.