As we approach New Year's Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge how challenging this past year has been. Or, as my young kids wrote on pieces of paper they threw into our winter solstice camp fire: “COVID sucks.”

The omicron-avalanche and the possibility of infinity-COVID looms. And the adversity doesn’t stop with the coronavirus. It’s also the climate-change cataclysm. And then there's the ongoing scourge of racism, with some parents calling for the banning of critical race learning in schools – this despite our new collective anti-racism awareness since the George Floyd uprisings. Despite the victories we’ve had in this arena, we’ve had heart-breaking moments as well. The institutional gleam of anti-racism, with its empty promises in corporate newsletters and advertisements that continue to appropriate culture for profits, does not help.

It’s easy to despair. For me, I feel that sinking feeling physically, somewhere in my gut. As a storyteller and journalist, I’ve turned to stories to help with this feeling: to help spark conversations and incite positive change.

This year, I took what I was doing at the Culture + Society desk off the page and launched a podcast. With a small but mighty team, we released 12 episodes of Don’t Call Me Resilient. The podcast takes on the ways racism permeates our everyday lives.

We looked at some of the direct consequences of the pandemic: why was COVID-19 disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous, poor and racialized communities? What was the spike in mental health issues in South Asian communities about? Why are migrant farm workers still so precarious and what can be done to make food distribution fairer?

We also explore some of the big picture issues: looking at pollution through a new lens – one that acknowledges it is as much about racism and colonialism as it is toxic chemicals. We asked why some white professors in Canada are defending their right to use the n-word and why others are insisting they are Indigenous when they are not.

And, we decided to tackle our collective despair head on and explored how stories about otherworlds can inspire a better future. Guest Daniel Heath Justice, professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature, provided wise words about how futuristic stories can “give us strength and hope.” These stories, which he said are partly about seeing Indigenous Peoples in the future and not just relegated to the past, help us see the world through “a lens of wonder and not despair.” Or as Selwyn Hinds, the screenwriter for the upcoming TV series Washington Black, said on that same episode: “There’s universality in the idea that the sun eventually rises. That night becomes dawn, and that we all identify with the journey from despair to optimism.”

Working on these episodes with its roster of wise and passionate experts has been a balm for me in these times. Many others have felt the same way. Our first two seasons exceeded our expectations as listeners wrote in and told us they binge listened or listened to episodes twice to soak up all the wisdom. Last month, Don’t Call Me Resilient popped up on the Apple podcast app as a “New & Noteworthy” podcast. And this month, Don’t Call Me Resilient hit the Editor’s Picks of 2021 list. Listen in, and see what you think. I’d love to hear from you as we prepare for our next season. Write to me with story ideas or some of the ways you have been resilient this past year.

Vinita Srivastava

Producer + Host, Don't Call Me Resilient | Senior Editor, Culture + Society

Don't Call Me Resilient

Fists raised in solidarity for George Floyd in Charlotte, N.C. (Unsplash/Clay Banks)

Listen to ‘Don’t Call Me Resilient’: Our podcast about race

Vinita Srivastava, The Conversation

Don’t Call Me Resilient is a provocative podcast about race that goes in search of solutions for those things no one should have to be resilient for.