29 Apr The “Village” of Toronto
It may seem odd to refer to a city of over 6 million people as a Village, however this past Sunday, it definitely had that energy. The inaugural G Day Toronto included everyone from month-old babies to parents (Dads too!), Elders, inspiring visual and performing artists, thoughtful educators, courageous community leaders and dedicated volunteers.
The refrain from the classic Queen song (“We are the Champions, my friend”) came immediately to mind as I sat down to reflect on G Day Toronto and how it was distinct from the two previous Vancouver events. The first G Day – which took place almost exactly a year ago – focused entirely on the girls, supported by a large group of adult volunteers. It was an incredible day that the girls loved, however we soon picked up on a feedback trend: adults, particularly parents, expressing a strong desire to participate as well.
Taking this feedback to heart, for the second G Day we added afternoon programming for “Champions” (parents and others playing a role in raising girls: Godparents, Grandparents, “aunties & uncles”, etc), which in turn led to adding a ritual aspect where the girls were symbolically welcomed into adolescence by running through a human passage made up of cheering, tearful adults: their Champions. What I didn’t expect in that moment was the feeling of being there collectively for all of the girls, not just “ours”: in that moment we became the proverbial “Village”, and it was pure magic.
When the time came to craft the agendas for the Toronto and Victoria events, we knew that there was sufficient demand for parallel, all-day programming for both girls and Champions. Anyone involved in event planning knows adding this dual element makes the programming and production more complex: however, assuming that everything went well in Toronto, we intuited that this would be our model going forward.
As with parenting, where my 10 year old daughter has benefited from being cared for and raised by dozens of wonderful people, so follows my belief around G Day and its Community Leaders: they are G Day’s Godmothers, leading and inspiring in ways that are different than mine, and yet sharing the love and desire for it to grow to reach its potential as a wise, worldly, inclusive, powerful and compassionate movement.
Speaking of which, part of the reason why I was drawn to our G Day Toronto Community Leader Emily Antflick is her knowledge of Rites of Passage, which she has studied extensively. This, combined with her professional background as an educator and passion to bring G Day to Toronto, quickly won me over. Here was someone who not only “got” G Day, but moreover understood the timeless pattern and emotional arc of these sacred events, as well as having the skill to curate content and manage two distinct groups of people.
Without getting into all the details, she and her team delivered an experience that was “perfect”, “priceless” and “wonderful”, to quote from the feedback forms collected from the hundreds of participants.
Several people asked me what it was like to not be in control of this G Day: to have placed so much trust in someone so far away to guide its vision. While I will admit to bouts of fear and self doubt around our collective ability to be able to successfully market the event, I never doubted that the content and experience would be anything short of amazing. Reading the feedback forms from Girls and Champions the next day completely validated Emily and her team’s efforts, G Day’s value and purpose, and the deep truth that its vision is universal, and can be fabulously stewarded by others.
Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to Emily and the G Day Toronto presenters, leadership team and volunteers. I learned many years ago that, while I have some pretty unique and fantastic leadership skills, they are far from perfect or comprehensive. Thankfully, one of them is the gift of being able to attract others with the necessary skills to really make things happen (hello, Suzanne Siemens!). Watching Emily up on the stage, rising into her own leadership and power was nothing short of exquisite – this was her show, and her moment: she literally shone.
Massive kudos and gratitude are due to the G Day Toronto Leadership Team: Tanya Geisler, Kim and Amy Sedgewick, Zahra Haji, Alison Smyth and Irene Whittaker-Cumming. Not only did they guide the event as a whole: they all contributed their incredible gifts as Presenters to the day’s content.
And then there are the “shoulders” on which the Toronto team stood: the G Day Vancouver team, namely Suzanne (my business “better half”), Operations wizard (and G Day’s Partnership Director when she’s not busy troubleshooting the details) Hilary Mandel, graphics, website and social media Manager Tiffany Ng, back-end master of all things money-, admin and registration-related Kitty Wong, G Day Facebook manager AnneMarie Aubin, and the rest of the Lunapads team with their overall moral support. Last but far from least, our ultra-talented videographer Madeline Ell, Groove dance educator Theresa “Tree” Walsh (her Mom Bernadette was a volunteer!), our Benefactor Susan Gibson and my daughter Gigi also made the trip from Vancouver to bring their magic to the big TO.
Thanks to Emily and her team, what we guessed at has now been validated: G Day is as much for and about Champions, families and communities as it is for Girls. Girls may be the future, however we all have much to learn from and share with one another right now. Thank you everyone, from the bottom of our hearts, who participated in any way to making this dream a reality: for being the Village, for being Champions, for being Heroes.