Finding community

Community support and economic solidarity are alive in Surrey in a safe, respectful and welcoming space for those committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and challenging traditional concepts of work.

Founded in 2015 and launched in 2017 in the Whalley area of Surrey, Solid State Community Industries is a working cooperative with approximately 19 different cohorts and serves and supports over 100 members and visitors. Solid State focuses on building up racialized youth under the age of 35 and individuals traditionally and/or systemically underrepresented, underserved or without full access to community support.

The commitment to cohorts is in providing support, encouragement and resources to grow their projects with the aim of learning and developing a culture of economic solidarity, new frameworks or paradigms. The objective is to develop and support the cohorts, allow them to grow and flourish and have them become financially self-sufficient and earn for their creative and community support talents.

A shared vision

Photo courtesy of Solid State Community Industries

Solid State, says co-director Mahado Hassan, has enabled her to find confidence and leadership qualities, redefining herself as a creative person.

“I have changed what I envision that I am capable of, what I aspire to do,” she adds.

For staff member WeiChun Kua, Solid State has the appeal of having a caring approach to both staff and cohort members with less hierarchy and a more democratic approach to decision-making.

“[It is a] different way of being. It draws me in and is more attractive than typical workplaces. People [here] are more focussed on the solidarity economy, a different work model that exists here. Not just a 9-5 or employee/employer. [It’s] of mental benefit without exploitation, feeling supported with a good use of our skills and talents and not taken advantage of,” he says.

Kua was inspired to become involved with Solid State as a result of his interest in pursuing climate activism and economic solidarity with the Climate Recentered cohort, building upon his work from his SFU student activism as a board member with the SFU Simon Fraser Student Society and SFU350.

The sentiment of mutual support, encouragement and growth is echoed by Kua.

“Solid State believes in people, from the staff to the cohorts, and really encourages them to pursue their passions. It is like they see something in you, and they say, ‘why don’t you take this on?’ They have the belief in you. It is not always about the next promotion, but they know you can do the job. The encouragement and the confidence building – I have seen similar growth in myself, the growth in my leadership skills and creating capacity to do more,” he says.

Solid State staff map. | Photo courtesy of Solid State Community Industries

The importance of a ‘living experience’

For Arshi Chadha, as a co-director of the Black Arts Centre, her involvement with one of the cohorts has been an eye-opening experience. She emphasizes the importance of the relationships formed through mentorship with Surrey high school students. Hassan agrees.

“I underestimated the impact that I could have. [Having them] trust me, look up to me as a safe person and having a mark on their personal lives, that I would be there for them, [it felt] beautiful and gratifying,” she says.

Chadha is also a keen believer that, in order for equity, diversity and inclusion to move further along the continuum to widespread appreciation and respect of all by all, it must be the people in those excluded or marginalized communities that do the work or contribute the ‘living experience’ to truly reflect the experience, conditions, challenges and successes of putting their artistry and talent forward.

“We are not as isolated as we think. It takes experience, imagination. You have to build and grow with it. Find your community and nurture it,” she says.

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