Done with Diversity

This weekend Love Intersections co-hosted the first of two community gatherings called “Done with Diversity: Reframing the future for Indigenous and Racialized Artists”, in collaboration with several Indigenous organizations and other artists of colour, including Full Circle: First Nations Performing Arts, Visceral Visions, co.ERASGA, Vancouver Moving Theatre, Britannia Community Centre, and Rungh Cultural Society.  The idea for the gathering grew from Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires, which is a multi-year, Canada wide initiative to decolonize the Canadian arts system, led by Indigenous artists and supported by racialized artists, by centering Indigenous arts practices.  The central question we gathered around what  “What does a decolonized Canadian arts system look like?”.  The two gatherings are funded through the City of Vancouver’s “Host Your Own Engagement” program.

FullSizeRender

“Done with Diversity” is certainly a loaded phrase – and we deliberately chose it because as racialized artists and artists of colour, we are so fed up with the liberal ways that this idea of “diversity and inclusion” tokenizes us through the narrative of equity and equality, but in reality, the systemic barriers remain in place.  We want more than just tokenistic gestures: we want to work towards decolonizing the Canadian arts system (and Canada) through centring Indigenous arts practices.  Below are some of my thoughts from conversations at our gathering on Saturday, and some questions that opened up from our conversations.

I left the gathering on Saturday with a deep sense of gratitude to be amongst black, brown, yellow bodies (and allies) in a facilitated space that allowed us to speak, to be present, and to be our whole selves.  It was such a power space to be able to talk about the traumas of systemic racism, and the impacts of colonialism to Indigenous communities, in a space that allowed us to be vulnerable, scared, angry, and make mistakes, without fear of retribution.

Several themes emerged from our gathering on Saturday.  We talked at length about the need to connect, to have space to share, build solidarity and relationships.  To have the time, energy, and resources to work together is deeply impacted by systemic barriers, and is a racialized issue.  How can we find ways to get together more, to imagine new possibilities – new worlds – outside of the colonial paradigm?

The notion of relations and relationships was also a key theme that emerged from the discussions on Saturday.  Neoliberalism is a deeply pervasive systemic issue, that dictates much of our lives, particularly in the arts community, where values are placed on production (literally).  When “what you produce” is the key factor on how artists get rewarded, what other impacts get left out when the metrics are governed by neoliberalism?  What happens when we centre right relations, with our communities, with our ancestors, with our future generations?

These ideas and conversations that we had on Saturday are only the beginning of what we hope will be a future of working together towards a decolonized Canadian arts system.

FullSizeRender-1

Love Intersections 6×6 Premiere on August 18th

We have some exciting news!

Love Intersections has been invited to be the Local Artists in Residence at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival for its 30th Anniversary year!

For us, it is the hard work and fearlessness of those in community over the past 30 years and beyond, that have given us the freedom and courage to create and take risks in our own self-expression as Queers of Colour.

“History has a pattern of writing out queer people of colour – and we want to rewrite that history,” says Co-Artistic Director David Ng, “we started Love Intersections because we were tired of just talking about the lack of representation, so we decided to share our own stories, and other stories from the margins.”

Love Intersections was founded in 2014 to explore ways of challenging underrepresentation, through sharing stories of queer people of colour. As part of their residency as local Artists in Residence at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival this year, Love Intersections will showcase a selection of their original works, as well as the world premiere of their series “FINDING UNTOLD QUEER STORIES”. The 6 part STORYHIVE series illuminates stories of underrepresented queer people of colour who live in Vancouver, in an anthology that visits different corners of the queer community, outside of mainstream representation. The 6 episodes include the following:

#1. Finding the Origin Story (QUEER ORIGINS)
The introductory film of a six-part episodic series tells the story of how Love Intersections began with Jen Sungshine and David Ng, as they embark on a queer and questioning journey together in search of local, untold stories.

#2. Finding Queer History (QUEER HISTORY)
In search of their queer and political ancestry, Jen and David look for the missing and hidden stories of queer activism and organizing in Vancouver. Speaking to queer ‘elders’ Ron Dutton and Fatima Jaffer, with special appearances by Symone Says and Maiden China, they uncover the powerful and fascinating contributions that queer/trans people of colour have made on our city’s cultural landscape.

#3. Finding Queer Dance (QUEER DANCE)
Changes in the city, gentrification, and a rising cost of living are affecting the access to social spaces for many of us in Vancouver. Historically underground dance parties and clubs have provided essential refuge and sanctuary for queer people seeking community and belonging. Talking to queer organizers in Vancouver, Jen and David explore current challenges and barriers to creating inclusive queer dances amidst a hostile world.

#4. Finding Queer Sports (QUEER SPORTS)
Why is it important to have a queer gathering space for playing sports? David and Jen visit the queer dodgeball league (Double Rainbow Dodgeball) on Halloween night, featuring several teams dodging foam balls in full costume. They find a dynamic community of queer people of colour who gather over sports, and learn how to play and create meaningful connections through physical activity.

#5. Finding Queer Disability Language (QUEER DISABILITY)
David and Jen connect with Amar Mangat and Vivian Ly, who are part of the Deaf, and Neurodiverse, communities, respectively. Parallels between Deaf identity, Deaf Culture, and Autistic identity and Autistic Culture are drawn as both individuals challenge neurotypical and hearing-privileged ways of understanding disability, language and access within queer culture.

#6. Finding Family & Hope (QUEER FAMILIES)
How is ‘family’ defined in queer culture? How does the notion of family relate to or exist in cultural traditions and intergenerational living? In this film, Jen and David meet with two couples at different stages of defining queer family: Alex & Sian Hoe, a gay couple who is ready for children, and Hayfa & Liza, who just brought a baby (Mio) into this world, whose very presence strengthens the multigenerational bond alongside Hayfa’s mom, Carla, in this life-affirming story.

The ”FINDING UNTOLD QUEER STORIES” world premiere is at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, August 18th, 2018, at 2pm at the SFUGoldcorp Centre for the Arts. This film series is funded through Telus STORYHIVE program.

Untold Queer Stories: 2018 Storyhive Series by Love Intersections

I recently watched the new Star Wars film (The Last Jedi).

While my partner was far more excited than I was to line up an hour early to get our prime seats (honestly, I was just excited to see Kylo Ren, on whom I have a huge crush :P)…the first 10 minutes got me hooked.  Not because of the dramatic opening battle, or the CGI, but because immediately in the first few minutes of the film, I started noticing the Asian characters in the film.

As a Chinese person who rarely gets to see someone like me on screen, I can tell you the feeling the exact moment I saw the first Asian character in Star Wars – the officer on the bridge of the First Order’s ship that had about 2 seconds of screen time in the first 15 minutes of the film – I saw him.   The central character, Rose, (who is played Kelly Marie Tran, a Vietnamese-American actor), of course really stole the show.  But I can tell you that even with her and Finn taking up most of the POC spotlight, I noticed all three of the other Asian characters in the film as well.  The dude on the bridge, Rose’s sister, and a gambler in Canto Bight.

Somewhere in my brain, I’ve parked those memories of representation on screen, from a Hollywood film I watched 2 weeks ago.  If something as simple as Star Wars can imprint a memory of seeing someone that looks like me in on screen/in media, how could more frequent, more visible, more empowered images of people of colour – let alone queer people of colour – make me feel?

In August last year, I got a message from Jen (Co-Artistic Director of Love Intersections), that we got a grant from Telus’ Storyhive program, to fund a 6 episode series on “Untold Queer Stories”.  This exciting opportunity will allow us to use this platform to share more untold queer stories…including our own, and why we formed Love Intersections – a group of queer people of colour who use the arts to make visible the invisible.  We don’t want to just be “represented” on screen: we want to tell our own stories, in a way that WE want them told.

IMG_4137

The Storyhive series marks a big milestone for us, as a group of queer artists who started this thing because we were frustrated at the way that we were being represented in media. It marks an opportunity to bring our stories from the fringes into the mainstream, and to seize the means of storytelling into our own hands: to tell stories that could (and should) also be told.

Maybe one day I won’t have to explain why seeing 3 Asian people in Star Wars did something to me.  Maybe one day, fighting for visibility will be a thing in the past.  Maybe one day, the simple act of sharing queer, untold stories, won’t need to be this groundbreaking, controversial, revolutionary act….but for now it is, and we are looking forward to sharing these stories with you, through a lens of love.

Stay tuned for more about our 6 part series, airing in June/July 2018.

IMG_3934

#MeToo, three, four, seven, ten, twenty, fifty… here’s one

I remember being accosted by two security guards in an open parking lot on Burnaby Mountain. My girlfriend and I were young, and, like many young couples in parking lots, we were doing what was only natural for young lovers to express. Deep into the night, the winter air kept at bay while our body heat steamed up the car windows. Then, without warning, flashlights shone into our car, turning our intimacy into a nightmare we wish to forget.

We immediately panic and pull our clothes together, frozen in fear, shame, and terror.

One man says, “we get couples up here all the time, but we’ve never seen lesbians before.”

He wants us to continue. He wants to watch. He made sure we knew that what we were doing is illegal. He will give us a ticket if we don’t let him watch.

It became a standstill. We were trapped, trapped on top of this secluded mountain, trapped inside this car, trapped inside the fucked up imagination of this man. We were fully clothed and still, we had no choice but feel naked.

For the next 20 minutes I did most of the talking. I made sure to smile and fake my comfort. I made conversation with him while he towered over us, leaning on the car door, using his body to keep it open. I talk about how my girlfriend and I met. I tell stories to entertain him, to stall time. I have to keep stalling. I have to humanize the situation. I have to humanize our bodies. Our bodies have to be humanized. I have to protect my girlfriend. I have to protect myself. No one was going to protect us in that secluded empty parking lot, dead in the soulless night.

He asks fucked up questions about lesbians. He says we just need a man. He asks fucked up questions about how lesbians have sex. He says we just need a man. He asks fucked up questions about how my girlfriend and I have sex. He says we just need a man.

I continue to smile and fake my comfort. I continue to make conversation with him. I continue to stall. I have to keep stalling. I have to humanize our bodies.

He finally grew tired and let us go.

This whole time, the other man never talked, never intervened, just stood by while his partner accosted us in our car. reinforcing, complicit, and just as guilty. His inaction brought power to another. His silence is loud in authority. In my head, I wonder if he felt powerless to do anything, against the presence of a more powerful man. But he could have prevented it. One word, just one word from him, could have influenced another fellow man. Instead he let it happen. Rape culture and toxic masculinity hurt men too, but silence and inaction is inexcusable. The harm is done.

We never reported them.

I remember this memory only in the form of a nightmare that I wish to forget, when it should be a sweet memory of young love. Instead, rape culture implants this tape, playing and rewinding deep inside my body. The algorithm of that tape changes over time but it still plays, over and over again, and men let it happen every single day.

metoo

Invitation & Assimilation? Cultural Exchange versus Cultural Appropriation

I would like to invite you to assimilate with me.

Yes, you heard that correctly, rather you read that correctly.

I know, I know that is a loaded statement, let me explain. The idea of forced assimilation has been used globally by many colonists who set out to perpetuate their ideas of superiority over all other folks who are not themselves. This way of thinking, of course, has many flaws in its foundation and application which is visible in history when one looks at this fact critically. This can be seen in statements such as “I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.” Duncan Campbell Scott.

Gross right!

Why would I want to be a part of any form of assimilation, never mind invite other folks to participate with me, right?

I would like to draw your attention to the first sentence in this letter, particularly the word invite. For an invitation by definition is a cordial request in which another party is capable to accept or deny at their discretion. Essentially I am saying that I am willing to engage with you in who I am and what my culture is, of which is at my disposal and in deciding to keep secret, sacred, aspects which are not meant for the general population to myself. In doing so, I would expect the same from you well respecting your boundaries in and if you so choose to share with me.

This is the distinct difference between forced assimilation and an invitation to assimilation. The invitation will have both parties consenting to this form of cultural exchange. With this cultural exchange, we will assimilate both of our cultures into something new and uniquely ours. The possibilities for new experiences are astronomical, in its spectrum of potential.

I must stress again the importance of both parties being consenting to this experience less it be cultural appropriation.

Now we are getting to the meat of the matter, what is the difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation? This question is big, with many contradictory, extremely varied, and passionate answers to both definitions. The question then becomes how do we navigate these experiences while still honouring our experience?

Jeremy Jones

My name is Jeremy Jones, and I am of Coast Salish ancestry coming out of the nation of Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose First Nation) on Vancouver Island. Growing up indigenous I have had the opportunity to witness many beautiful meldings of cultures. It is my wish and desire to provide more space for the possibility of cultural exchange.

DIVERSE APPETITES: Cultural Exchange, Appropriation, and potluck.

A couple weeks ago, I was was surprised to find out that my partner – who is a White-Canadian of Scottish descent – didn’t wash his rice before cooking. I am Chinese, and so rice is a staple in my diet (obvs), and I naively assumed that rinsing rice prior to cooking (to remove the starch) was a universal norm. My partner and I shared this really nice moment later that day where I washed rice with him, our hands rubbing the rice under running lukewarm water, clockwise, and only clockwise as to not break the grains – just like how my grandmother taught me when I was 10 years old. I have this vivid memory of her showing me how you need to feel the rice run through your fingers, and I think about how her grandmother must have taught her the same thing in her home village in Indonesia, and her grandmothers grandmother before that.

Sharing a part of my culture with someone, as minute as washing rice may be, is in my opinion one of the most profound aspects of human diversity. It’s what makes us who we are, and in underpins all of our interactions with each other. That moment of washing rice with my partner, passes on the generations of culture from my own familial history. It’s this moment, this interaction in our interpersonal relationships that makes this project that we are about to embark on so interesting to me.

One of the things that motivated us about starting a project and a dialogue about cultural exchange is around the conversations on cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is complex: in a nutshell, cultural appropriation is the taking, exploiting, and/or profiting off ‘another’ community’s culture. The popularity of wearing an Indigenous War Bonnet (headdress) to Coachella or other music festivals (or at Halloween…) is a prime example of this: non-Indigenous people, taking a representation of a sacred object, exploiting it as a fashion accessory, and completely disregarding the meaning (and sacredness) and importance behind the item from the communities that the culture came from.

As this conversation has evolved, what we noticed happening on social media was that the conversation has become very binary. The exhibition of culture is either appropriation or it isn’t – to the point where we’ve seen real online conversations that eating food that is not of “your” own culture, is considered cultural appropriation (actual conversation about how eating sushi as a non-Japanese person is cultural appropriation).

What we hope to do in Diverse Appetites, is to further explore cultural appropriation, and nuance the conversation by finding ways of doing ethical cultural exchange. This is not to deny in any way that cultural appropriation is problematic – of course it is, and it is in it’s worse form, a sinister form of colonization and racism. But we hope to shift our focus towards finding solutions – and finding ways that we can appreciate and exchange culture, while contending with the power dynamics that inform our relationships day to day.

What does cultural exchange look like? How can we share the beauty of cultural diversity, while also grappling with racism?

Is there such a thing as ethical cultural exchange?

Daniella: On Cultural Appropriation

daniella.png

One part of my culture that I love has to do with is family. I once got a fortune cookie that said “Cherish your family.” and I thought yeah, you know what, I really do and I want to work on it more. My family is very much about everybody supporting and being there for everybody regardless of what’s happening. If one person is fighting with someone else, it doesn’t matter, we’re family and it will get worked out because we’re all on the same team. I really like that and I aim to share it with the chosen family in my life as well.

What really bothers me about cultural appropriation is that it’s a continuation of everything that colonization was and is. It’s about taking the pretty things that are nice to look at or wear -like a bindi or Black hairstyles – but the whole underlying reason behind their existence is not even considered, much less the discrimination people from those cultures experience when they wear the same things. I think there needs to be much more thought and dialogue in terms of how we can do cultural exchange.

I am mixed race; my Dad’s family was from Goa, he was born in Malawi, in Africa, and my Mom is Zimbabwean. I was also born in Zimbabwe and the world reads me as Black so I identify as African/Black. My parents met in Apartheid-era Southern Africa, and so that was very interesting… them getting married as two people whose skin colours “didn’t match”. Being their first-born child has been a unique experience in cultural exchange and belonging to two very different cultures, but at the same time being read as a Black woman and identifying very strongly as a Black woman, especially in present-day North America. I remember food as always being a key element of learning about each of my parents’ families growing up, whether that was watching my aunt make a curry from scratch or my grandmother cook real sadza.

What is challenging as somebody who has moved from Zimbabwe to Vancouver is almost having to take on a North-American history that isn’t my personal family’s history in addition to my narrative as an African immigrant…and feeling that I want and need to address that additional history now that I live here because I totally experience what it is to be black in North America. That’s a very interesting thing to have had to learn.

It Runs in the Family: Vancouver Premiere

We recently spoke with Vancouver based filmmaker Joella Cabalu about her film It Runs in the Family – a film about her own family’s story about being Filipino immigrants in Canada, and their relationships to the queer people in their lives.
It Runs in the Family is premiering at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival:
Tuesday, August 16 at 9 pm, International Village
Tickets available starting July 14:
http://queerfilmfestival.ca/films/it-runs-in-the-family/

1) “It Runs in the Family” – why the title, and what inspired you to go on this journey with your brother?

Coming up with an intriguing title that captures the story and spirit of the film and catches people’s attentions is such a challenge! I had a placeholder title during the development and production of the film, but the current title came during an editing session. I had previously talked to a friend about the film and she suggested IRITF. It was in the back of my mind and I relayed it to my editor Alexandra Marriott. When I met with Alex the following day for an edit session, she had cut the title into the opening sequence and we (myself, producer Cari Green, Alex) all had the same “aha” moment! It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but also intrigues audiences into thinking what “it” could be!

The idea for the film sparked in my mind when I watched the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So”. Jay had recently come out to me and this film portrayed five American Christian families and how they each dealt with the coming out of their child. But I noticed that out of the five families only one was a family of colour, so it made me wonder what would that story look like for my own family – a Filipino immigrant family.

2) I love the premise of the film – a personal story of an immigrant family and their journey with the queer members of their own family.  What  surprised you about making a film about this topic, and what do you hope the film shares?

The film is cut in a way such that the audience is discovering things about our relatives just as Jay and I were learning about them. So one thing that I didn’t expect going into filming was how constructs like “coming out” are perceived very differently in North America than in the Philippines. It challenged our ideas around the politics of “coming out” and I hope that sparks dialogue amongst the audiences as well.

3) The film has had an incredibly successful film festival run, and is now premiering home in Vancouver! What have been audience responses? What reactions have stood out in the festival run?

We had our US premiere at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and that was the first time that the cast and crew watched the film together with an audience. And the response was absolutely incredible! We were actually awarded the Audience Choice Award! A common reaction to the film is that it’s refreshing to see a positive representation of an Asian / Filipino family as accepting and loving of their LGBTQ family members. One audience member remarked that it’s inspiring to know that these families exist! 

Love Letter from a Gweilo to Richmond

Brexit. I’ve been finding it challenging to comprehend all the explicit hate, racism, and xenophobia. People voting Leave believing they were voting for immigrants to leave and then gleefully celebrating their “victory” has my stomach in knots.

Part of me wants to be in denial that this ideology could be present here, but the truth is that it has been voiced to me many times. It’s rarely explicit stated, but the implicit message is always clear.

What usually happens is that I’m talking with an older white person and they find out I grew up in Richmond. They’ll say something like:

“Oh… Richmond has really changed, hasn’t it?”

What they mean is “there’s too many Asian people now,” and they expect me to agree.

The assumption they make is that I’m on their side in the us-versus-them they’ve constructed. It’s one of the many ways in which they are incorrect.

There’s no question to me which side I’m on. I’m on the side with “those Asians” because they are my friends, my neighbours, my classmates, and my family. And I want to say I love you.

My family left Richmond in 2001, so to my neighbours both from then and those who’ve arrived since: I love you and I really love what you’ve done with the place. By your hands, Richmond has gone from a nondescript, homogenous suburb to a vibrant, multicultural, urban community. Richmond really has changed, and it’s entirely for the better.

To my classmates: I love you and I gained so much from all that you taught me. Like that there’s a difference between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China (and Japan, and South Korea, and all the other places in Asia…). That CBC, FOB, and Banana all mean Canadian. How you really don’t need that much shared language to play together. And how more cultures means more opportunities for celebrations.

To my friends: I love you and have so much gratitude for everything we shared. Trading cookies for Pocky, playing Star Wars and Pokémon, watching Disney and Studio Ghibli. We were pirates, Power Rangers, dinosaurs, Sailor Scouts, Batman and Ultraman, and so much more. Anime taught us the extraordinary power of friendship and we brought it into reality.

Two people I am honoured to call my siblings are mixed Japanese and European. You are my family and I love you so much. My world is greater in both breadth and quality for having you in it.

When I say I love all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Richmond, I really mean it. Not just the sweet and sour and the yakisoba that my grandparent’s palate can understand, but the duck feet and the durian that allow my palate to grow beyond what theirs could even imagine.

The same is true for stories and histories. I love the stories of dragons, lanterns, and fireworks. For the histories of emigration, internment, and inequity my love is just as strong, though awash with sadness too.

Xenophobia tells us to fear difference but as a queer person I know my difference is my gift. I know that in an ecosystem the diversity is what makes it resilient. I know that celebrating and embracing difference makes us all so much more than we could ever be on our own.

We now live in an era of profound global interconnection. Technology, economies, migration, and climate disruption have woven our stories and fates more tightly than has ever been seen. Any movement forward must be grounded in an ethos of connection, acceptance, and a global sense of us. We are not “all one,” but instead an extraordinary multitude of difference, and that is how we will survive and thrive.

So thank you Richmond, for nurturing me and my peers into global citizens.

I love you,

Andrew

Kira

A few months ago, we spoke with Kira about her journey coming out, and she generously shared with us her life and her dreams.  As a Trans* woman who came out and transitioned in adulthood, Kira explores some of the things she went through, and what it meant to come out later in life.