The dangers of a single narrative: How one TransLink employee is creating change

The dangers of a single narrative: How one TransLink employee is creating change

Folu Odunuga
Folu Odunuga

“I was never really aware of being black till I moved to Vancouver and saw very few people that looked like me”, says Folu Odunuga.

As Manager – Project Management Office at TransLink, and in her role as part of TransLink’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force, Folu has worked hard to bring her lived experience to create equitable spaces for everyone.

“A report done by Lean In & McKinsey talks about how Intersectionality is something most black women face,” says Folu.

“This speaks to barriers you face as a woman, including that of race. This is something that no other race or class experiences. This is one reason I make a conscious effort to talk to women, especially women of colour, about their family, their country, and their culture, to be the example I also seek.”

Folu is also a chapter lead of the TransLink Women + Allies Employee Resource Group which provides a forum where women feel connected through shared experiences and can support each other and be supported by their allies.

Having been born and raised in Nigeria, Folu is the youngest of her five siblings. After studying real estate management for her undergraduate degree, she started working at Jumia – Africa’s biggest online store.

In 2016, she decided to go back to school to pursue an MBA and moved back to Canada, after initially landing in 2014, to go to Vancouver Island University

After graduating, she landed a temporary job at TransLink, and since then, has worked her way up the proverbial corporate ladder and is now a manager.

Folu says some of her experiences revolve around overcoming stereotypes, that stemmed from a single story.

“This is very harmful,” she says.

“A very popular Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk on ‘The danger of a single story’ which summarizes the dangers (albeit unknown) that readers face because of a single narrative, from a single/group of like-minded individuals telling the same story over and over again.

Black History Month during February is the awareness of different lived experiences coming together to be talked about and celebrated.

“Suddenly, someone that has always seen things a certain way, has the opportunity to be enlightened, to have their horizons broadened and to most importantly, not suffer from the threats of a single story. Black History Month becomes successful if someone that suffers from a single story has been educated on the history/lived experiences of Black culture. It should not be a month; it should be about continuous learning of different histories and culture.”

In Folu’s opinion, “Diversity brings about uniqueness which is based on lived experiences shown through culture, style and upbringing. This helps bring diversity in ideas, decision-making and problem-solving scenarios. That is how we grow as an organization. Bringing in fresh/new ideas to solving problems ensure that we continue to grow and evolve in our pursuits for improved customer experience.”

She continues that the onus of educating oneself in the history and culture of others should not lay on those with lived experience. In order to become allies, Folu thinks it’s important to learn, read a book that talks about a culture or a belief different from yours.

“Follow pages about authors, poets, photographers that detail other cultures/lived experiences. Similar to how your social media algorithm expands/gets modified when you watch, like or follow pages with different view/culture than yours. This ensures that you do not go through life with tunnel vision/focused views. Be intentional about diversifying your knowledge base.”

For recommended reading, Folu points to Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie, Home Going by Yaa Gyasi, and Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi.