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

Leaves Change, Then Fall

Originally posted on Andrew Shopland’s Blog

There are very few things that can get me to clean my room, but my boyfriend coming to visit for a few days is one of them. I had just finished vacuuming when he texted me.

“Hey Are you by your phone?”

For a self-identified millennial he has a strange yet endearing habit of using his phone for actual phone calls. I reply and in a moment I can hear his voice. I know immediately that something is up so I sit down on my floor and breathe. He’s struggling to say what he needs to say. I don’t remember many of his words, but one sentence stood out.

“I love you, but as a friend.”

My heart drops. I’m not shocked; this wasn’t out of nowhere like my last break-up was. But it still hurts. When I finally find my voice, I’m a bit surprised by what comes out.

“Can you still come over?”

“Of course,” he says. He’ll be on the five o’clock ferry.

The call ends and I find myself laying on my newly cleaned floor, not sure what to do, but also confident that laying on the floor is exactly what I need in this moment. After an indeterminate amount of time my phone vibrates with a text from a friend. It seems like the world outside my room has continued on. I tell him what happened. I text my roommate. I text my faerie lover in the midwest. I text my mom. In response to their “how are you doing?” they receive my #sadgayfloorselfie.

I decide that I can’t just tragically lay on the floor until he gets here, so I put on some self-esteem (glitter in my stubble, and some eyeliner) and drag myself out the door. First stop is Waterfront Station to get myself a Compass Card. This is what self-care looks like for a transit nerd. It is hard to not smile a little when I tap it for the first time. Next stop is comfort food: tempura donburi. Finally I return home and add tea, pillows, and blankets to my floor kingdom.

He texts me to say he’s nearby. I put on pants. I light a candle, praying for ease in whatever comes next. Then he’s at my door.

We embrace, holding each other tightly, as if to never let go, knowing that’s exactly what we’re doing. We collapse onto my bed, taking turns holding each other as we cry. The magnitude of the situation only fully hits once my face is buried in his chest, his arms around me. This relationship is ending and I am full of sadness and grief. This relationship is ending and I am full of love for him. I marvel at my ability to simultaneously feel deep sadness and deep love. I know he is feeling the same way too.

I look up at him, tears in his eyes. He’s wearing a ball cap with pistols on it from a country bar on the island. The image is so indicative what I love about him. Unabashed masculinity and unabashed emotional vulnerability.

He says comforting things to me. They are platitudes and yet they come from a place of complete honesty. I know he means them. He affirms that he doesn’t want to loose me from his life completely. Again, I know he means this, and I let him know that it’s important to me too. I love this man. We’ve grown together. He knows me deeply and I him. That’s an invaluable investment.

We shift to talking about our adventures since we’d last seen each other. He had been to a music festival. I had been to a retreat. We share our experiences and the emotions that carried us through them. We laugh. We stare into each other’s eyes.

A new feeling arises in us. A sense of pride is bubbling up amidst the deep sadness and the deep love. How amazing is this, that we can literally hold each other through something as challenging as the ending of a relationship? How amazing is it that our hearts can hold our love and our hurt, our caring and our grieving, all at once? We feel mature, and deeply grateful for our growth leading up to this point.

And then it’s time for him to leave. I walk him to the door. Our last kiss lingers. He looks back at me across the threshold, his hands in the shape of a heart on his chest. I can see some of my glitter shimmer on his face.

I return to my room. I give thanks for how beautifully it went. I put out the candle and I say goodbye.

leaves change, then fall
the wheel turns