Photo courtesy of Pembina Institute.
Larissa Crawford has paved her way into recognition through the work she does as a researcher, activist, artist, and organization leader. Her approach of using decolonized methods and traditional knowledge, from her Afro-Caribbean and Métis background, is outstanding. Crawford and the founding directors of Future Ancestors Services lead with the intent of eliminating barriers that prevent diverse peoples from succeeding in a capitalist-driven society. Bearing alternate methods and a 14-year-long background in anti-racism research and experience, Crawford explained how Future Ancestors Services operates.
You mentioned that too many organizations in the non-profit and humanitarian sector use capitalist models and compete for limited grants and sponsorships. How does Future Ancestors Services differ?
We’re working to remove barriers that harm diverse people, non-human kin, and Earth; in order to remove those barriers and address harm deeply rooted in our minds, institutions, and ecosystems, we need to acknowledge that no one business or individual is going to be able to achieve that alone. We need to work together. Another firm or individual doing the same work we’re doing is an ally, not a competitor.
At Future Ancestors Services, we reflect on what we and our communities want our relationships to look like: what do healthy, ethical relationships to Earth, or our colleagues in our sector of work, or the communities we belong to and serve, look like? What do relationships to trauma and healing-informed workplaces look like?
How can traditional knowledge and ways of being be leveraged as tools to challenge institutional racism?
Worldview impacts how we make decisions, complete our work, assign responsibility, and navigate relationships. Yet, many of us rarely pause to examine and reflect on our worldview. When we examine the way that capitalism and colonialism have informed the way we understand who has valuable knowledge and what constitutes a qualification, a hierarchy of worldviews — that privileges Western science, history, and thought, and invalidates Indigenous knowledge systems and ways of being — emerges.
Future Ancestors Services prioritizes a decolonized experience of time. In practice, this looks like: having honest discussions early in our relationships with new clients about boundaries and respect that are unique to the individuals we work with; ensuring our team members are empowered to resist deadlines and schedules that do not honour their time or schedules; and where our team members are encouraged to take time away from work for healing and well-being.
As a mother, career woman, and activist, what advice would you give to women who feel powerless and face systemic injustices?
Really reflect on the ways your lived experiences in navigating and overcoming the adversities you’ve been — and are — faced with inform your value, skill, and your qualification. Practice saying it, writing it out, including it in your CVs, and take the time to not only teach yourself but teach those around you in seeing the value that you bring. Now, this isn’t a responsibility that you have — to teach others to treat you with respect — but I do find that this is an act that serves a purpose greater than yourself.
Can you reflect on the milestones you are accomplishing as a leader of the organization?
Through our work in articulating and asserting [our unique and individual selves and experiences], we find that we support our clients and community partners in understanding that for themselves. [We decentre] capitalist, colonial legacies in order to create more space to acknowledge the value and position other world views and consequential relationships [have]. We’re finding that this is the incubator space for the most effective, just, and sustainable innovation that we’re seeing.
Tashon Daley | Contributing Writer