Watch the Commitment to Equity Virtual Town Hall

Watch the Commitment to Equity Virtual Town Hall

Calgary Arts Development is committed to bettering our systems regarding equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA). As a public agency stewarding public dollars for the benefit of ALL Calgarians, we aspire to foster a resilient and sustainable arts sector that is safe and welcoming for all, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, language, citizenship, creed, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, marital status, physical, or mental abilities.

The Commitment to Equity virtual town hall on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, focused on our commitment to racial equity.

In May of 2020 community organizers and social justice advocates Cesar Cala and JD Derbyshire organized an online chat and chew—an informal space for Calgary artists to get together and explore: “What is this moment asking of us?

Since then, the chat and chews, which were open invitations that anyone could join, have led to the formation of the Cultural Instigators, a group of artist-activists using their practices to effect change that will lead to greater racial equity in our city.

Riel Manywounds led the session, featuring members of the Cultural Instigators who shared information about the evolution of the group as well as a description of their major project Bringing Power to Truth.

The town hall was hosted on Zoom and was interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL). A transcript of the town hall is available below as well as an unedited version of the chat and a list of links that were shared.

Patti Pon: Hi, there. It’s Patti here from Calgary Arts Development. I want to welcome everybody to our Commitment to Equity Town Hall and today’s session I’m really looking forward to as we are welcoming members of the Cultural Instigators who are going to tell us more about a project they’re initiating called “Bringing Truth to Power.” Before we begin, we just have a few items to go over. In particular, for those of you who would like to access the ASL interpreters, we just want to be sure that for those of you who want to access it that you’re able to see and pin the interpreters before we get started with all of today’s proceedings. Natjelly is our technical person. She’s waving. And if you’re having any difficulties at all, and that goes for anybody, please reach out to Natjelly, and she will assist you any way she can.

Did I say “Bringing Truth to Power” again? I’m so sorry. It is “Bringing Power To Truth.” Always get that mixed up. Thank you very much for the correction.

Okay, so before we begin our proceedings, I would like to call upon my colleague, Cherie, who will offer us some things to keep in mind during our time together today. Over to you, Cherie.

Cherie McMaster: Thank you, Patti. This is Cherie speaking. Thanks for having me here today with you all. I’d like to review a few details about our Zoom setup and our group agreements for today’s event.

As Patti mentioned, Natjelly is running the event for us today on the tech side. So if you have any technical questions, or concerns, or issues throughout today’s event, please privately chat with her and she will be able to help you out.

There are two ASL interpreters with us today who will be spelling each other off. They are Eva Hawkins and Deborah Russell. Thank you so much to both of them for being here. If you require a multi-pin ability in order to pin those interpreters, please message Natjelly and she can set that up for you.

We request that once we get going, our audience turns off their cameras unless they are speaking or asking a question to ensure that the speakers and the interpreters remain visible throughout the event. You can hide your non-video participants using the three-dot menu in the upper corner of your video screen once you turn your camera off. And if you’re speaking, could you please remember to introduce yourself before you begin, so that we are able to acknowledge who is speaking each time?

For today we are using a transcription app called You’ll see a box, a red box at the top corner of your screen. If you would like to use it, you can click there. If you prefer to use the Zoom subtitles, you can click the live transcript button on the bottom of your Zoom screen. This meeting is being recorded for future reference and to share with folks who weren’t able to make this timing work to join us live. When we release the recording, we’ll include an accurate transcription with the recording. If you’ve joined us before, you’ll know that Calgary Arts Development uses group agreements to set, to set shared expectations and a commitment to safety and bravery in the spaces that we occupy together. Those agreements can be found in the instructions document that is being posted in the chat right now. And we’re also going to bring attention to the group agreements outlined by adrienne maree brown in her book, Emergent Strategy. Helen will put the link to those agreements in the chat as well. Those include the following:

Listen from the inside out or listen from the bottom up (the feeling in your gut matters).

Engage tension, don’t indulge drama.

Use the W.A.I.T. principle – WAIT – Why Am I Talking?

Make Space, Take Space—this is a post-ableist adaptation of step up, step back. It’s used to help balance the verbose, so using more words that are needed, with the reticent, which is not revealing your thought or your feelings readily.

Explore confidentiality. Use confidentiality. Take the lessons and leave out the details.

Be open to learning.

Be open to someone else speaking your truth.

Trying to build, not selling—when you speak, converse, don’t pitch.

Use yes/and, and both/and;

Value the process as much as, if not more than, you value the outcomes.

Assume best intent; attend to impact.

Remember self-care and community care, so pay attention to your bladder, pay attention to your neighbours.

In addition to the group agreements, I also want to recognize that asking people to share in this space is a request that requires emotional labour, labour and vulnerability. And Calgary Arts Development is committed to the promise that there will be no retribution against people for the stories or perspectives that they share. We ask that all participants commit to the same. Any participants who use harmful or disrespectful language or who are actively disregarding the group agreements will be asked to leave the town hall and if they choose not to leave, they will be removed. Today, Taylor Poitras’s role is to monitor the chat and the conversation as an active bystander.

Taylor, if you could turn on your camera, introduce yourself so that people can find you and share a little bit more about this role today.

Taylor Poitras: Yes, hello everyone. My name is Taylor Poitras. Please feel free to private chat with me at any time in today’s town hall if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If you see that a participant is using harmful or offensive language, or if you feel that the group agreements or the accountable space guidelines are not being respected in any way. Part of my role today as an active bystander is to help ensure that we are collectively adhering to the group agreements and any participants who break those agreements will be contacted directly by myself and if necessary, removed from the discussion. So yes, I’m available here. I’ve labelled myself as CADA Taylor Poitras (Active Bystander), so you can search me in the chat or in the participant’s area. And I encourage everyone to also be an active bystander in life, in these spaces. But as CADA’s staff and us hosting this space, it’s really important that we have someone dedicated to trying to ensure that this space remains safe and brave. Thanks so much, everyone.

Cherie: Thank you very much, Taylor. This is Cherie speaking again. Just a few more things. There will be time for questions after our invited guests share their thoughts with us. If you’d like to speak, please open the participants list which is at the bottom of your screen. And at the bottom of that list, you will see a raised hand. You can also indicate through the chat that you would like to share through the typed text there. You can use the three-dot menu on your screen to update your name and your pronouns if you wish. And Lesley Hinger from Calgary Arts Development will be collecting questions from the chatbox and watching for those raised hands. We’ll try to get to as many people as possible in this short time. And again, if you have any questions or challenges with technology or accessibility, please let Natjelly know. So now I’d like to call on my colleague, Sable Sweetgrass to start us off in a good way. Sable.

Helen Moore-Parkhouse: I don’t think Sable is with us as of yet. So, Patti, I wonder if you might take this on.

Patti: Absolutely. Oki. <<Speaking in Blackfoot>>. Hello in Blackfoot. I just shared with you my Blackfoot name that I was recently gifted this summer as a tremendous honour. <<Patti’s Blackfoot name>> stands for two standing head dress women. Please excuse the puppies barking in the background. I am actually speaking with you from the ancestral traditional and unceded territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen First Nations that is now known as Surrey, British Columbia. I have been working out here for the last couple of weeks and it’s been a great pleasure to share and steward the land from this part of Turtle Island.

All of you I know, are, many I think, most of you as I look at the participants list are sharing in today’s call from my home territory, which is the original land of the Blackfoot peoples Niitsitapi comprised of the Piikani, Kainai, Siksika First Nations. Also, we have other nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy: Tsuut’ina; Nakoda people comprised of the Bearspaw, Wesley Kainai-Blood, Chiniki and Wesley First Nations, and of course the Metis People of Alberta Region 3. I will come home this weekend and I will look forward to coming home and again, taking my place in the circle in Mohkinsstsis. And being with all of you there again. I think it’s been an interesting time.

Yesterday I had a great pleasure again of speaking with an elder who works with us from the Kainai Nation, Saa’kokoto. And many of you, some of you were involved in that conversation. And he shared with us that recent events in Mohkinsstsis that in Nose Hill Park in particular resulted in the vandalism of a sacred and ceremonial site out of Nose Hill Park. And he reminded us that when these instances and occurrences happen, that might sadden us or anger us, that it is on us to find the positive and to look for ways to make this a good day when these instances happen. And I think that, in thinking about that conversation, that I had the pleasure of being a part of it, it reminded me, or I thought about today’s conversation that will be guided by members of the Cultural Instigators, as they share with us really extraordinary project that they have originated and are underway with called “Bringing Power to Truth.” And similarly, I think many of the questions and the conditions that the Cultural Instigators are addressing through this work are ones that I know can be very difficult to face and to confront, and to share more broadly. And I applaud the instigators and I am so thrilled that you have all agreed to be a part of our conversation today in the circle. And on that note, I would like to hand over to Riel Manywounds to lead us through this conversation with her colleagues today. Over to you Riel Manywounds.

Riel Manywounds: Hi, everyone, welcome. Oh, apologies if there’s noise in the background. My son’s in school right now. My name is Riel Manywounds. I am from Tsuut’ina Nation on my mother’s side. On my dad’s side, he is from Nak’azdli territory, which is in central interior, BC. He belongs to the frog clan. He is descendant of Dene. Tsuut’ina is also descendant of Dene. And then my grandmother was a Goodeagle from Siksika, so I’m also part Blackfoot. Yeah, I’m grateful to be here. Thank you. I’m a Cultural Instigator with the Indigenous spiral. And I’m just going to sort of like guide everybody through today’s presentation.

I’m actually going to introduce jaqs, who is going to speak about the history to how we’ve come to be at this point.

jaqs gallos aquines: Hello. My name is jaqs gallos aquines. And my parents are from the islands of Panaon Leyte which are now colonially known as the Philippines. I was born in the Kanien’kéha Nation, which is now colloquially known as Montreal. And I’m part of the culture instigators and also the community working group. And I am very grateful to be part of working with Patti and Taylor and the rest of CADA.

Okay, I’m just gonna get this slideshow going here.

I can’t see anybody. So here we go. Yeah.

Oh, so this project started out probably about last June, in 2020, led and supported by JD Derbyshire and Cesar Cala. And this project started out with a discussion about how to deal with and address the impact of COVID on the artist community. So, this is a timeline of how it came to be. So, as you can see, on May 25, 2020, it was the murder of George Floyd, which launched the conversation to move into conversations around anti-racism and Black Lives Matter, and also speaking about how Indigenous rights are being impacted by all of the stress and the movement of what’s on how equitable spaces are not being clearly defined by who’s impacted the most.

So, June 2 was when that first conversation happened, and then June, but multiple conversations around that, in July, more discussions around braver spaces, accountable spaces, which is where we lead these conversations.

And then, in August, there was an announcement by the City of Calgary to have an anti-racism capacity-building grant, which we all like the citizen artists who, participants who are in these Chat & Chews began these brainstorming activities where we all shared ideas of what we’d like to see happen with the grants that we would be pitching. And originally it was multiple grants, but to disrupt the funding system to decolonize wealth, instead of having us all pitched $5,000, 10,000 grants, we decided to make a huge program like as if we were one organization even though the Cultural Instigators is not incorporated or even a registered society. And we were able to write this grant through TRUCK Contemporary Arts. And we built a budget of $250,000 with and first just asked for $79,000 from The City of Calgary. I’ll get to the funders in a second. But yeah, we were able to get all the funds that we asked for.

And so then, in January, this group of people of the Cultural Instigators was fully formed where we had, we started out with just a few when these conversations began. And then oops. And then February, the Black-led spiral launched and Wunmi Idowu will talk about that after. And then, we had a hiring process for three coordinators. And it was just Cultural Instigators who were carrying the coordination of partnership agreements, just having meetings, every week we have a meeting with the Cultural Instigators. So, there are four. I’ll show. Well, we’ll get to that.

And then in August, the Indigenous-led spiral and the Racialized-led spiral started our activities as well.

And then September 21, there was a Chat & Chew on, “Are you ready to hear the truth that every child matters?” to, it was a day just before Treaty 7 day to discuss the lives lost and the impact of a continual genocide of people like the and how we can contribute to land back and how we’re shifting perceptions that have been programmed into many of the ways that we move and navigate spaces. And then we are now moving towards a grappling which is to culminate in May 28 after each spiral will continue on. Riel will get to that in a minute.

So, I’m going to talk about the funders next, where we have oh, there’s a link in oh, that was. Thanks. Thanks, Helen. Helen just dropped the link in the chat for the September 21 Chat & Chew. City of Calgary, we won $79,014 from the anti-racism capacity building fund. It’s very sensitive. And then Calgary Foundation we submitted for the pandemic recovery which meant we got $75,000 and then Calgary Foundation and then Calgary Council was another $75,000, (I said it too many times) and Calgary Arts Development also offered $25,000. So, in total, it’s 250,000. If I said $75,000 too many times just, it’s $250,000. So, these are our funders. Thank you, all of you.

And then here are our partners. For since we wrote the grant through, we wrote The City of Calgary grant through TRUCK, we dispersed the funds through USAY – The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth and Woezo Africa for both the Indigenous-led spiral and the Black-led spiral. And then Stride Gallery – Areum Kim was gracious enough to lead the grant writing for the Canada Council Sector Innovation grant. And Inside Out Theatre is currently holding the funds from the Calgary Foundation for the Pandemic Recovery grant, and for the Racialized-led spiral which you will see in a moment. Okay. That’s all I got. Over to you Riel.

Riel: Alright. So, I think what I was. I joined this Indigenous-led spiral as a cultural instigator in April. I was invited by Kelli Morning Bull, who reached out to me through email and was saying, like we’ve heard of work you’ve done, and we’d like you to be a part of this project. And I was like, sure this sounds interesting and exciting. And then so I jumped on and joined the meetings and just sort of contributed as an Indigenous woman from Tsuut’ina and also as a mother, a person who is passionate about helping with the admin arts in the City of Calgary, in regards to decolonization, in regards to inclusion, in regards to speaking my truth always. I think that’s what I’m really well known for. And I think that this project here helps me to feel safe within that, which is one of the most powerful things I think about when I meet with these people. You know, I feel like I’m dedicated to helping with the hiring process. It’s because it’s a platform that for me as an Indigenous woman that I feel is super safe. So I think that Bringing Power to Truth is very much a good title for it.

And then I want to describe, to explain this spiral sort of like circular thing. At first it was a penguin spiral. But then we sort of like once we met and we discussed, we sort of like switched it to this sort of look because for us, like for me, this is more of Indigenous sort of way like we gather in circle. We, we give thanks to the four corners. You know, the circular structure is very much a way that we view the seasons we view life, everything is sort of in a circle. I think from you know, so you can see in the center, the Indigenous-led spiral is in the centre. And this is super important to us because I think that when we think about Canada and Canadians and everything that exists today is built upon this broken relationship with Indigenous people. I come from Nak’azdli which is in BC, which is unceded territory. And there’s no treaty and I also belong to Tsuut’ina, which is treaty. So, both relationships have been broken since the beginning – treaty, non-treaty. So, now we see, you know, with I just think that you know, Canada has, there’s just, they keep moving forward, and there’s not enough reflection, there’s not enough, I guess pause and like sort of like a truth to what has happened to Indigenous people and what continues to happen. And like, basically Canada is hiding from the fact that, you know, this relationship is broken, and they have, there’s a lot that they have to do on their side for it to be sort of reconciled. I don’t think reconciliation is anywhere near. Like I think that we have platforms now. Our truth is out there. But there’s still a lot of work for Canada to do. So, it’s the centre because that that broken relationship bleeds out into all the other spirals, so the Black-led spiral, the Racialized-led spiral and the, the rest of like sort of City of Calgary. So yeah, it’s basically us like sort of always centering these discussions and making sure that like the last Chat & Chew we did was just super powerful for me. I think that you know, we brought in some Tsuut’ina Elders. We had just a really good discussion. And I think that’s, like, we can move ahead and sort of have this idea of what decolonization means or what reconciliation in the workplace means. But if we actually don’t speak the actual truth, and, you know, make those platforms and spaces safe for Indigenous people to speak their truth, we’re not going to get anywhere.

I think that yeah, I just think that we’re like there’s an idea of how this relationship can grow better. And be better but until the hard truth of the colonial genocidal state is clear to everyone, and we demand better from our leadership, we will demand better from these companies that are, you know, very much leading the government in their direction that nothing’s going to be, nothing will ever be in, you know, in harmony, or nothing will be ever honourable for Canada.

And I just wanted to say that so I guess we can move to the next spiral. I mean, the next so. These are all the Cultural Instigators, and I must say that everyone looks really good in these photos. I really like this because we meet every week, but this is really good. So, we have Kelli Morning Bull with the Indigenous-led spiral, myself Riel, and Jarret Twoyoungmen with the Indigenous, Jared Tailfeathers also with the Indigenous. And then the Black-led spiral is Wunmi, Priscille, Chantal, Omatta. And then the racialized is Pam and jaqs. We did recently hired the coordinators so they’re in the next slide, or we have. So, we did recently do hiring for sort of coordinators for each spiral based on our budget and based on yeah, just someone who could take on more than what each of the Cultural Instigators could take on based on, you know, like we’re involved in different things in our community. So, we have Jasmine Piper as our Indigenous-led spiral coordinator. Wunmi is the coordinator of the Black-led spiral. We have Chantal Palmer as the Racialized-led spiral, and Allan Rosales as the overarching spiral coordinator. And also want to shout out to JD and Cesar, who are continual support, who are, who speak their truths and who hold that space as sort of like, more like elderly. Yeah, they are solid and they’re always there to remind us of, you know, keeping that balance. That’s what I think. Both of them, yeah, so just would like to give my thanks to them as well.

And then if we go to the next slide. So now we’re gonna get into each of the spirals. We have invited a rep from each spider. I mean “spiral” sorry to talk about. I’m still in the Halloween thing. Each spiral rep to come and discuss these questions based on our experiences or what we’ve been doing in the spiral. So, sorry.

So, I guess we can start with a central spiral. And then I just encourage everyone like I introduced you by your name, but if you were to come, introduce yourself and your role and sort of like what you’ve done. So, with the Indigenous-led spiral, I’d like to invite Kelli Morning Bull to come and speak.

Kelli Morning Bull: Awesome. Thanks Riel. Hello. <<speaking in Blackfoot>>. I just want to welcome everybody today. Thanks, Patti for the land acknowledgement. And I missed the bit at the beginning. I was, had some tech issues. I just wanted to first off thank Calgary Arts Development for this opportunity to bring us together, and to start looking at how we can create equitable, and you know anti-racist spaces for People of Colour, Indigenous, and Black people that reside here in the Treaty 7 area. We specifically work in Mohkinsstsis, Calgary and to talk about first to take our own experiences, our own personal lived experiences, our own professional experiences and tried to bring those perspectives together to create harmony or a better place for us to all thrive and live together.

One of the first things you know we had a lot of conversations at the beginning of the, at the beginning of this whole entire cultural instigator group and there was a lot of discussions around what we need to bring to the table, what we can bring and for the Indigenous-led spiral, you know, that question of bringing power to truth. What is bringing power to truth? What are the things that we need that we could bring to the forefront here in the city of Calgary to help educate our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters to understand who it is and where we’re coming from. A lot of it was historical context. For you know, that was sort of the common theme that we had recognized through our conversations in the beginning. And then as we broke out into our individual led spirals, that truth piece was really important. And for us, it was that historical-cultural context of people who reside here in Treaty 7 area don’t even know Treaty 7. They don’t know the communities. They don’t, they don’t know that we are distinct in our own communities, in our own languages, that we have a history and that we have this beautiful culture that we could share, and, but also help us to heal as we move forward in our journey.

It was also really important to have representation from each of the communities you know, and one of the things that we had noticed in the beginning is we didn’t have direct representation from Tsuut’ina. We had people that we can connect with, but it was just that it just made it stronger and strengthened our circle if we had representation from each one. So, myself, I am from Piikani, which is about two and a half hours south from Calgary. And I’ve been living in the city of Calgary for 15 years. 10, 12 of those years I’ve been a practicing artist and I haven’t always been, I haven’t always felt like I was being represented, or that I was being invited into a safe space. And you know, and so that took a toll on me as a, as a, as a person and as an individual, but also as a Blackfoot nation member living in my own territory and feeling like I didn’t belong here. And so, it was really important that we share some of these experiences through um through the work that we’re doing and that we’re trying to lead and help to build better relationships, because at the end of the day, it all it all comes down to community, building, respectful and reciprocal relationships with each of these communities. We understood that we need to bring in our elders and our knowledge keepers into this, into this project because they’re essentially our teachers. They are our leaders. They’re the ones that are going to provide us with the information and the knowledge that we need to develop this, this project that we’re working towards. As people are starting to learn, a lot of our, a lot of our knowledge is passed down orally. And it’s been passed down generation to generation. And so, we want to keep that going. We want to keep our own holistic cultural methodologies of practice into play, into this current world that we live in. And so that we are leading our own stories. We’re leading our history because it hasn’t always been told that way. And so, through the work that we have done through the Indigenous spiral is treaties. That was number one.

Speaking about treaties, specifically treaty number 7. The signing of the treaty, who was there to sign treaty – there’s a lot of misconceptions around exactly what is a treaty and people will often think that it is a, it is an agreement of the past. But it is very well much current today and a lot of people benefit, not just Indigenous people, but a lot of non-Indigenous people benefit from the treaties itself. So, we wanted to play with that and but bring it in an interactive, fun way where we can teach, you know, some concrete concepts and ideologies about the people of Treaty 7, and who are they and where did they reside? And what is the difference between each of these distinct nations? Those are some of the things that we wanted to bring forward. But we also understood that yes, we are in Treaty 7, yes, we have specific nations that are connected to treaty number seven, but we also have this community of, diverse community of Indigenous people that live here in the City of Calgary and we didn’t want to leave, we didn’t want to leave them out. We wanted to invite them into this project so that they can be a part of it because they also live here too. A lot of people, this is their home. This is where, you know, this is where they were born. And so, for us to say this isn’t your hometown was, it’s completely unacceptable. We can’t. We can’t do that if we want to remain a true inclusive group. So, we have invited Indigenous artists within Treaty 7 who reside here to be a part of this Treaty 7 Trivial Game Walk. The title is a work in progress right now. That’s sort of what we what we’ve called it. But through our work with USAY, originally, this this was supposed to be in person. We were going to do it sort of like the Jeopardy, Family Feud game style, but then we realized through COVID, we needed to shift if we wanted to remain, keep that interactive component in place. And so, when we started meeting with USAY, in the earlier part of the year and getting them on board, they had presented us Indigitrails, which I hadn’t personally gone to, but it is based on GPS coordinates, and an app and so each coordinate has a specific question or narration story that pertains to Treaty 7. And so, people as you’re walking through this, you would go from coordinate to coordinate, and you’d be posed with these questions about Treaty 7, and you know, and that sort of that interactive piece. And, and, and in COVID times it works really well because it stops people from gathering unless you’re sort of within your cohort. But you can sort of do this at any given time. And so, we are trying to, we’ve developed a list of themes that we wanted to work with within the artists and provide them with knowledge keepers of the area. One of the requirements is that they would read the true spirit and original intent of Treaty 7, because that is a, that is an oral, these are oral stories and knowledge, stories that have been shared by our Indigenous, by our Elders in our communities. And it’s from an Indigenous perspective that isn’t always shared throughout. It’s often you know, a different, somebody else is always telling our stories. So, this gives us the opportunity to tell our story from our perspective, from our knowledge keepers who would then be included into all of this. And so, we’re trying to keep everything as you know, based on community working directly with the Indigenous people here in Mohkinsstsis and making sure that they have the proper access to knowledge and, you know, to equipment, and you know, goes beyond knowledge, it’s the technical stuff, and so providing these to reduce as many barriers as we can you know. And another one of the big things was making sure that everybody got paid accordingly. Paying all of the artists, paying our knowledge keepers every time we bring them in. And you know, making sure that when we bring in our, when we bring in knowledge keepers and Elders into these spaces that we’re not tokenizing them and we’re not bringing them into a space where we’re creating an awkward situation for them. And so, there’s a lot of work that goes behind it when we work with our Elders and knowledge keepers and you know, and thankfully, you know, we have some really amazing people within the Indigenous spiral who already understand a lot of this work. So that too was part of, you know, the success of this of this project was making sure that we had people that understood the historical and colonial context of what has happened today and you know, and it’s been really tough, especially in September with the well, back in May, when the discovery of the 215, that was really hard on a lot of Indigenous people and, you know, sometimes we’re constantly retraumatized. And so that’s part of you know, the reasoning for our timelines is because we also need a time to grieve collectively and individually in our own spaces and make ourselves feel safe because this is very triggering work. And no matter where you are in your healing journey, it’s still really hard to grasp sometimes and so, this is where we’re at. We are. We’ve identified some artists that are going to start the work. USAY has been a huge part of this project and moving it forward, and as well as the other instigators and we’re hoping to unveil and launch the event in January. What we’re hoping we will be launching, will be unveiling the event in January, and then we’ll be doing the grappling but after January. This is. The beauty about this project is that it could live on for as long as it needs to because it’s in a digital space. You know, there’s, there’s no reason to tear down anything. It just stays within sort of the digital world. And so that’s the beauty that it can continue to live on. And hopefully, people will, you know, use this as a tool to educate themselves, their families, their schools, their friends, but just a really fun and interactive way for us to share our truth about our home in our community. So, thank you.

Riel: Thank you so much, Kelli. That was amazing. Good job. So, we’re gonna move on to the Black-led spiral. I’m asking Wunmi to come and speak on that.

Wunmi Idowu: Thank you so much and good afternoon everyone. Calgary Arts Development Authority, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak. My name is Wunmi Idowu – Founder and director of Woezo Africa Music and Dance Theatre Incorporated. We’ve been around for 15 years initially from Edmonton, but we moved to Calgary about nine years ago. I’m originally from Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa, and I moved to Canada when I was 10. I’m also the Black-led spiral coordinator. But this is really dear to me. This black arts development program as it came from a situation of having a challenge and trying to find a solution for that challenge. In 2017, Woezo African Music and Dance Theatre created Unganisha, it was a Swahili word for connection. And what we basically wanted to do with that was to celebrate diversity in the African diaspora communities by creating supportive spaces, platforms, programming for diverse diasporic community members that were impacted by complex realities of discrimination and racism. And then Unganisha explore, connect, dance production, which was also supported by Calgary Arts Development back in 2017, is a Black History Month production that focuses on dance genres that came from the African, enslaved Africans that were brought to the US, Cuba Caribbean, etc. And those art forms were created from trying to hold on to the dance of their heritage, their culture, their identity, and creating contemporary dance styles, such as hip hop, jazz, etc. And we’ve been having success with this production for the past five years and it was an amalgamation of a play that was written by a playwright. We also had local dancers perform nine dance genres that focus on the history and also have the archival footage and documentaries to kind of tie it together so people can really see that we’re not just making it up that these art forms did come from enslaved Africans. So they already had that knowledge and that base and that vocabulary of dance before being stolen and brought overseas. So the production basically was an opportunity for us to be able to showcase the history of dance. Because dance is my original artistic practice, and I’ve been dancing since the age of three, but also allow Black artists to be on stage, which was something that was missing in Calgary at the time that I came.

I did not see black representative on stage. I didn’t see them at theatres. I didn’t see them anywhere. So I wanted to create an opportunity with this organization to bring together this production, as well as showcase amazing Black artists. The problem was that we could not find storytellers. And we could not find dancers, nor could we find actors that were Black. And that has been an issue since 2017. And each time we did the production, we realized I think we were still having the same issue. So in 2019, we decided to launch a story writing competition for the Black, African and Caribbean communities. And we had a theme in 2019. And the theme was focused on “Discovery.” We had 17 writers submit their applications. They were going to win $1,000 for the the winner of the writing competition, and we got a winner out of 17 writers. Only two or three of the written documents were worthy of even being produced because of the lack of understanding, the lack of writing style, etc. And we saw that again in 2020, when we did the exact same competition to try to bring stories out from the diaspora of African artists. And that’s the same issue. We saw 14 submissions and only one person won $500 and the theme for that was “Rebirth.” And at the time we were wondering why aren’t their stories being shared? Because there’s a lack of training, there’s a lack of development of these artists. And then for the acting part of it, too. We weren’t able to find Black actors. Black actors that we did find they’re rarely, they were wildly not produced. They were always, you know, being on stage. The theatre companies snatched them up. The film snatched them up. So we didn’t have you know, other you know, emerging artists that will be able to be in this space and feel comfortable enough to be able to be in a production of 90 minute-long acting.

So we decided the Black Arts Development Program was the next step. The Black Arts Development Program consists of six sections that focus on theatre, film for script writers and actors, dance, visual arts, media and music. And the two primary components of the Black Arts Development Program are training and mentorship. The program was created and designed with Black artists in mind by providing emerging and pre-professional artists, the tools and practical knowledge to take the next step in artistic journey, centering an environment where the African Caribbean and Black diaspora culture can thrive and flourish in Calgary. So we partnered up with various arts organizations, institutions, universities and businesses in Calgary for this project to address the structural changes and reform all systems to move to a place of renewed support that will help contribute to the thriving presence of Black theatre, Black film, Black dance, Black media, Black music and Black visual arts in Calgary. Can you go to the next slide, please?

We have just concluded the theatre.

Helen: Wunmi. Excuse me.

Wunmi: Yes.

Helen: Can I just ask you to speak a little bit more slowly?

Wunmi: Oh, sure.

Helen: Thank you very much.

Wunmi: You’re so welcome. Thank you.

Can I go to the next slide, please? Thank you.

We have concluded the theatre and film section of the program, which focused on scriptwriting and actors training of 33 African Caribbean and Black artists aged 18 and above virtually all online. The Black Arts Development Program teamed up with award-winning professionals who are instructors such as Fiona Clarke, Janelle Cooper from Toronto, Cheryl Foggo, Omatta Udalor from Calgary, and Jesse Lipscombe from Edmonton for the six weeks, 18-hour scriptwriting and actors workshop. Next slide, please.

The Black Arts Development Program workshop began in June and ended in September 2021. The actors workshop focused on techniques of acting including action, dialogue and character development, managing the strategies and developing the skills necessary for stage actors with an introduction to acting on screen. The scriptwriting workshop focuses on developing the skills necessary for a playwright with an introduction to scriptwriting. And at the end of the scriptwriting workshop, the two cohorts produce a 10 minute-play, 20 in total, all based on the unifying theme of the Black experience. It is intended that these plays will be pitched and produced in collaboration with a theatre organization locally based in Mohkinsstsis using art actors and scriptwriters who are predominantly from the acting workshop. The program was free for the participants and the successful applicants were also required to pay a $100 refundable commitment fee and that was returned to them once they completed the program. The selected participants received $500. A total of $16,500 was dispensed into the pockets of these Black artists for successfully completing the program.

Through this training and the creative process, Black-led experience was acknowledged and empowered. In addition, Black Calgarian voices were able to shape the narratives and representation of Black Calgarians. We also started connecting with theatre companies and organizations in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, who are probably committed to the 35/50 initiative. As of November 2021, we’ll be hosting a networking mixer that would introduce all 33 participants of the Black Arts Development Program to all these other networks. We have created an opportunity for both cohorts, instructors, theatre professionals from various theatre organizations in Calgary and acting agents from the film industry to network with each other.

Next slide, please.

They will have the opportunity to ask questions,  to pitch their scripts, engage with one another and with other professional Black artists to provide guidance about the art sector. We will also have networking activities and music and authentic African and Caribbean cuisine to go along with the networking events. We have also started planning for the dance section of the Black Arts Development Program. The dance workshop will invite five guest artists who are instructors to lead three weeks of dance intensives for 40 African, Caribbean and Black participants ranging from the age of five and over in July 2022. These instructors will be travelling from Africa, Ethiopia and South Africa. They’ll be coming from the US, Denver and Washington and also will have the tap dancer from Calgary bringing over 20 years of experience to dance forms to the black artists here in Calgary that do not have the access.

The Black Arts Development Program training intensive is free. With added incentives of honorarium to the 20 youth participants who will receive $50 each, and 20 adult participants will receive $200 each. And I want to thank Calgary Arts Development for being able to fund our Black Arts Development Program dance components. Our point is to continue to encourage Calgarians to critically evaluate their consumption of performing arts, media imagery and messages with the aim of identifying and dismantling decisive stereotypes, breaking down cultural barriers and promoting more inclusivity across all aspects of social living in the city.

Next slide, please.

So the question is how do we create an anti-racism Calgary? Anti-Black racism has been detrimental and impactful in our lives and in the workplace here in Calgary. Many people are angry and frustrated. Aside from dealing with COVID-19, the city continues to grapple with racism and anti-Blackness. A critical part of disrupting and dismantling anti-Blackness is a recognition that the problem exists with systematic foundations, in colonialism, white supremacy and racism. We need to also confront the issues by pursuing anti-oppression, anti-racism and cultural competency training. Look at each structure and system individually. Think about how anti-Black racism is inhibited in each system and then ask yourself what you are doing to actively disrupt these systems. How does anti-Blackness look in your workplace? Are Black people being hired, paid, promoted at comparable rates as their counterparts? If not, how can you advocate for those changes? Who are the policymakers within your organization? I believe using the power and privilege to push for change is the way to make an answer is this Calgary.

Black people have lived through emotional mental and physical abuse for too long, fewer Black-led stories get told and when they are told these projects have been constantly underfunded and undervalued. The Black Arts Development Program built into cultural relations, trust and understanding and also challenged racism, hate and systemic barriers. The 35/50 initiative with a commitment is an actionable plan and we’re utilizing that initiative to be able to bring forth Black African and Caribbean artists who are theatre and scriptwriters, as well as actors to be able to be seen and assist them with using what they have learned from the Black Arts Development Program into their professional system that has been already created in the arts centre. I’m going to move it to Priscille who’s going to finish the presentation, but I would like you to go to slide number 20, please.


Priscille Buckahsa: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Priscille. I’m the project coordinator for the Black Arts Development Program. I’m the first point of contact of delivering the BAD program or questions about the program as a whole. I’m also part of the Cultural Instigators, as well I’m a spoken word artist here in Calgary. I’ve been living here in Calgary for 22 years. I’m originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So the challenges and the obstacles that we faced, creating this program, essentially, we had no references for this program. You add on the pandemic, we have to shift from a learn in-person, learning experience to an online workshop. We had to figure out the technical side of it, of having the program online. How long would it be? How many hours? How many students would we have in each class, their learning outcome, creating the course outline? And because this is an emerging process, there were a lot of obstacles we had to face. In the initial stages, we did a lot of research and ongoing meetings with arts organizations, focus on developing Black scripts and writers such as the NIA center, and the Black TV and Film Collective, meetings with Black arts organization as well: Obsidian Theatre, Be Current, and Soulpepper for support in strategic planning and mentorship. We faced the challenge of finding Black actors and scriptwriters that were experienced in teaching students. The program needed to have substitute teachers available; however, we weren’t able to find the second one in Calgary. We had two of our teachers. They were from Toronto, and one of them we got in contact with through the NIA Center, which was Fiona Clark. Another challenge that we face is we had a deaf artist in our scriptwriting workshop who expressed the importance of having a Black ASL interpreter to support her since the space was solely for Black communities, that required research to find nationwide because, in Calgary, there were no Black ASL interpreters. So we had to search. Luckily, she had two references that were not from Calgary, and we were able to book and they were there online with us for the six weeks.

Next slide.

So what did we learn? We learned that this program is something that has been lacking in our community for Black artists to experience and learn from other Black professional actors and scriptwriters. Many applicants utter the same sentiments such as the desire to learn from somebody that looks like them, the availability of the program in Calgary, and inexperienced artists who are eager to learn about acting in scriptwriting, and the opportunity to learn from other artists as well who are on the same journey. Kuicmar, a participant of the Black Arts development program, act, program actors’ workshop audition and got a lead role from Smell The Coffee – a brand-new Afro-Canadian TV situation comedy series. This series is working towards smashing negative Black stereotypes, celebrating positive truth in diverse cultures while increasing black representation and Canadian entertainment. These are some of the quotes that we got from the applicant and some who finished the program and I’m just going to read that out to you.

“The Black Arts Development Program is an amazing opportunity to not only flesh out my talents in a safe and controlled environment but also meet actors who come from the same background as me and have encountered the same struggles that I have. This program is the best way for me to improve in an environment with my peers, and not only grow as an actress, but as a human being as well.”

“They have also gone further and taken the initiative to fill a gap of artists development. In the arts, especially in Canadian art spaces, it is difficult to find programs that speak to the Black experience. After completing the scriptwriting workshop they provided this summer I’m happy to say that I’ve learned many valuable lessons from my peers and grew as a writer as well as my ambition to positively share my culture as a Nigerian Canadian to enrich the collective Canadian arts view.”

We had 49 submissions for the first cohort, and we were only able to accept 20 applicants from both workshops. Out of the 29 that did make the program, nine of them were from other cities or provinces. We had people from Ottawa, from Vancouver, a lot from Edmonton. We had 18 submissions for the second cohort as well for ages 30 and over. Being part of this emerging strategy or process, we are seeing that people in our community are responding to us by letting us know that there is a desire to see these types of art programs available to them to help them develop as an artist and grow as an artist specifically in Calgary so that they stay in Calgary. Thank you very much. I will pass it onto the next person.

Riel: All right, thank you. Is that everything from the Black-led spiral?

Priscille: Yes, it is.

Riel: Okay, awesome. Thank you. That was super rich and so full. And I love the positive feedback. And I’m going to move on now to the Racialized-led spiral, which will be led by jaqs.

 Jaqs: Jaqs speaking. I’m also going to have Pam Tzeng come on in a minute. So we’re the third spiral. And, and I’m just gonna read this, to address the intersection of human rights and labour rights through multidisciplinary arts that speak to the culture of silence in racialized cultures. And how that contributes to the lack of race-based data.

This spiral came out of the discussion around how like initiatives, such as amazing ones that ActionDignity does that act and racism by Teresa Woo-Paw, have activated in discovering the impact of racism on Asian communities has very, doesn’t have as much data on how Asian communities are being impacted. But for the main reason, because many of us don’t feel comfortable reporting it. I think the way that immigration has shaped how we arrive as immigrants, my parents, other generations, people my age or younger, the way that migration shapes how Asian communities, Middle Eastern, North African, Latinx communities arrive, are to seek out more possibility and and more possibility and economic options. For … I’m gonna speak from the Filipino community. Many people are often sending remittance home, so not wanting to disrupt that work flow and lead by speaking out against any racist acts that they may be subjected to within the workplace where they are possibly in precarious work situations and contributes to the lack of race-based data. And again, this whole project is built around stolen lives, stolen labour, and stolen land. And how we get here is all about survival often, and that survival scarcity modality can shape how we navigate as advocates for ourselves and for those who are impacted by systemic racism. Even coming from colonized spaces, there’s very little understanding of, of how we can disrupt systemic barriers. But I’m learning so much from the work that we’ve been doing, also the work that I’ve been doing with Cesar Cala and Marichu Antonio, and friends, the Philippines rising groups who are constantly doing work to support the Filipino community where there are gaps that that perhaps social services or our governments may not be able to provide.

So the main question that we arrived at was, of course, “How do we build an anti-racist Calgary and how do we disrupt our understanding of how we’re even contributing to it?” And, and we first wanted to recognize that the Racialized-led spiral is not a monolith. We needed to make sure that we had representation from every, from groups that that it’d be intentional. So we have folks from Asia and Mena, and also Latinx. And we also just wanted to make sure that seeing, learning more about the depth of the differences that we have can also shape how we can navigate in a way that it’s a bit more inclusive.

So I’m going to go to this first slide here. We shaped this project, shaped this project with the idea that we would first have, our first meeting was in August. Our first meeting was in August, and we met with the 10 artists that are currently involved. It was outdoor, of course, in an open space, at ContainR, and that was the first time we were able to meet. That was one of my first meetings with people in person. And, and we’re just getting to know each other at this point. And the next part of this project is to have storytelling and convening, learning and hearing from knowledge keepers.

We’re very lucky to have right now amazing people who are mentors of mine and mentors of my mentors, so Marichu Antonio, Teresa Woo-Paw, and Amal Umar. We also have for the artists, there is Allan Rosales, Onda Mahmood, Nurgul Rodriguez, Teresa Tam, Jiajia Li, Kara Bullock, Rocio Graham, Sleman AlDib, as well as Pam Tzeng and myself. And what we’re looking to see happen with the storytelling is to ask those questions on how how our knowledge keepers have navigated in the advocacy work that they’ve been doing as leaders of community so that we can even, even have, that, that’s our research, part of the research, so that we have a context from Treaty 7 and also understand how they navigate their own lineage and relationship to land. And I think those are really important ways of being able to disrupt white supremacist culture, the ways that we navigate in in these systems. So I think I’ll, I don’t know if Pam wants to add anything right now. That’s my final thought for that.

Pam, do you want to say anything? I can’t see you.

Pam Tzeng: I’m here. Hi everyone, Pam Tzeng here (she/her). Born in Mohkinsstsis. Family from the sweet potato island, looking island named Taiwan.

Yeah, I think one of the things which we’ll probably touch on a little bit later, possibly is also like inviting wisdom keepers, knowledge keepers is to create an opportunity where we can harvest some ideas for the creation of these capacity-building projects for all the artists involved, and to really think about, because these knowledge keepers have so much wisdom around activism and different ways like grassroots to more larger policy level work, that we would be able to begin to think about that as well as artists like how as artists can we impact policy too, and it’s a thread that may emerge as we go along.

But jaqs, I can pass it back to you to speak about the rest unless you like me to jump in. Let me know. Thank you.

jaqs: jaqs speaking. Yeah, so the current issue that we’re looking at within this large, diverse group of racialized people is that we’re all impacted by racism in different ways. And learning about how that happens is by talking by, of course, doing research, but also by getting to know people’s lived experiences. And these conversations are instrumental and essential to how we’re to build this, these, these initiatives that we’re to pitch. So just going back to what the grappling oh, maybe I’ll let Allan do that. But we’re developing certain small projects either through pods of affinity, whether it’s or by, whether it’s by, you know, certain interests or by themes or by discipline. And because we have, we have writers, actors, musicians, visual artists, and there are multiple ways of how those combinations can become something. So learning about how we want to first share is probably going to be a big part of the next few months.

And yeah, I think I think that being able to speak to those different experiences is how we’re going to have to. We’re gonna be able to learn more from each other. So I think we’ve also been quite siloed in many ways, which is why these cross-cultural discussions also eliminate some similarities in our experiences. I think erasure is one major part about the immigration process of how languages don’t necessarily translate from parents to children, from some in certain, well, I’ll just say for my culture. But I think there’s, there’s also ways of being able to nurture the new identities that we create while building relationships with the land here on like, for example, like I’m working on a music project where I am blessed to work with two Blackfoot artists. And I’m learning more Blackfoot than Tagalog at this point, which is pretty awesome. And and I feel very privileged to be in that space. So yeah, I think I don’t like the idea of the cultural mosaic because I think we develop our identities in a more cohesive and, and I guess, a community-based way, at least for myself.

Pam, if you want to add anything to that. Final thought.

Pam: Tansi beautifully described. Thanks so much. And the only thing I can add is or to bolster is kind of the beauty to have like a communal exchange for this project. The way we’ve tried to envision it is that there is a lot of agency for the artists to let it come to fruition like for it to take shape with the input and co-creation of the artists, and so and embracing an emergent process essentially. So there’s a structure to which we get to gather around areas of concerns, areas of provocation, ideas of how we work together creatively, to really make propositions at the end and of course, I’ll come later to the grappling.

Yeah, I’ll pause there. I’ll pass back to jaqs

 jaqs: jaqs speaking. Thanks, Pam. So right now we’re the, one obstacle is the scheduling of multiple artists, of course, but also the pandemic. It’s taken a toll on many of us in different ways. So this is a photo, one of, the same day of the first meeting. Some of us couldn’t make it in person. And so we had a Zoom with a few artists. And I think the way to, this is clearly just an emergent process. So we have, the major learn that we’ve taken from this is to have more time, as much time as possible when you create a project where you have multiple artists and to have a space where people can show up in their fullest selves. So we are just working on and always learning on how to be more accessible. Did you want to add to that, Pam?

Pam: Yes, I agree. Like an emergent process requires time and space and also a lot of care and and like collective holding space. I think the, that the way that this spiral project is formed is it’s trying to leave a lot of room for removing an expectation around an end product. This is a very much like an opportunity for artists to to research, because it’s really if I say like capacity-building which is meaning like oftentimes, as an artist, like okay, I have 40 hours to make something that’s going to be like viable to, to, to be presented to other stakeholders or folks to want to invest it. And it’s actually like, how do we kind of take away that pressure and leave room for process, and unknown, and discovery? I think that’s coming through in terms of the the nature of the project. And another challenge I think that we did encounter, but I think that we’ve come to is that when we initially proposed this project, the, we went from a shift of broader community participants of, and artists and then moving towards the desire to work with wisdom keepers. And the reason in part is also a desire to have a generational exchange to be able to have a passing down of knowledge, because is it is an acknowledgement of the history of what has transpired in the past, that we can actually move forward and not only take those lessons but hopefully like derive new ways of doing things.

So, I know for myself as an artist, unravelling kind of this like the the kind of like habitual need to like have to deliver something in a specific way, which is usually in context like in a white colonial like, gaze that it takes time and to be able to convene with a bunch of other artists of colour and not have that in that space, or to be able to understand and see where that lands and create from a place without explanation is a big thing. And I think that’s something that we’ll be learning and hopefully offer some heartening creativity like to like lift the heart as a racialized artist too. Final thought there.

jaqs: Thanks, Pam. jaqs speaking. I absolutely agree with learning from the intergenerational experiences, cross like first-gen, second-gen because I think we have different spaces to learn about, learn about decolonization. I think it’s a privilege for me to be able to do that. Because I’m not in survival mode that like where there was a mission to take care of my parents that my parents had to do when they moved here. And I think like, for example, I just watched this film by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, called Kimmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy. And I think empathy is it will play a large role in how we will navigate building an anti-racist space, building anti-racist spaces period. First for ourselves, in grappling how we heal from our own trauma of colonization and also how we move forward as settlers here on Mohkinsstsis in Treaty 7 and understanding what treaty means, understanding how how we’re all living in PSTD in some sort of like, a subtype of dissociative PTSD if we can walk past a human being on the street who we were supposed to be afraid of who’s passed out. I think we need to be able to learn, at least for myself I just got my, I just got, you can get Naloxone training at, you know, it’s very easy to do so. I think I’m. This isn’t a side note. I think all of the work that the Cultural Instigators are doing, including like hosting a screening, including, including the game show, including Black-led spiral, we’re learning so much about how how to disrupt what we’ve been programmed to understand through what’s been accessible to us as education, whether it’s through church, whether it’s through family, whether it’s through even the institution of education. I think, constantly asking the question of what is this moment asking of us is how it will reshape, “What do I know now? How did I learn that? And how do we move forward in greeting or at least disrupting systemic barriers?” So I think I’m hoping that that these discussions that come from the artists and the knowledge keepers will I know I know, they’ll lead to very, very healing conversations and also difficult conversations. And so which is also why many of the spirals have also built in trauma-informed care, or radical fund into their budgets. So that there is care available should it be needed by any of the artists and in the knowledge keepers, anybody involved in the building of these conversations. Doing anti-racist work is disrupting the narrative that we have continually carried and awakening to an idea that I’m not the centre of every narrative. So and that’s also sometimes different for BIPOC people to actually say, I’m going to take up space. So Black, Indigenous, racialized people Kelli’s reminded me before she doesn’t like that term, and I agree with her. So I think recognizing everybody’s humanity, and being able to move with Kimmapiiyipitssini is is how I hope that we can learn from each other. That’s my final thought.

And if you have anything to add, Kelli, I’m sorry, Pam, please do.

Pam Tzeng: No, I think I’m good. There’s a bunch of logistical stuff that I could share around like, oh, artists going to work for about 40 hours research and then they’re going to get to reconvene and share what has transpired from the pods that they work together on and then get to share at the later grappling, which Allan will be talking about. So that’s a quick overview, but I think we got to it. So thanks everyone.

Riel: Thank you. That was really well said. Well done.

I think you touched on a lot of the things that we were going to also try to talk about in regards to like what I’m hearing from each presentation is that I think the most important thing for this project is that we all feel like we’re like-minded in that we share these truths, right. And these truths are what makes our either what made us or is what we’re currently going through, or it’s what we hope to address in the near future. And I like the fact that this whole project is non-hierarchical, like we have the people who you know, started we have people who brought people in, but it’s a non-hierarchical structure. So that means that there’s no sort of like pyramid sort of like, way of like, there’s no boss over me breathing down my neck telling me that I’m not allowed to say the things I’m allowed to say. I think that’s really important. And that’s sort of like yeah, and then also, that you know to open discussion always. It’s a safe space for that open discussion, which is, yeah, super powerful. And I think the stolen land, stolen lives, stolen labour is something that Cesar was actually speaking about. I’m not sure if Cesar is here.

Cesar, would you like to just speak on that right now? That would be awesome before we get into the grappling. I can’t really see if he’s here or not.

Cesar Cala: I’m here but my audio and my video is off. Sorry.

Riel: Oh, no problem. Would you like to just speak about that sort of thing, if you want to?

Cesar: Well, I think the discussions that we’ve had during that Chat & Chews, and also subsequent conversations on really understanding the kind of the historical roots of racism, because we need to understand what it is based on and that it can persist and fester to this day, so and so we really landed on collectively on this kind of statement that racism in Mohkinsstsis, in Canada is based on the stolen land of Indigenous communities, of stolen lives, and we see that evidence and more and more of evidence evidence of that is happening. And stolen labour talks about the histories of of coming to this place based on the needs of colonial economy for labor, so subsequent immigration of people of colour, and excluded communities, which to this day persists. So, so stating that, that it’s not just historical but also current. Thank you. My final thoughts.

Riel: Thank you. I also wanted to like something that’s been coming to my mind was that you know, this, we’re just talking about anti racism. This this is not addressing the, you know, I find like, not that we’re only talking about that, but I’m just saying like, this is sort of groundwork for the larger discussion, like what sort of our survival in the future. That’s all I think about is how, you know, food resources will run out. Water will run out, especially if oil companies continue to ruin our water supply. And like companies like Nestle continue to steal water from people. So I’m just worried like, you know, this is the groundwork for community work and sort of community sustainability for our future and for survival. That is constantly what I’m thinking of as a mother, as an Indigenous person. And yeah, the stolen land stolen lives, stolen labour very much has to do with the residential school findings recently. And I just want to note that as an Indigenous woman, I’ve been asked, asked from people of settler descent or people of my migrant descent have asked me like, well, you speak about this, what do you want? Like what is, what is it that Indigenous people want? And I find it really disrespectful because I’m like, first of all, we’re still in grief mode. I feel like I’m 24/7 in a mode where I’m whether dealing with my grief, reflecting on my grief, and working towards healing my grief in regards, and we constantly, you know, with the news of all these findings of these babies in the unmarked graves. I don’t know what I want, you know. Like stop asking me that. Why don’t you ask your government, what they want and what they’re doing to address this intense issue for Indigenous people right now. Ongoing you know, like, there are still reserves, who have no clean water and who have to ship in water, who are on welfare. They have no budget for water. Like these are the issues. Yeah, so I just wanted to sort of add that but we’ll move into the grappling part. And I wanted to invite Allan to speak on sort of like, what’s next? What what are our next steps for this project? Thank you.

 Allan Brent Rosales: Hello, everyone. My name is Allan Brent Rosales. My pronouns are he him​​ I identify as Philippinex. My parents came to Canada in the 1960s and in the 1970s, from the Philippines. I was born in Mohkinsstsis, Calgary at the Holy Cross Hospital. I’ve lived in the city, almost all of my life. I’m an artist and I have a Master’s in Art Therapy from Concordia University. My artist practices include drawing, photography, poetry and murals. I’m very, very excited and honored to be part to be the overarching spiral coordinator for all three spirals. And one of my responsibilities is to support all three spirals around the grappling gathering event which is tentatively set at the end of May. We’re still looking at venues and very soon we’re hoping to book so we’ll have more news on that soon. So that is, that is from the Indigenous-led spiral, the Black-led spiral and the Racialized-led spiral. They will bring forth at that event what they want to share with the broader community and pitch what’s next. As you’ve heard this afternoon, there are so many ideas, thoughts and feelings that have been percolating over all of this time. Again, the centralizing theme of this event is again the focus on stolen land, stolen lives, and stolen labour. We will also be inviting community organizations, funding institutions, arts programming, educators, politicians, and others on the basis that they commit to supporting the work that we’re doing and taking action. I don’t have much to share with you at this time because we’re still in the early phases of planning this event, but looking forward to sharing more with you as time goes on. That’s my final thought and if anybody else wants to speak to the grappling event, please do so. Thank you. That’s my final thought.

Riel: Thank you so much. All right. I think if I’ll just leave it open. If anyone in the project want to speak any last words before we go into questioning? So we do have time for question and answers, so just put it out there. Does anyone else have anything else to say final thoughts before moving to questions?

Pam: This is Pam speaking. I might just add one thought around the grappling. And just some takeaways and learnings that we had and even the conceiving of that for this project was that we wanted to make sure there was an opportunity to for each of the spirals to be able to engage with the broader community, though each spiral project already does in different ways. And that the way to do a conference that’s not a conference, like unconference it all and really centre folks who are already interested in doing the work of anti-racism and believe in that kind of future for Calgary and the arts. And that some of that looks in many ways as just speaking a little bit about the pitches is that the artists of each spiral being able to share what they’d like to share but also that there is the potential of investment, whether that’s resource, time, relational, to be able to move things forward. It’s because it’s not a project that ends simply with the timeline and activities in which we do now, but as like a capacity-building project is something that will continue on into the future. Those are my final thoughts. Thanks.

Riel: All right, thank you so much. All right.

And I would like to invite Jasmine Piper. Apologies. She is the coordinator, or the main coordinator for the Indigenous-led spiral and she would like to announce our social media. Thank you.

Jasmine Piper: Hello, my name is Jasmine and I work as Indigenous coordinator, as well as starting to work for social or social coordinator roles for Instagram. I just want to introduce our Instagram. The link is in the chat now. So there you will be able to see announcements and updates of our projects, as well as calls to community action, and more about our programming. Feel free to follow us there. And I’d like to thank everyone for being here today and listening to everyone’s stories and truths. And yes, thank you and follow @culturalinstigators on Instagram. That’s all. Thank you.

Riel: Thank you so much. So I guess now without further ado, we’ll go into questions. Are there any questions for anybody, any sort of culture instigators or any questions directly for any spiral, or the project as a whole?

 Patti: Riel, I have a question if maybe we can get the conversation starting and see if others may want to put something inside there inside the chatbox. It’s Patti here.

And I think that what you’re describing is really extraordinary and quite distinct. And I’ve really welcomed the descriptions from each of the spiral members about the ways in which you structured the approach and the work specific to the spirals and how you worked around that. As a funder, I know that your application was not necessarily a conventional one. And so as a result of that, I wondered what your conversations with funders were as they tried to really understand a very different way and approach from what we would have normally seen in applications prior. That’s my final thought.

Riel: If anyone wants to take that on, I was not directly involved with that. So

Pam: I could jump in on this and if Cesar wants to also jump in on this and anyone. There’s a few of us. So from the Chat & Chews in the summer of 2020, the anti-racism capacity-building fund from the City of Calgary came out and we kind of decided to jump on writing, putting one in and encouraging lots of other Chat & Chew folks and communities to apply. In part, I think, as an effort to see the need for this kind of, that kind of funding but also as provocations. And that’s kind of, I think, a little bit of an approach that we took in our grant to, knowing that when we wrote it, we we’d be offering something that they would never expect and probably have a hard time wrapping their head around, how do we fund this and keep some kind of fiscal liability like to ensure. And we’re lucky we have partners, fiduciary partners, like TRUCK jumped on board right off the bat, and Inside Out and Stride who were kind of like our first kind of cheerleaders and being willing to have their organizations represent us on behalf of us. And that Cesar and JD were really instrumental in helping the framing of these grants, especially with their experience around community organizing because I would say that a lot of us are are growing in our community organizing selves, at least I would say that for myself. And then that we’ve gotten to learn that through also that exchange with JD and Cesar and each other. And then once we got the City of Calgary grant in, like specifically The City of Calgary asked for how is this going to impact policy. Like there’s specific questions in which like a grant is framed, and I think how questions are asked and and we have to really wonder about how do we answer this in the most honest and authentic way and yet, make it accessible to them. And that was the most evident in the City of Calgary one and so hopefully there were a lot of learnings and we believe that exchange is there even as we submit a midterm report and have spoken with the City of Calgary and then the Calgary Foundation. From there, we were able to bolster it to Calgary Foundation, and then to Canada Council for the Arts. And what happened is the project kind of grew like that we needed more funds for coordinators. Like this work is like endless. Actually this project project, if we could have full-time coordinators and pay really good wages and benefits, that would be the ideal, right? But we were able to ask for the Sector Innovation Grant from Canada Council and that really helped push us to be able to realize this, to this kind of scope, I think. And, and it’s something that at the end of the, at the end of when we submit our report, I imagine that we’re going to be able to offer some insights like further insights around, what were the barriers to applying or to even writing out these project grants. I don’t know if anyone else, if that answers your thought, Patti. But Cesar might be able to jump in, or jaqs, or Wunmi because they’re also instrumental and writing up these grants.

Cesar: Cesar’s here. Maybe just to add a little bit. I think my role and JD’s role is really more around translation. And so, because funders have certain languages that they use and touch points that they want to see in a project, in a project proposal, but at the same time, working very closely with artists from a co-design and community organizing perspective. And so sometimes those languages and those frameworks do not meet in a really creative and productive way. And so what we did was with the City of Calgary, we were up front that this, this is the basis of the proposal. We talked about this the idea of the spiral and providing support where it is most needed. And and so we put that up front to the funders, and we said we are going. This is not just a rhetoric, we are actually organizing the whole project around this framework. So they so we gave them at kind of the beginning of the proposal, kind of warned them this is not the proposal that you usually see and this is why, right? And this is why it is important that the proposal is structured this way. And so with the City, you don’t actually have an interactive session with the City of Calgary, so our our our challenge was really putting within the the word limits of a proposal, a template, everything that we want to say. And also like contact person, we said we have several across the different spirals, right? The Calgary Foundation was, with them, we had more opportunity to talk more about the project and so they actually some a few of their volunteers, community volunteers who were really curious of what this project was all about. And so we did have more chance to talk about what this project is. It’s not just an. We keep on saying project but we said also, this is not a project as a kind of in the traditional sense of the word. It’s an, it’s an artist-led initiative, right? And there are some project components to it. But as an initiative, it is quite open ended. So there’s the challenge between the open endedness of co-design, community organizing, and the kind of discrete things that a project is looking for. And so we needed to kind of thread and navigate through that. And we were quite surprised that we actually got funding to this level. Thanks, final thoughts.

Riel: Thank you. Is there anything else that anyone would like to add or can we move on to another question? Is there another question?

jaqs: jaqs speaking if there isn’t a question right now. I just wanted to add to something that you even said Riel about how this is a very flat organization where everybody has a say in all of the processes. I’ve been on boards before where, you know, somebody said, “Equity takes time, I don’t want to do this,” I’m like, “yeah, but it takes time”, which is why we have to prepare for that whenever you write anything like this. We used to call the monster grant because it’s it’s, it’s, it’s was designed to disrupt the funding structure of having to write multiple grants so that people are where people usually give up before even starting to write a grant. So I think the funding process is is part of why, you know, nonprofit industrial complex feeds itself in a way where we’re always looking at scarcity. But if you have the money, and this is something that Cesar always says, oh, you know, with grassroots organizing, sometimes we don’t know what to do when we get the money. But because this group has done so much in our own pockets, I think we’ve, we’ve, we’re constantly learning and building in beautiful ways. I think many of our organized, our funding partners rarely guess, have to ask, “who do I write back to?” All 12 of us, please, please respond, reply all to 12 people and then you’ll get an answer. Because we don’t want to leave anybody out of the loop. And it does take time. Equity is that’s how it works. It’s about flattening hierarchies that we’re consistently forced into, but sometimes you have to do it for for the society registration, but then you operate another way. So right now we’re, the Cultural Instigators are very much a free moving group of people where we have, we’re fortunate to have these funders and partners who can take on the role of fiduciary sponsor, or sign their name and co-write with us. But that’s, that’s one of the things that has changed. Final thought.

Riel: I think one thing too about working with such a diverse group of people is that we through you know, getting to know each other and sharing our check-ins which are really important to me. Like we always I think it’s like sometimes it can take up to a half an hour for everyone to check in and see where they’re at. And, you know, we are all doing so much in our communities. I’m so honoured to be a part of this group. It’s such a collective group of hard-working individuals who are not only doing this project, but other things in their communities, and, you know, like enriching every space that they go into. And that’s, I just feel really honoured to be a part of this and to learn from everybody and to consistently contribute what I can, which is important. It’s like we’re here to contribute what you can, you know. If grants like. I find like, especially for an Indigenous person, you know, there’re a lot of barriers that we face daily, like institutionalized racism, everyday racism when you’re going to the store, when you’re shopping. So it’s like if I’m not feeling like, you know, schooling or writing something is my strength. My strength is elsewhere. My strength is what I bring in different ways, you know. And then other people are able, we have come from academic backgrounds are able to take on that load, you know. And that’s like, kind of what you find in community spaces is, where is it where people’s skills where people’s strength, and it’s not about who has the best grades or who has, you know, you know, and like. And especially, we’re very mindful of each other’s workloads, and we’re mindful of who takes on too much. And, you know, we’re there to be that reminder of like, hey, maybe you shouldn’t take this on. We’ll find someone else because you’re at capacity. And this word is like that word capacity is something that is thrown around a lot because of the work we all take on. That’s all I wanted to add was just that, you know, it’s, it’s free-flowing. Yeah. And it’s you, you’re empowered to input your skills, wherever they are, right? Yeah, final thought on that. But if there’s any more questions, I guess we’ll answer more questions.

Wunmi: Thank you so much, everybody for adding context to what we’ve discussed. My question has always been what’s next for the Cultural Instigators. What’s next for the Bringing Power to Truth project? We open the can of worms that is impactful in creating equity-seeking community, their voices needing to be able to be heard, dismantling racism. But most grant funders will not fund the same grant applications because they see it as the same thing. So we’ve been talking about how to continue to do this work when we don’t even know where the funding will come from. And we’ve impacted so many communities so far. It’s kind of difficult to be able to just walk away from all the work we’ve already put forward. So that has been my question, in terms of what to do next and how to continue this work. My final thought.

jaqs: jaqs speaking. I can speak to it a certain way. JD and I have also been talking to co-op organizers to see how Cultural Instigators can carry on after the Bringing Power to Truth project wraps up, because I think we all do great work. It’s just a matter of finding ways to keep it sustainable. So yeah, after we are released from the umbilical cord of CADA, what’s next, but maybe perhaps, seeing how we can grow this work. And yeah, that’s all I have to say for that. Final thoughts.

Patti: Hi. It’s Patti here from CADA. I’m mindful that we got about four minutes left on our scheduled time together. And that being said, Wunmi and jaqs and the other members of the Cultural Instigators, certainly what I’ve heard today and what I’ve observed throughout the year so far, you know, it has just been extraordinary. And I really do commend all of you for the work and as many of you have already said, “this work takes time.” It takes a long time. And I don’t know what is in store for you. I think that’s that’s for you to choose. But for what it’s worth, I think, we at Calgary Arts Development would certainly welcome a further conversation as you start to think about what those ideas could be and and see if there are ways that we can continue to be a partner in a meaningful way. And one that is in a good way as you articulate how you want to build those good relations among other communities. And I think I hope that conversations like this, you know, maybe as you look to the grappling in May, or other ways in which we might gather, I would encourage other organizations you know, work around EDIA shouldn’t only be undertaken by IBPOC individuals and artists. And we know that in the arts community as example, there are many white-led, white-centered organizations that could be tremendous allies to the Cultural Instigators, like we have seen some of your partners who have served as fiscal managers and agents and those kinds of things. And it’s my hope that we become a community that recognizes the need for organizations who are familiar with these colonial systems as they start to change, to learn from what you’ve proposed in your Power to Truth project, which I hope isn’t ending anytime soon. And and really think about their roles as allies. I know you’ve definitely provided food for thought for us at Calgary Arts Development and you know, and I can only speak for me, but you know my my commitment to you will be to raise this conversation with my other funder colleagues at the provincial and federal levels as well. This is work that has to continue and there are many across the country that are undertaking this kind of work in a variety of ways. And I think we need to pay attention to that as those of us who hold power and who hold the purse strings and who hold influence and all of those other things. So I again, iterate my thanks to all of you for having the strength and the stick to it ness to to lead this work. And something I didn’t say earlier that I just wanted to say in my wrap up comments was as much as you are teaching us and as much as I am learning, I am also mindful that with the systems we work in, there is a lot for us to unlearn. And I really think that your projects in the variety of ways you’ve presented them even in this short time are really great. Food for thought for us, for all of us.

So I don’t know if there are any other questions, Riel. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you there. But certainly, if there are other questions that people have we would entertain them. Otherwise we will close our proceedings and and give our Cultural Instigators time to continue work on their project.

I don’t see anything coming up in the chat.

So I will extend my thanks on behalf of everybody. To those of you who’ve joined us for this conversation. I hope there was good information that was shared and I encourage those of you again who are in organizations who see yourself as allies or co-inspirators to reach out to the Cultural Instigators. There is lots you can do to help, to be allies, to be good allies. It’s much more than signing into a virtual town hall for a couple of hours on a Wednesday, or whatever day it is Tuesday. So I really encourage you to reach out if you have any questions for those of us at Calgary Arts Development, please do. We will undertake another town hall that will post through our newsletter on our website around disabilities justice. And so I hope that you will all join us for that. And I think that is all I was, I had to share with all of you, so have a wonderful rest of the day. And I look forward to speaking with all of you again soon. Thanks so much. Bye.

00:16:09 Landon Krentz: ASL?

00:16:40 Helen Moore-Parkhouse: Yes Debra and Ava are here. Welcome Landon!

00:16:55 Landon Krentz: Great thanks, Torrie Ironstar and I are here

00:17:13 Helen Moore-Parkhouse: Welcome Torrie

00:19:38 Landon Krentz: 👊✊👊

00:23:13 Priscille Buckahsa: Wunmi is in the waiting room

00:23:23 Ọláwunmi (Wunmi – She/Her): I’m here!

00:23:29 Ọláwunmi (Wunmi – She/Her): Hello everyone

00:23:47 Helen Moore-Parkhouse: Hi Wunmi!

00:24:19 Van Chu (she/her): Good afternoon everyone!!!

00:27:14 Trevor Rueger APN (He/him): Hello everyone!

00:27:39 Allison Moore (she/her) artsvest Alberta: Hello Everyone!

00:27:42 Sara Leishman (she/her) Calgary Folk Fest: Hi Trevor! Hi all!

00:27:58 Kathryn Blair: Hi everyone!

00:29:35 CADA Taylor Poitras (Active Bystander) she/her: Hehehe my trick to remember is P comes before T in the alphabet 😉

00:30:14 Patti Pon: Thanks Taylor and again my apologies

00:31:47 Helen

00:32:11 Helen Moore-Parkhouse:

00:33:15 Helen Moore-Parkhouse: Listen from the inside out, or listen from the bottom up (a feeling in your gut matters!);

Engage Tension, Don’t Indulge Drama;

W.A.I.T. principle—Why Am I Talking?

Make Space, Take Space—this is a post-ableist adaptation of “step up, step back” – to help balance the verbose (using more words than are needed) and the reticent (not revealing your thoughts or feelings readily);

Confidentiality—take the lessons, leave out the details;

Be open to learning;

Be open to someone else speaking your truth;

Try building, not selling—when you speak, converse, don’t pitch;

Use Yes/and, both/and;

Value the process as much as, if not more than, you value the outcomes;

Assume best intent; attend to impact;

Remember Self care and community care— so pay attention to your bladder, pay attention to your neighbors

00:47:19 Helen Moore-Parkhouse:

00:49:03 Ọláwunmi (Wunmi – She/Her): Change slides please

00:54:53 jaqs gallos aquines (she/they/siya): here’s the powerpoint

01:50:41 jaqs gallos aquines (she/they/siya): thank you everyone

01:59:01 Chantal Palmer: Follow out Instagram 🙂

01:59:05 Chantal Palmer: our*

01:59:24 Trevor Rueger APN (He/him): Thank you to all the presenters for sharing.

01:59:48 Chantal Palmer:

02:00:02 Jasmine Piper: Thank you Chantal

02:01:56 Ọláwunmi (Wunmi – She/Her): Please follow us on IG

02:02:33 CADA Taylor Poitras (Active Bystander) she/her: Thank you CI! <3

02:02:50 Jasmine Piper:

02:03:07 Ọláwunmi (Wunmi – She/Her): Q and A time

02:11:34 linda kee: Yes, Cesar! Thank you, that is where I feel there is a large gap – the language and touch points between artists and funders. So wonderful to have supporters like yourself and JD. Bravo!

02:11:49 pam tzeng (she/her): ^^

02:12:12 Patti Pon: Thanks for the replies!

02:15:23 jaqs gallos aquines (she/they/siya): Me too!

02:23:07 CADA- Cherie McMaster- (she/her): AMAZING work everyone!!! Thank you for sharing!

02:23:08 linda kee: Yes Patti Pon!!! Thank you.

02:23:26 Helen Moore-Parkhouse: Thank you everyone!

02:23:43 Ọláwunmi (Wunmi – She/Her): Thanks everyone for sharing space with us.

02:23:43 Sara Leishman (she/her) Calgary Folk Music Festival: Thank you all so much for sharing your incredible work with us!

02:23:55 Scott Carey: thanks everyone!

02:23:57 jaqs gallos aquines (she/they/siya): thank you everyone

02:24:02 John Dunn (he/him) One Yellow Rabbit: Thank you CADA and Cultural Instigators! Wow.

02:24:15 pam tzeng (she/her): Thank you all!

02:24:34 Priscille Buckahsa -She/her: Thank you

02:24:43 Allan Brent Rosales (he/him): Thank you all!

Share this page