I don’t want a chair at the table, I want the table to be rebuilt
Reflections on inclusion by yher Africa Regional Director, Katleho Tsoku, from the yher Africa monthly newsletter. You can sign up here.
I was recently listening to the Masters of Community podcast by David Spinks where he was in conversation with Naj Austin, the CEO of Ethel’s Club and Somewhere Good. In their conversation they unpack the concept of inclusion, and Naj shares her discomfort with it because her interpretation of inclusion is similar to “gate-crashing a party or eavesdropping on a conversation.”
At the Glamour Women of the Year Awards, Ava DuVernay articulated it profoundly when she said: “Inclusion is about creating a seat at the table for all of us. Pulling up a chair for those left out.
It denotes an absence being remedied.
So much of our conversation as women is about the table needing the chair for us. I believe in all of that. I also believe in disrupting all systems built in such a way that inclusion is even needed in the first place. My truth is I don’t want a chair at the table. I want the table to be rebuilt. In my likeness. And in the likeness of others long forced out of the room.”
Having personally experienced exclusion by virtue of my gender and my race, I found great resonance with both Naj and Ava. My problem with the narrative of inclusion is that it puts the responsibility on those excluded to find a way to belong, rather than putting the effort into changing the structure that created the exclusion in the first place.
We often celebrate how revolutionary it is to thrive in spaces not created for us, yet we hardly take into consideration how exhausting and scarring this can be.
Meaningful change will not just come from those disadvantaged by exclusion it needs to be led by those that benefit from it. Being conscious of this, it is important that I hold safe space for those that have been excluded where I have the privilege of not being left out.
ygap is created on the belief that we build with, and not build for, the community of entrepreneurs we serve. Over the last few months there has been deliberate work done on how to amplify this philosophy in every aspect of the organisation. To keep ourselves accountable, a reflection for everyone in the organisation needs to continuously be “are we still a place for everyone and if not, how do we change that?”
How are you being intentional in contributing to a world created for everyone?
Find out more about yher and ygap at www.ygap.org