Anima Café 18 – June 30, 2021

A Transformative Model for JEDI Leadership (Teaching Racial Justice Without Shame or Blame, Part 3)

We’re witnessing unprecedented openness and vulnerability from leaders over the last year in addressing anti-Black racism and overall equity in their organizations. Despite this, the struggle persists to create long-lasting systems change. Leaders are still misfiring on who they hire, advance, and retain because of limitations in JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) knowledge and skills. Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are still disproportionately approached to “fix” diversity problems in organizations. Those who call attention to systemic instances of racism and discrimination get unfairly stereotyped as “troublemakers” or “difficult” colleagues. Burnout, increased levels of stress, retaliation, and constructive dismissal are the stories that equity advocates tell when they recount the toll of pushing for organizational transformation. And occasionally, in progressive organizations, JEDI goals can sometimes be hijacked by a small subset of activists who themselves may be deregulated or wounded.

In this Anima Café, our co-founder Shakil Choudhury will present a new tool to identify the stages of JEDI transformation that leaders and organizations are at: The Anima Transformative JEDI Model. Exploring 3 different stages on the JEDI journey, this instrument helps identify strengths, weaknesses, and pathways to change.  This is the last of three sessions on effective strategies to teach justice and equity issues without shame and blame.


Coming soon

Anima Café 17 – May 26, 2021

Developing Racial Pattern Recognition Skills to Undo Racism (Teaching Racial Justice Without Shame or Blame, Part 2)

Humans are born with basic pattern recognition skills which allow us to make meaning and navigate the world around us whether learning to speak, read and write, or identifying songs we like to navigating our phone controls by touch and feel. Pattern detection is essential to our very survival as a species. As social justice activists and educators, we have developed a keen awareness to repeated cycles of racial inequity, whether it is the school-to-prison pipeline in education, over-policing in criminal justice or undertreatment in health care. And we are bewildered and often enraged when others do not, or cannot, recognize these systemic patterns that appear so obvious.

But what is obvious to some can be learned by all.

This session will introduce the concept of “racial pattern recognition” as a frame to help learners detect systemic issues related to racism and oppression. We will also explore why the “prejudice habit” is hard to break and why the principle of “slow-is-fast” from trauma therapy is critical to individual as well as policy change. Join us as we continue to discuss effective strategies to teach justice and equity issues without shame and blame.


Anima Café 16 – April 28, 2021

Teaching Racial Justice Without Shame or Blame, Part 1

Are you a racial justice educator who:  

  • Is frustrated by the resistance and fragility you experience among people you hope to bring along on the equity journey?
  • Has felt that traditional anti-racist/anti-oppression approaches offer useful strategies but also seem imbalanced, one-sided or ineffective? 
  • Has experienced, or want to avoid, emotional burnout, and want a way of doing the work that is more personally sustainable?

Then this session may be useful for you! Using road-tested, trauma-informed strategies developed over 25 years, this cafe will argue that psychological literacy—defined broadly as learning that supports deep self-reflection, self-regulation and compassion—is a key part of what is missing and could strengthen racial and social justice work. It is possible to engage learners in this emotionally charged work without (or by minimizing) feelings of shame and blame. Ideas from this session will draw on the newly revised edition of “Deep Diversity: A Compassionate, Scientific Approach to Achieving Racial Justice”, by Shakil Choudhury (to be released September 2021).


Anima Café 15 – March 31, 2021

The Roots of Rumi: Cultural Celebration vs. Appropriation

Join host Annahid Dashtgard and guests as with the advent of Nowrooz (Persian New Year) on March 21, we explore the fine line between celebrating diverse cultures vs. appropriating them. Taking Rumi as an example, we look at the western love affair with Rumi, one divorced from his Islamic heritage and roots.  What questions do we need to develop respectful relationships with other cultures? How can we acknowledge the culture we are part of ourselves?

With guests Khashayar Mohammadi, Persian poet, author of upcoming poetry book Me, You, Then Snow, and Professor Emma Lind, leader of Decoding Race for White Leaders course.


Anima Café 14 – February 24, 2021

Black History Month: Between Pride and Protest with Mahlon Evans-Sinclair, Akilah Hamilton, Parker Johnson and Jessica Oddy

What are the common understandings of why we celebrate Black History Month and for whom do we celebrate it? Are the moments of pride for Black communities the same as the national narratives and how are the continued protests for civil rights framed by both?

This cafe explores how Black History Month both helps and hinders forward movement for the Black community. How much are we talking about current Black Lives vs. the narrowed framing of past leaders with universal appeal (such as Martin Luther King)? How much does the American narrative obscure the specifics of how Black identity is experienced across the border and beyond? How much of the inequity gap have we really closed?


Anima Café 13 – November 11, 2020

Post-Election Debrief: Leadership for this Age of Discord with Shakil Choudhury, Judy Rebick and Parker Johnson

The US is in a political crisis due to unclear election results. What is clear is that US democracy is broken, with at least half the electorate voting for an authoritarian leader who is racist, corrupt and undermines democracy on a daily basis.

Regardless of who actually becomes President, the implications are global in nature, especially for minoritized peoples. The next 50 years are being described as another historical “Age of Discord”.

You are invited to join us as we take stock of where we are, how we got here and how we move forward while building collective capacity and courage.


Anima Café 12 – October 22, 2020

Why Leaders Should Use the “F” Word More Often: Rising Authoritarianism in a Trumpian Era with Shakil Choudhury

On the eve of the most important US election in generations, democracy in that—and other Western contexts— is in crisis. We need to stop being hypnotized by Donald Trump’s theatrics and incivility to see the broader patterns of behaviour: that of a classic authoritarian leader.

In response, leaders from civil society, workplaces and beyond need to get comfortable using the “F” word: fascism. Although still incomprehensible to most mainstream North Americans, this session will use an evidence-based approach to demonstrate how the frame of authoritarianism and fascism better helps explain the current political moment of Trump and his allies, putting their words, actions and the related violence into context…with implications for racial minorities globally.

In the spirit of capacity building, we also will explore what we can do about it in our personal, community and professional lives.

This cafe is a call to action and the first in a series of Anima offerings related to the US election and its fallout. Regardless of who wins or loses, we all need to build community and capacity in response to the current stormy political era we are in…and what is to come.


Anima Café 11 – September 30, 2020

Diversifying Organizations, Leading Inclusion: Tales from the Trenches with Nicholas Davis, Angel Russell, and Tobie Mathew

Organizations are the interface between society and the individual. In the midst of great societal upheaval around issues of race and equity, we’re taking you inside a couple of large organizations on both sides of the Canadian border to see what it takes to create inclusion from the inside-out, one individual, one team, one department at a time. Join us for this conversation with leading equity experts— Nicholas Davis, Director of Engagement and Inclusion, CBC (Canada), Tobie Mathew, Program Manager, City of Toronto and Angela Russell, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, CUNA Mutual Group (US) about the call, cost and contribution of leading efforts for racial justice inside organizations.

Anima Café 10 – August 26, 2020

Back to School: Self-Regulation, Trauma and Equity Perspectives with Karen Thomas and Nick Radia

As families, educators, and school staff ponder the return of schooling in a few short weeks, the stress levels are rising among all these groups. In this unprecedented time of Covid, trauma, racial tensions, societal stressors, and quarantine, the return of school will look like no other in our history. What are the factors to consider for parents, for educators, for children, and for system leaders? At the forefront is a solid understanding of human connection, relationship building, stress reduction, self-regulation, and trauma. All of these are furthermore tied to a deep understanding of equity. Our perceptions, our actions, and our commitment to negotiating the next few months of either remote or in-person schooling must be seen through the lens of anti-oppression. Join experienced educators and parents, Karen Thomas and Nick Radia in a discussion on these critical perspectives


Anima Café 9 – August 12, 2020

The Conscious Use of Power in Crisis with Julie Diamond

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis shines a light on the critical role of leadership. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that leadership saves lives. Or more to the point: good leadership saves lives.

As we observe leadership responses to the virus in real-time, what are we learning about leadership behaviors, specifically how leaders use their power and authority in their roles? Join me as I share my research on crisis leadership responses across cultures and leadership styles. What are we learning about power and leadership in the wake of this crisis, and how can that help us in our own communities and organizations?


Anima Café 8 – June 24, 2020

Challenging anti-Black Racism in Organizations: Part 2 with Mahlon Evans-Sinclair, Anima Leadership and Parker Johnson, Anti-Racist Educator and Consultant

The week’s theme was the second part of Challenging anti-Black Racism in Organizations.  Undoing anti-Black racism is a collective responsibility, so how do we tackle the everyday insidious ways anti-Black racism is perpetuated in our organizations and by many well-intentioned leaders? The forum was facilitated by leading black educators and consultants on what it looks like to interrupt anti-Black racism with impact.


Anima Café 7 – June 10, 2020

Challenging anti-Black Racism in Organizations with Mahlon Evans-Sinclair, Anima Leadership and Parker Johnson, Anti-Racist Educator and Consultant

The week’s theme was Challenging anti-Black Racism in Organizations.  We’ve seen a lot about anti-black racism in policing and during this pandemic, but what about the everyday insidious ways anti-Black racism is perpetuated in our organizations and by many well-intentioned leaders? Join us for this frank conversation by two leading black educators and consultants on what anti-Black racism looks like and how to interrupt it. Undoing anti-Black racism is a collective responsibility


Anima Café 6 – May 27, 2020

Crisis and Transformation: The Feminization of our Leadership Paradigms with Judy Rebick

The week’s theme was Crisis and Transformation: The Feminization of our Leadership Paradigms. The gender dynamics of the Covid crisis are multi-level. On the one hand, we see more women in authority than we have ever seen, on the other, women represent a majority of front line workers, especially in health care, and appear to be taking on the bulk of child care and education. What is your experience? And how can we encourage more equality at work and at home during these times? How can we reimagine the still male-defined paradigm of leadership moving forward?

Anima Café 5 – April 29, 2020

When Things Fall Apart: Grief as a Leadership and Life Skill with Vanessa Reid

The week’s theme was When Things Fall Apart: Grief as a Leadership and Life Skill. Grief can be an emotion that mid-wifes us into a new awareness, a new state of being. We will explore the paradox of loss and liberation, as well as “anticipatory grief” and “ambiguous loss”. We will look at the practical and also the mythic stories of grief as essential to human experience. We’ll also touch base on how to pick up the signals in ourselves, in our teams, to move through these times with a greater leadership capacity to navigate complexity in times of uncertainty.


Anima Café 4 – April 8, 2020

Finding hope in uncertain times: Courageous Leadership for Shifting Systems

The week’s theme was Finding hope in uncertain times: Courageous Leadership for Shifting Systems. In terrifying times like this, it is natural for our individual and collective survival responses (fight/flight/freeze) to be in high gear.  These responses tend to make us retreat, polarize, collapse, and hold on to the familiar.  And yet at the same time, it is in moments of global upheaval that the creation of more just systems might be the most possible.  This session explores what helps us individually and collectively to access courage and creativity, and the roles that hope, joy, connection, and even suffering play in creating new possibilities.


Anima Café 3 – April 1, 2020

Meaning Making in Troubled Times: A Critical Leadership Capacity

The week’s theme was Meaning Making in Troubled Times: A Critical Leadership Capacity.  Meaning-making is a key ingredient needed to develop inner resilience. For leaders, it is also important to help others make honest and constructive sense of what is happening during the pandemic.


Anima Café 2 – March 25, 2020

Minding Mental Health: Building Resilience from the Inside Out

The week’s theme was Minding Mental Health: Building Resilience from the Inside Out.  In the face of widespread uncertainty on a number of fronts, this was a chance to look at how to build and sustain resiliency during this time.


Anima Café 1 – March 19, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona: Building Community During Crisis

The week’s theme was Love in the Time of Corona: Building Community During Crisis.  Although it’s an unpredictable and extremely stressful time, there are wonderful stories about how the best of humanity is also coming out.  The session explored the inspiring stores arising in these challenging times.


  • Video of Italian Community singing during COVID-19 crisis
  • Lockdown, a poem by Richard Hendrick