The Creation of the Imagine That Conference

text reads imagine that: a BIPOC youth guide to navigating teenage identity. Graphics are in bright, energizing yellow and pink colours.

My name is Abby (she/her), and I’m a Political Science and Economics student and PLLC Scholar heading into my final year at the University of Alberta! When I first learned about the opportunity to initiate a PLLC Stretch Project, I knew I wanted to make the most of it. The past few months have been equally challenging and rewarding, and I am so excited to introduce the “Imagine That” conference as a product of the dedication and investment of some incredible young people, and organizations who shared and believed in my vision.

A promotional description of the Imagine That conference.

Background and Scope

The “Imagine That” conference originated with the guiding question “what do I wish I knew” as a first generation young Black woman born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. By thinking about what I would go back and tell myself as a teenager in regards to navitating my identity and spaces that were not “built” for me, I began brainstorming workshop sessions that would later turn into a two-day conference proposal.

The title of the conference stems from Toni Morrison’s essay “The Future of Time,” and her Sarah Lawrence commencement address, which both stress the importance of “dream[ing] the world as it ought to be.” In hosting this event, our objective is to encourage participants to imagine beyond their current reality through learning the language necessary to articulate their experiences and positionality within systems, and create new ones.

In short, the idea for the project was to host a virtual conference where the primary beneficiaries are young BIPOC folks of marginalized genders who may not have access to a greater community with those who look like them.

As one of my literary heroes Toni Morrison would say, “dreaming is our first-order human business, […] it is work.” Dreaming is important. We must first imagine a beautiful world to work towards it. Ultimately, Imagine That was created to encourage and protect our right to dream into reality a world that might not exist for us yet. My objective is to demonstrate to participants that with a supportive community, it is possible to create a safe environment where equity, complexity, and difference is celebrated and valued. 

With the help of YWCA National, invitations to “Imagine That” have been extended across the country to community organizations and programs alike, and will be occurring August 13-14, 2021 with free access for participants.

Planning Process 

We began by consulting with a small-group of BIPOC girls in Edmonton between the ages of 13-16. Here, we asked questions about their own journeys navigating marginalized identities, as well as what they would love to see in a conference like “Imagine That.” From there, we took their feedback and formalized session titles and topics, ensuring that we centered the interests and needs of those we are trying to reach.

During the planning process, we also secured a donation from Stephen Mandel, who generously agreed to support Imagine That in our partnership with The Creative Hive. The Creative Hive is an Edmontonian organization dedicated to ensuring that the ideas of local creatives come to life through providing various event spaces and management support. With their help, the support of some incredible volunteers, the engagement of YWCA networks across the country, and my PLLC mentor Nadia Theodore, Imagine That has become a reality.

Speaker Line Up and Structure

The conference is divided into three streams: self, community, and systems, which each have two workshops highlighting different topics of relevance to our audience.

Workshop facilitators include keynote speaker Brandi Morin, facilitators Karlyn Percil-Mercieca, Sogand Zakerhaghighi, Dr. Muna Saleh, Rashida Laziz, Shanese Indoowaaboo Steele and a university roundtable moderated by myself, featuring Akanksha Bhatnaghar, Emily Kimani, and Srosh Hassan.

The conference’s keynote speaker is Brandi Morin.

Additionally, while attendees will attend workshops with various speakers, they will also be put into “homerooms.” These sessions will provide an opportunity for participants to relate with and learn from each other, and engage with a “mentor”- a University student with their own unique experiences and backgrounds to guide participants throughout the conference with check-ins and reflection questions. The session lineup (for both days) is as follows:

Sogand ZakerhaghighiInternalized Fatphobia
Abigail Isaac, Akanksha Bhatnagar, Emily Kimani, Srosh Hassan“Two Times Better:” On Imposter Syndrome
rashida azizPatriarchy and Intersectional Feminism 101
Karlyn PercilEmotions as Data
Dr. Muna SalehFreeing the Imagination: Solidarity Across Difference(s)
Shanese AnneIntro to Decolonization
Brandi Morin
Keynote Address
Line-up for the Imagine That conference, including speakers and their sessions.

How to Take Part

Folks of all ages can participate in the workshops taking place August 13-14, 2021, but the mentorship sessions are reserved for folks who fall within the target age group (13-16). Register for free or share this event Canada-wide to participate in this conference!

– By Abigail Isaac, Political Science and Economics (Hon.) student and PLLC scholar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s