DIVERSITY? IT’S A BIT OF A MIXED BAG: When There is a Multiplicity of Voices How Do We Hear What’s Being Said?

Middle Eastern woman holding a book and laughing

Multiculturalism – one side of many multiple stories.

In a single day, as I cover events, I may spend time in one space that is about design thinking then another that is about curation. I may go from an event on government policy to one on social innovation. Sometimes these spaces may be more straight than queer or more queer than straight. They are religious, agnostic, humanist, and sometimes self-helpish.

They might be Arab or Anishinaabeg spaces and the rituals, protocols and ceremonies change.

It’s a rich way to exist. It’s also complicated.

Because no matter if it is about profession, spirituality or cultural / sexual identity wherever I go everyone is trying to figure out who the hell they are and what the heck does it all mean when you put it into the context of communities that mingle and merge but often overlook the deeper complexities of diversity – most importantly the distinction between Immigrant and Indigenous narratives in Canada.

The narrative of ‘Multiculturalism’ makes invisible the story of the First Peoples. I would argue that was part of the plan. By placing ‘Canada the Good’ on the marquee with a storyline ‘Celebration of a Cultural Mosaic’ the light required to illuminate the systematic oppression of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada instead casts a long shadow.

Initiatives like The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have now turned the spotlight onto that darkness but as the hearings come to a close, with so much being said, how do we move forward and ensure all the voices speaking are getting heard?

We listen – actively, deeply and with a commitment to sit with the uncomfortableness that comes when you bear witness to someone else’s pain.

The legacy of colonization is a culture built on the instability of over-consumption and hyper-consumerism that thrives on distraction. If that isn’t addressed, living in a world with a multiplicity of voices is going to be problematic because the process of engaged listening is at odds with a society that functions by keeping people in a detached state of insecurity and need.

The government may change but most likely it won’t. In the meantime we can recognize that people aren’t pie charts. We can colour code demographics and cover souls with blanket statements but then we will lose the emotional prosperity that comes when human beings learn how sit and be still with each other despite the surrounding noise.

Middle Easter with short hiar and glasses smiles and talks

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The images in this post are from this past weekend’s events in Ottawa – The Book Launch of Min Fami at Octopus Books and Niigaan in Conversation at Carleton University. The quotes on the images of each woman demonstrate how many thoughtful people I encounter on any given day. It’s what makes me believe that a new space can be created regardless of systems in place that often seem beyond our control. To all the women I had the opportunity to listen to this weekend – Chi Miigwetch / شكرا.

Watch The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Event on the archived livestream.

Find out more about the Native Youth Sexual Health Network here.

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Middle Easter woman smiing as she talks into a microphone
Middle Easter woman smiing as she talks into a microphone
Middle Aged Aboriginal Women with young boy in the middle between them

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MIN FAMI: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance

Cover of book that says Min Fami in English and Arabic“Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space, and Resistance is an anthology that cradles the thoughts of Arab feminists, articulated through personal critical narratives, academic essays, poetry, short stories, and visual art. It is a meeting space where discussions on home(land), exile, feminism, borders, gender and sexual identity, solidarity, language, creative resistance, and (de)colonization are shared, confronted, and subverted. In a world that has increasingly found monolithic and one-dimensional ways of representing Arab womyn, this anthology comes as an alternate space in which we connect on the basis of our shared identities, despite physical, theoretical, and metaphorical distances, to celebrate our multiple voices, honour our ancestry, and build community on our own terms, and in our own voices.”

Purchase Min Fami at Octopus Books.

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IIGAAN’s Oshkadis Chineekaneech: The Youth Will Lead

Flower logo saying Niigaan in Conversation

Niigaan is an Anishinaabemowin word for leading into the future. Oshkadis Chineekaneech Is the Anishinaabemowin phrase that translates The Youth Will Lead.

“Niigaan: In conversation is an opportunity for settler Canadians to hear and respond to what Indigenous Peoples have been saying: Canada has not committed itself to addressing the colonial relationship it still has with indigenous peoples. Canada is in denial about that relationship. It is fair to say that most Canadians believe that kind of relationship no longer exists. We are trying to tell you that that is wrong.

The results of our work will be another step towards the continual positive development of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and non-native Canadians. The main end result will be to provide an engaging and focused space to encourage discussion, learn our collective history and to move forward to the future.”

Learn more about Niigaan and their upcoming events on their website, Facebook page and on twitter @Niigaan_IC.

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DIVINE TIMING: Celebrating Indigenous Solidarity with Niigaan on December 10

Woman standing with protestors and the parliament building in the background

When a plan comes together in spite of it all.

When the curators working with the National Gallery of Canada came together to plan Sakahàn, the largest exhibition of Indigenous work ever held, they couldn’t have known that right before the Spring ’13 opening there would be a political movement that would globally link people in solidarity with Indigenous movements around the world.

When Idle No More emerged as a force for change no one could have predicted how quickly social media would spread the news like wildfire – #IdleNoMore#INM, #CdnPoli, #SovSummer, #Oct7Proclaim, #ElsipogtogSolidarity.

And as the Harper Government amped up its campaign of greenbrain-washing this country, a reactionary plan came together quickly because the seeds of change were already being watered and nourished and were ready to bloom.

And blossom they did! The internet was the fertile ground beneath the virtual commons where everyone who wanted to participate could look, listen and learn.

I discovered I could be in two places at once, morally locating myself with like minds via livestreams, tweets and Facebook groups (like Walking With Our Sisters & The Journey of the Nishiyuu) even if I wasn’t able to show support in person.

I felt I had a kind of empowerment that I never had before. I could have a say in what was happening in Canada now and play an active part in envisioning what it can become in the future.

I also felt the grounding that hope gives when you know that there are so many people out there who are willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of protecting the land.

Data collection allows for metrics around keywords and hashtags but what cannot be fully quantified are the relationships that have been made because of people coming together around a cause. A system of roots has now spread across cyberspace.

And those roots don’t just exist online. A year after Idle No More started I find that it’s hard to imagine my life without the people I have met due to the divine timing of a political movement, an art exhibit, and computer technologies that allow us to find each other.

Throughout my journey this year I have encountered many who recognize that  something important is happening –  things have changed, the time is ripe.

The Anishinaabe prophecy of the 7th Fire speaks of an era when people of all races and faiths will unite in an effort to direct the evolution of humanity towards an existence that chooses spirituality over materialism.

I believe that no matter our background we can understand this to be true as well as appreciate the importance of the timing – we have to pick a path.

Logo that says Niigaan with flower decoration

An organization that works toward facilitation around moving forward with strengthened relations between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians is Niigaan In Conversation. On March of this year, Niigaan held its first event to a packed out house! Sensing a need for constructive dialogue around Treaties as well as a welcoming space for Non-Indigenous people to learn about Canada’s troubled history Niigaan offered a much needed service in the months following the start of Idle No More.

The legacy of their hugely successful inaugural event lives on because of its accessibility online but the great news is if you want to have a chance to experience the energy of Niigaan in person this coming Tuesday December 10 in Ottawa, on unceded Algonquin Territory, Niigaan is offering us all a chance to celebrate a year of change, begin more new relationships and continue building a plan around solidarity.

NIIGAAN: IN CONVERSATION WITH RED MAN LAUGHING
THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE
Ottawa
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
5 – 9 pm
$75 per ticket or $30 for students / underemployed
PURCHASE TICKET ON EVENTBRITE

Bring your cha-ching for the Silent Art Auction with works from Christi Belcourt, Sonny Assu, Jaime Koebel as well as Kelly-Ann Kruger, Mo McGreavy and Shady Hafez

Man singing while playing traditional Aboriginal drums
People holding hands and dancing in round dance in front of Parliament Buildings

Resources to More Indigenized Places in Cyberspace:

CBC’s 8th Fire Series & 8th Fire Dispatches

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Website & Book “Lighting the 8th Fire”

Niigaan Website & Facebook Page

The National Gallery’s Sakàhan Website

Walking With Our Sisters Website & Facebook Group

Muskrat Magazine

Man singing with traditional Aboriginal drums Above images taken at the Solidarity for Elsipogtog Event on Parliament Hill. All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.