Storying the Report: A RiverJourney into BIPOC Leadership Energies

BIPOC Leadership Energies (BLE) began as a series of conversations in the Spring of 2021. While we were still in the throes of feeling isolated, the desire to act and be in the world in a better way was present, pressing and calling. Over the phone or over zoom, sometimes in pairs and sometimes in groups, we began to weave together what we experienced with what we wanted.     Continue


The B←→I←→POC Leadership Energies (BLE) project is a collaborative research project that created interagency peer mentoring and coaching supports that advance nonprofit Indigenous, Black and racialized leadership. This work involved exploring the ways women, 2 Spirit, trans and non-binary leaders have been oriented towards leadership while establishing a new orientation marked by empowerment and both self and collective affirmation; key tools to counter cultures of white supremacy that threaten the ability to flourish in leadership.

Land Acknowledgement

While our sessions were online, participants gathered remotely from various parts of Tkaronto, a Mohawk word meaning “the place in the water where the trees are standing” which is said to refer to the wooden stakes that were used as fishing weirs in the narrows of local river systems by the Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat (United Way of Greater Toronto, para. 6)    Continue

Land Acknowledgement Land Acknowledgement

Living Into the Tensions

There are three important tensions we want to name at the outset of this report.    Continue


An Embodied Approach to Healing on our Leadership Journey We recognize the importance of an embodied approach to countering cultures of white supremacy in our leadership journeys. Recognizing the importance and integration of our bodies, minds and spirits, we embraced an integrative approach to honouring our leadership lineages, healing our leadership wounds, and imagining leadership possibilities. This embodied approach counters the orientation of disconnection and the practice of fragmenting the self, which are logics of the culture of white supremacy. Separating the mind from the body and the spirit, and separating humans from one another and the more-than-human world provides us a blueprint for dispossession, dehumanization, and destruction.    Continue

Telling the Story

Session 1 - Re-Memorying: Sitting at the Feet of Our Stories Session 2 - How We are Storied Session 3 - (Re)Storying Ourselves: Connecting Backward to Connect Forward    Continue

Conflicts, Harm & Apologies

Throughout our sessions, we encountered struggles that made us aware of how we have been conditioned to see and handle conflict through a lens supported by white supremacy culture. To (re)story our leadership journeys we understood the importance of responsibility and relationality in addressing conflict and harm, and positioned conflicts as opportunities for generativity and wisdom-sharing.    Continue

Conflicts, Harm & Apologies Conflicts, Harm & Apologies


During the Leadership Energies Project we uncovered three themes that emerged through the focus groups and individual surveys. These themes include:

  • Complicated Relationships to Leadership
  • The Colour of Extractive Labour
  • Leadership as Liberation

Throughout our discussions a common challenge emerged, wherein participants expressed discomfort in embracing the word “leadership”. BLE participants expressed ambivalence towards the word. It emerged that this rejection is partly due to the close associations between leadership and practices of power that are closely associated with harm, misuse, and dominance.


Theme 1: Complicated Relationships to Leadership

  • “We’re all equals – I can learn from you, and you can learn from me. What separates us is a title.”
  • “You are not doing it for recognition but just what you would like to do.”
  • “Sometimes you do your best to get to that bar of leadership and then the bar gets pushed up further.”

Theme 1: Complicated Relationships to Leadership Theme 1: Complicated Relationships to Leadership
Theme 2: Colour of Extracted Labour Theme 2: Colour of Extracted Labour

Theme 2: Colour of Extracted Labour

  • “I have to work myself to the ground to prove myself.”
  • “I have to justify why I need rest, so I can be more productive.”
  • “After 2 years, the shininess goes, and you feel underappreciated and overworked.”

Theme 3: Leadership as Liberation

  • “We are trying to move a building by pushing the wall from the inside.”
  • “I can feel my leadership instincts being muted because I don’t have time.”
  • “We are rehearsing for the revolution.”
  • “I can’t guide the ship if I am broken.”

Theme 3: Leadership as Liberation Theme 3: Leadership as Liberation
As the River Flows As the River Flows

As the River Flows

As the four sessions came to an end, we knew that the water that had passed through our river, at that moment in time, was being regenerated as it took on different forms and pathways. In this section, we will highlight the following pathways:    Continue


Please click here for a list of Resources.    Continue

This project was generously funded by:
Ontario Trillium Foundation