Gracia has been invited as a keynote speaker by the Ontario Heritage Planners Network and the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. She has also been interviewed for media stories about her work, including The Agenda on TVO, the Toronto Star, and CBC. Below are excepts from some of her previous speeches.
An Active Agent of Change
"My name is Gracia Dyer Jalea. I'm the Founding Executive Director of the Toronto Ward Museum, a member agency of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and a registered charity.
Since 2015, TWM has assembled strategic partnerships across multiple sectors to support community-led initiatives that have used stories and storytelling to build solidarity and to foster conversations, often difficult conversations, about diversity and what it means to live in an inclusive society.
The work of bringing people together across differences has become more difficult than ever. While social media and advancements in communication technologies have allowed for more voices to be heard, they have also produced an increasingly polarised world, where it seems far easier for us to focus on what divides us than what could unite us. Historically, museums, as tools of empire, have perpetuated an "us" vs. "them" narrative, often portraying the colonised as the "other" or "the conquered". It is difficult to unravel that history and, over the course of the past 4 years as I've worked to establish TWM, I've watched museums and the institutions that support them struggle to atone and build trust with the communities they've wronged, in the interest of remaining relevant in a world that no longer needs them to validate its truths.
I created TWM to stand as a model, an example of what a museum of the future might look like, if building more inclusive societies and advancing equity were at the heart of its work. I often reflect on the tireless work being done by the community serving sector to lead the changes we need to see in our society so that everyone, regardless of circumstance, is able to succeed and thrive. In particular, the example set by OCASI and other member agencies who have since joined our Block by Block program, have taught me that allyship, collaboration, and a commitment to a community-led approach is what is needed to advance change.
Now more than ever we need spaces where people can come together to have brave conversations where, through sharing, listening, questioning, and debating, we can begin to strategise, build working relationships and innovate, not only to establish common ground, but to act and implement strategies for change that will lead to a more sustainable and just world.
I hope TWM will continue to act not only as a beacon within the heritage sector, but to be an active agent of change supporting the work that so many of you do on the frontlines every day."
- OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants Professional Development Conference, 2019
In the Absence of Opportunity Do Not Be Afraid to Create Opportunity for Yourself
"It is not uncommon when receiving an award such as this that one reflects on the hard work, journey and opportunity it took to get to this moment.
Instead of taking up that space, I’d like to invite everyone in this room to join me and to take a moment now to reflect on your own journey.
Think about the hard work it took to get here.
Think about the drive and passion you have for this work. What motivates you?
Think about the people who helped you along the way and the opportunities you earned and that were given to you so you could be here now.
I also ask you to reflect on the doubts you may have had, but how an encouraging voice, a champion, an ally may have helped you to get to that next step in your career.
For those in leadership positions I ask you to keep this journey, its victories and struggles, in mind.
Keep the people who helped you along the way in mind.
And the opportunities that were presented to you in mind when you make decisions.
How can you create opportunities?
How can you be a champion, an ally, a mentor to those who need opportunity?
Can you envision a scenario whereby standing in your light includes creating space so others can lead?
Can you take a risk, as others may have taken a risk on you in the past?
And for those who are seeking equity and hungering for leadership roles in this sector I say this:
Know your worth.
Speak up and advocate for more opportunities for yourself and for others.
And in the absence of opportunity do not be afraid to create opportunity for yourself.
Strike out and find like minded allies from this sector and beyond who are willing to stand by you in solidarity."
- Ontario Museum Association Awards Acceptance Speech, 2018