The Storytelling Project Salima Stanley-Bhanji | Photo: Courtesy of Salima Stanley-Bhanji May 31, 2021 Salima Stanley-Bhanji Human energy can be seen as a creative energy Gayathri Shukla If you believe that human beings are inherently creative, then you’ll see human energy as a creative energy. Each of us have our unique ways of expressing creativity, molded by our particular experiences, traits, and conditioning. However, this energy can be blocked at times, due to the desire to “fit in” to what appear as stereotypes that are imposed on us. Salima Stanley-Bhanji, CEO of Humainologie, addresses this issue by helping make Calgary a more inclusive city. “I grew up in a time and place where I didn’t feel included because of my cultural heritage and the way I looked. When people feel included, they feel seen, valued, and are given space to be themselves and to contribute,” she says. Humainologie is a Calgary-based non-profit whose mission is to spread empathy, increase inclusion, and reduce discrimination. They run an annual festival called Empathy Week, which has been proclaimed by The City of Calgary since 2019. Humainologie also leads The Period Project, a gender-inclusive, community-led initiative to provide free period products for Calgarians who need them. This summer, they are piloting the Parhad Artist Residency—a program which aims to support artists on their journeys through retreat. An event at Humainologie pre-pandemic | Photo: Courtesy of Salima Stanley-Bhanji Apart from her creative work at Humainologie, Stanley-Bhanji also shares her perspective on how to release blocks to creative energy. “I believe that part of re-embracing the full breadth of our creative wisdom and power is releasing some of the things that are blocking that energy. You might not believe me if I said crying makes me more creative, but it really does. For me, having a good cry just releases so much tension. All that bound up tension is something that moves me away from my authentic self and hinders my creative energy. At the same time, I think creativity can show up even in the midst of tension, and in times of being severely limited.” Some may say that tension can arise when faced with the plurality of our multiple, varied identities. However, this also presents Calgarians with an opportunity to embrace and celebrate each other in all of our uniqueness, intersections, and complexity. According to Stanley-Bhanji, “Doing so is essential for our mental health and relationships. It’s good for our community, economy, and it’s essential for our survival.” The next Empathy Week is set to run on June 1 to 7, 2021. Come join to take part in the creative programming, while learning the essential skills of empathy—visit eventbrite.ca for the full schedule and registration details! About The Storytelling Project On November 16, 2015, Calgary Arts Development hosted a working session with approximately 30 creative Calgarians from various walks of life. Many of the small working groups voiced the need to gather and share more stories of people living creative lives. That need has turned into The Storytelling Project. The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives. Have a story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.