Get on the Bus
Guest blog for The Bridging Bus
By Grace Szucs
A bridge is the liminal space that hangs between two destinations or points on a journey. It’s also a marker, a reminder that a deliberate choice was made to join those two points, to bring them together, and in essence, make them one. Jayde Tynes, Delaine Tiniakos-Doran, and Lameia Reddick invite residents of Nova Scotia to bridge their vision of community development to its execution.
The Bridging Bus is an initiative imagined by Tynes, a Dalhousie Bachelors of Commerce grad. The 24-year-old, born and raised in Nova Scotia, has been working with social and African Nova Scotian community activists for 8 years. The project will bring 12 participants working on community-based projects, from Nova Scotia to Washington, DC, to meet up with various social equity groups, social enterprises, and activist communities for a knowledge exchange.
The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, has invaluable organizational lessons to teach. “You can agree or disagree about their politics,” says Tynes, “but one thing you can’t disagree about is their governance model.” BLM was founded in 2012 and their sustained renown and impact as an activist group can be attributed to their mastery of modern media. “They’ve been able to create momentum and develop this kind of brand and this recognition globally with no budget, no full-time staff, nothing. Just with the tools of social media, word of mouth, and having content that’s easy to access and also something people want to learn,” says Tynes.
Halifax is rich with just as many media-savvy, educated, passionate young civilians—our millennial cohort. “Those are the ones that really can do the work, and those are the ones who are going to continue to do the work,” says Tynes. She sees room for improvement in some long-standing community organizations that have been encumbered by governmental structure and inflexible mandates. “The culture’s shifting, communities are shifting, ideals are shifting, communication channels are shifting,” she says. Millennials, often labeled ‘lazy’ or ‘distracted,’ are just flexible enough to move with the culture, stay relevant, and keep social causes in the forefront of the public’s attention.
The Bridging Bus is a volunteer-run, grassroots initiative partially funded by grants and partially relying on sponsorship. “There’s a great opportunity for potential funders to come in and get something very specific from this project that’s going to align with their mandate,” Tynes says. For example, a group whose mandate is to support children’s education could sponsor a participant who is working on a project that will address child literacy. Or, a group can work with Bridging Bus to find a participant who is focused on a project that aligns with its social mandate.
Pre-DC, Tynes and her colleagues have workshops planned to help participants shape and refine their projects before heading south. So far, workshops will cover cultural sensitivity, having integrity in your work, leadership, mobilization, strategizing and technical skills. Bridging Bus will then match Nova Scotian projects with groups doing the same or similar work in DC for an intensive day-long immersion in that sister project’s organization.
The group will also be attending lectures at Howard, Georgetown, and George Washington universities, as well as local talks and presentations. The cultural immersion in DC is itself a teaching tool. Many individuals that are part of marginalized groups don’t often have the opportunity to leave their small communities “for economic reasons, for safe space reasons,” says Tynes. “To have that experience, especially around this grassroots activism and community development arena is going to be invaluable in and of itself.”
“It’s a knowledge transfer on both ends,” Tynes says. She expects to come up against some friction in the states with her own project in DC. The middle class shift that’s happening in our community today has been going on since the 60s and 70s she says. “It’s mirrored in the US but they’ve been doing work so long on such a larger scale that I feel like it’s going to be hard to them to understand why we haven’t been as mobile.” Racism in the US is overt and a point of pride to some. Racism in Canada is trickier than that. Insidious and institutionalized, many Canadians don’t feel racism is an issue in this country. “The issues that we’re going to bring up are going to be a little harder to grasp but are equally as important and equally as damaging,” Tynes says.
When Bridging Bus descends on DC, prepped to engage and learn, Tynes hopes to challenge and be challenged, and through that exchange, deliberately bridge the gap of understanding between DC and Nova Scotian communities. “There’s this new culture of looking at our brothers and sisters all over and creating connections. That’s how we really mobilize, that’s how we really create real change, that’s how we really uplift people.”
The Bridging Bus encourages applications from individuals who identify as African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq First Nations, a member of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, a woman, are a person with disabilities, or a member of a visible minority. Preference will be given to participants from underrepresented groups and members of marginalized communities, but all are encouraged to apply. In order for participants to be eligible their project idea must be aimed at a marginalized community.