Conference Video

Activism and the Arts

This session was created in direct response to the current protests against anti-Black police brutality in the US and home in Canada, and in honour of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and the countless others who acted in the Stonewall riots, who gave so many liberation.

In listening to voices that have been oppressed across the world and at home in Canada, this panel intends to be a move beyond the performative into the productive. Artists and organisations share practical steps for long-term activism in the arts sector and the ways to practice non-optical allyship in an effort to dismantle the current system and build an anti-racist industry.

How can we support marginalized members of our community and create space for BIPOC and Queer voices in a system that was designed to silence them? Will we do the work to look within ourselves, examine how we have been complicit, and change?


Moderator: Malindi Ayienga

Malindi Ayienga (Moderator)

Malindi is a Toronto based artist, activist and founder of Diva Day. She has an Honours Bachelor degree in Musical Theatre Performance and a passion for people.

For the past year, Malindi has been combining her love of theatre and her love for children by performing at Young People's Theatre.

You can learn more about Malindi on our Speakers Page.

Syrus Marcus Ware

Syrus is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus uses painting, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and black activist culture. He is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter- Toronto and a co-curator of Blackness Yes!/Blockorama.

You can learn more about Syrus on our Speakers Page.

Sage Petahtegoose

Sage is Anishnaabekwe and Elk clan from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, a reserve in Robinson Huron Treaty Territory.  A graduate of Humber’s Film, and Television Production program, Sage is an experienced actor having performed a leading role in the 2010 film Every Emotion Counts directed by Darlene Naponse.

You can learn more about Sage on our Speakers Page.

charles c. smith

charles is a poet, playwright and essayist who has written and edited fourteen books. He studied poetry and drama with William Packard at New York University and Herbert Berghof Studios, drama at the Frank Silvera’s Writers’ Workshop in Harlem.

You can learn more about charles on our Speakers Page.

Talk Video


>> The last series of the conference. I'm proud to announce the speakers. Syrus has won many awards. He's a candidate in the environmentals tudies. Sage Pethahtegoose is an experienced actor and assistant director and mixer and a sound editor. Charles C. Smith is a poet, play right who has written and edited 14 books.

Charles is the executive director of cultural --

pleuralism in the arts movement Ontario and artistic director ofthe wind in the leafs collection. And the moderator for this manle discussionis Malindi, a Toronto-based artist and she has an bachelor degree in musictheatre performance and passion for people.

>> Thank you so much. I'm Malind Ayienga. I want to dive inbecause we have beautiful minds here and I don't want to waste any more time.This panel is in response to climate that's pressing. The attention is new inthat I'm so grateful that we get to be responsible for how we direct thisattention.

Why do we think that keeps failing. We see them put out statementsand implement whatever, and then it falls arc part. So what is -- apart. Sowhat do you think? The very root, the very nature of a lot of theseorganizations is they were founded on white supremacy and colonialism andmuseums show the spoils of war and colonialism, the collecting and the foundersand the donors made their money through slave trades. This is -- there's bloodin all of this money in a lot of these institutions.

There's a core tenet in the very field. When we look at puttingout a statement or half an hour of racism training, how does that address someof the structural components that is inherent in legacy institutions thatstarted in 1901 as well as ones that started in the 60s and whatever. Withoutaddressing the structural issues, it all ends up being Band-Aids. They don'taddress the lack of hiring of Black and in HR practices and address the lack ofcollecting and showing and critiquing and engaging with Black artists inmuseums and galleries and festivals. They don't address the ways that systemicracism and classism only targets particular people to be audience members andthat it shuts out entire communities from being able to engage with the works.

So they just haven't -- none of these things actually address theRoos -- root causes. We do things that make people feel they can tick off abox. They don't do anything that might tip over the applecart or redistributespower to Black and Indigenous people. That's what we're asking for now. That'swhat people are calling for now.

That's what people demanding.

They're going to have to get with it.

>> Yeah, I think you really hit the nail on the head there.It is about a redistribution of power, and that is like the only answer andanti-racism because it addresses the systemic nature of it. Spiritually, youthink about the United States or Canada or the arts centre. It is all rooted inracism and built off of bloodshed. Of course it's going to be rotten.

It's not a surprise. Bee have to change what the core is. It seemslike a big ask. It seems like it's a big ask.

>> Well, it is a big ask. I prefer Syru' term. It's a termthat's been around for sometime.

I find and I've been doing this work for quite sometime is folksdon't want to look at history.

We just listen to the way we're having this conversation. We cantalk about blood. We can talk about murder. We can talk about how many bodiesare in the Atlantic ocean. We can talk about the number of lynchings and thethat we are on first nations territory and yet we say the land acknowledgement,but how much are we acting around land acknowledgements. How much are we alliedwith Indigenous people on sovereignty? I find at times that people would ratherignore the depth of pain, the depth -- so for example, when I say to people,you know, do you know how many people were murdered in the Congo belt? I say 15million. This is 40 years before the holocaust.

How many did Cecil called in rodiseasia and now call Zimbabwe? Howmany bodies are in the Atlantic ocean? There were a hundred thousand people onthis island called turtle island. Now there's 25 million.

So this is the problem.

People feel too much. I wasn't part of that.

But they're living off the privileges of that.

It's the stories we have experienced that they don't want to hearit. They don't want to KONT front it. This comes from our lives. We want someflowers. We some speculation about your spirituality and that kind of stuff,and you know, whatever, your intoxications.

We're trying to survive here and gain some space. This is onepart. They have to give up their parts of the pie. There's no new pie cominghere.

>> Yeah. And especially, you know, that relates back to ourglobal climate crisis. There's no other planet being given to us.

It's the only one we have.

Yeah. Sage, do you have any thoughts about organizations and theirantiracist efforts failing, what that's about?

>> So I'm at home right now, and I'm also with my family,and my brother's -- my little brother is having a really tough time right now.I'm like here. So I'm also think being him, because he's a little guy. But Iwill say just about this is --

I think that these organizations can I have a moment? No.

>> Sure. No need to apologise.

Calling at home [ Phone ringing ]

>> Everything that I've done online in the last two monthshas had a little head pop up at one point or a foot, and she likes to insertherself into the show.

[ Laughter ].

>> Adorable.

>> While we're waiting for Sage to join us again, let's kindof go further and say what supports need to be in place to facilitate thisactual change and this exchange of power? And perhaps we can start withsupports for -- so if there is -- how do we dot power exchange? How do we makeit a smooth transition for everyone?

I know that, you know, for people who hold the power, there's alot of eke or and resistance and power and fear and scary feelings aboutrelinquishing the power, even though you might know it's the right thing to do.How do we get them to release power?

>> So, you know, I think they have to give up a piece of thepie. And in community. Some of the work that we're doing now is how do wereally create hubs within the Black communities so we can come togetherregularly and we can kind of consider where we're coming from, the challengeswe're facing, how do we marshal our resources to create advocacy outside andcreate connections in our own community and so on. I think the institutions --I love this conversation when we talk about EDI, equity, diversity, andinclusion, you know who the institutions are that are saying it. Basicallythey're saying we'll take you into our mainstream historical traditionalorganizations but then you have to give up who you are. Right in and do theirpractices. So yeah. They can be more representative, but are they really? Arethey truly opening up to the aesthetic practices that we have? And when some ofus go in there, what are we losing from community? What are we losing here? Andwe are the ones who build our practices that we have and being pushed into andpulled into all these other directions, largely because it's financial, we wantto survive. It's taking away there our capacity to build a foundation uponwhich we can accent our arts practices, connect with each other, and advocateout, build our communities. To me, that's first. I'm really getting a littletired of change the institution so that we can improve. No. It's got to be Wehave to have choices.

>> Yeah.

>> It makes me think about just to make an analogy, but itmakes me think about abolition, when we talk about abolition. We're not justtalking about tearing down the structures that don't work. We're talking aboutplanting this beautiful garden that is going to grow in its place, andnourishing and I think supporting Black artists and Black arts administratorsand Black curators to do all of this incredible work.

I also think that there is a moment where, you know, thatbeautiful small matter of engineering artwork that Cora Springer made that freeunderstand stAing billboard that had white people, do something.

I think that's such a powerful work.

I think that we need led leaders, arts leaders in theseinstitutions to do something. I look at Andrew Russell who a white theatredirector in Seattle and he was like theatre a whiteness problem. There'ssystemic whiteness. And that no one amount of specialty programming or bringingin BLM to do something for a workshop is going to cure. What he did -- he was ayoung director.

He was new in the field. He was new in the career. He was atremendously successful and he said I'm immediately starting a succession planso I can hand over my leadership to Black women and that's what he did.

He stepped aside. He said I need to step aside now. Theconversation is not for me to lead now. I need to actually step aside and makethat space, and I think we need more people actually doing that, performativeallyship is over.

We need demonstrative change.

We need to you do something as Cora Springer's billboard imploresyou to do. Right?

>> They think kind of answers my question. We need thepeople who have the power to trust that if they relinquish it, it's going to behandled with care and handled responsibly and handled positively. It's not --

there really is nothing to be afraid of except for the worldgetting better or people feeling like they're being represented, and there willbe other opportunities for you. There are always other opportunities for you.That's the point. The point is there's not as many for us because of Mela nINfor whatever reason, and yeah. I think that there has to be some trust in thatthat this is the right thing. I don't know if you saw, there was a fake articlethat was fake news. It wasn't real. There was a fake news article that wentaround that the Seattle museum was going to divert and turn its leadership overto Black communities and people were sharing it around. No, that's obviouslynot going to happen.

If are that split second when I saw it, I was like ah, it saysit's as simple as that. The elite directors are not going to land on their feetand find other work? Not at all. Of course they're going to be fine.

Please open up the space for a better conversation.

>> It's also like -- we've never seen this before. What isthere to be afraid of? We don't know what it's like to have a whole big assmuseum curated by Black women. I don't think we've seen it on that scale. Butwe have seen what you're doing right now. I don't understand how you can createthis whole anxiety story that when BIPOC artists are given space it's going tobe detrimental to your experience of the arts or your experience of the world.It can only be nourishing because it's new.

That's the thing that really gets me when racism happens in an artsphere. We are the people who are connected to the world so emotionally that wewe have to express it so much other than the sky is so nice today.

It's more than that and how we can judge and box it in andseparate and exclude, just defeats the whole purpose. And your art will be stale,and it will be boring when it's just this same thing over and over again.

>> But that is what they want.

Let's be honest. Frederick Douglas over 150 years ago said [notaudible] sees nothing without a demand. Here we are demanding. And this is whatthey have in their thinking.

What do they have to lose? They might be able to go to anotherjob. There's a movie I saw a while ago and it was a lone Black guy on a boardof directors, some big international company, and the chair of the board diesand so they have to vote on who the new board chair will be. They have a newboard election, and you know, it's a tie. But then they realise nobody votedfor putney, the only Black guy on the board.

Then they all vote again and each of them individually thinks I'llgive a vote to putney so he doesn't feel so bad. So he wins unanimously. Onewhite guy says we hope you don't change much.

The next scene is a party, all BlackBlack bodies and it's justlikelike -- and that's the fear.

You can't look at these institutions and just say the person atthe top. Once the person at the top comes in, other things begin to fallawayment in the museums, who are the researchers a the ROM, when theyapologised for having the heart of Africa, they brought in Black curators. It wasn'tgoing to be on the floor permanently.

We see this all the time. Oh, yeah, you can have this little bitof space because they don't want to give up control.

>> Gaslighting.

>> Part of the problem with that is they know that we havemore access to data, because we're double, triple, quadruple conscious. Theydon't know.

And they know we are bringing what you're saying, Malindi, butit's not your interests. Sorry.

>> Yeah. I was just going to say I wrote an article forCanadian art yesterday that was called give us permanentance permanence.Because we're tired of the token art gallery or festival. This is a momentwhere we're saying everything needs to be reshaped and Susan Kahan wrote thatbook, mounting frustrations and she chronicles 40 or 50 years that show thatit's only in moments of civil unrest or protest that the art museum condescendsto engage with Black artists and only in the kitchen table gallery or smallside shop or a poster series or something small and demonstrative. Neveracquisitions into the permanent collection. Never please will you join ourboard of directors?

. There are very specific things and an entire book thatchronicles these stories. I was talking to other people with similarexperiences to that.

>> Yeah. When we talk about like, yeah, this gaslighting ortokenizing or these little brief moments of space that is then taken away, canyou just tell me a little bit more about how that is damaging and what thatsays to you and what that message is?

>> Well, basically, that we are there for when they want toconnect with us. So for example, you know, both the organizations areorganizations I work in and project grants.

The difficult of project grants is we're always on the hustle muchwe know about hustling because that's who we are. But depriving and we've beendeprived the operating grants, significant grants, doesn't allow us to reallybuild cohesion within the organization, build membership, build services, buildpolitical capital, build relationships and funders. So we're always goingafter, one after, one after one and what gets me in this day and age, oh, weall want equity. We want to address anti-Black racism. We want to get on withfirst nations people and so on.

As Syrus said, within their box, within their box.

They can contain it. They can make it temporary. They can buy timeto making it temporary, which is one of the things I worry about now this itthis moment. Are they going to try to buy time so that January, this is past?That's the dilemma. Again, we get drawn in a thousand different directs.

It's hard to keep up -- I noticed the [not audible]

members don't get weary. We can't.

It's our life. We cannot get weary. But that's what they'recounting on. That's what they're counting on. And I look at it, and I kind ofsay, you know, and Tanesha Tate of the coons theatre put out something sayingit's really good to see all of these theatre companies putting out statementsand antianti-Black racism but I'm not seeing Black folk on this stage or theadministration. I might see the janitorial staff. So the hypocrisy, but peoplefeel they're buying time. Yay, they spoke up for us. No, they didn't. I don'tjudge you by what you say. I judge you by what you do. I'm not seeing muchhappening here.

>> Just to continue calling them names, let's call NinaSimone in this. Too slow. Mississippi Godgoddamn. I keep saying go slow.

Go slow. But that's just the trouble. Too slow. And this is like,you know, it's been --

it's 2020. Like enough. You know, we've made enough of the smallchanges and incremental --

they always say changing a gallery or museum is like trying tosteer a giant battleship.

While you're trying to steer that, we've built an entire armada oftiny ships around you.

We're building our own like --

too slow? We'll take this ship down.

>> Yeah. And also, so many theatre companies or artsinstitutions have made this quick pivot to adapt to these circumstances now ofnot being able to congregate because of coronavirus and COVID and socialdistancing so they are capable of doing a quick change to move their wholeseason or their whole communication with their membership online. And becausewe have the power of the internet, we do have access to so many more differentpeople, so many more different partners.

Hello, Sage, welcome backs. We were just talking about companiesgaslighting or organizations gaslighting BIPOC artists by giving us moments tocome in and then they're taken away again. So yes, they can change, and we weretalking about how it's going too slow and we need to make dramatic change. AndI'll bring up the climate crisis again.

We don't have infinite time.

It's not only because we've been making these demands for so longthat we're just let's just do it. There's a greater kind of clock ticking to bea little ominous. So when we do finally have BIPOC artists being not justincluded for a moment or not just included on a certain level, at all levels ofthe hierarchy and the arts, what do we need to do to make sure that when thingsgo wrong, because they will, that's life. For example, I as an artist show upto the day one for costuming of a show and I'm given a bear of beige tightsbecause someone didn't realise there's a person of colour in the cast and theyneed brown tights because they have brown skin. How co-I make sure there's thisplace for me to go and say this has happened to me and I won't have to be theone to deal with fixing the problem? Because I just noticed it. I'm not theproblem. I'm just clocking in. How do we make sure it's safe to bring thosethings up so that we can continue to work in community with one another?

>> One of the sad issues for us, sadly, and I'm saying sadtwice there, because it is double, is that these folks really don't know. It'sincredible. I was in a Zoom session last week, a week ago, something like that.

Someone from Nova Scotia, a white woman who knew nothing aboutBlack presence in Nova Scotia. I'm like huh? How could you not know? But yet, Imean, so you know, the reality is they believe they don't need to know ourlives, because really whether they say it or not, we're not important. Anyconstructive way of setting the agenda. And so they know us very thinly. Theyknow us as we sound like them and work in the same spaces, etc. etc., and thatshifts the onus to us to say, I don't feel so good about this.

And of course, we get tired of that, because it's like over andover and over. I'm sure all of us have been on so many calls over the last weekabout hi, I want advice from you about -- I have a statement. What should thestatement say? Where did I send it to? And I have a conflict on my board, and Ihave a conflict with my staff. Like oh, man, you know. And so actually to behonest with you, the last few days, I've just said I'm sorry, I can't answeryour question right now. You don't realise that in asking the question, you'reputting me into more emotional labour where frankly, up to here and beyond.

You know? And so that's a dilemma, because then how do they get toknow?

>> Yeah.

>> When there's so willfully ignorant of what this is. Andto talk about the stuff we started off in the beginning of the conversationwhen you get into, you know, it's not just people disappeared. They weremurdered.

>> Yeah.

>> Kincaid says it.

Let's be know honest. These aren't war heroes. They're murderers.Whether it's Cecil Rhodes or the confederate generals in the United States.

These were murderers supported by their state at the time. No onewants to talk about that except for us. Because it's been our ancestors and usright now, they continue to kill.

>> Yep.

>> I think about like the needs -- for black and Indigenouspeople in the arts, we're constantly put in that position, just as you said,Charles of always having to be the whistleblower. At the same time, we're alsotrying to protect our communities from experiencing more harm, so we're doingthe work in the institution to prevent them from being as racist as they areand internalizing that. We experience the racism, but we prevent it from goingpublic and then we do it and it protects the save face and the institution getsto save face.

We intervene in the racism and the institution still gets to lookgood and we're this go between. It makes it really hard for a lot of Black andIndigenous and racialized folks to say in the arts, because it is soexhausting. And that's, I think, one of the biggest crisis. I think that we canthink about in that way. We are losing brilliant, amazing, incredible peoplewho are not sticking around in the arts because of the violence that they'reexperiencing or because of there always having to be there.

>> I'd like to comment on that too. I heard what you weresaying in your initial opening, I respect what you were saying about held thoseroots -- these institutions have in colonialism. And it carries to how they'rerun today. I think this struggle with maintaining like our people in thosefields is -- there's a lot of mistrust we have in the way that they're run ingeneral. So I feel like personally, I feel a lot of mistrust in the way thatthings are hierarchically run and how that translates to me as a person. Itdoesn't even like fit. Do you know what I'm saying? It's that argument oftrying to fit the circle with the triangle. In the way that those systems areshaped, it doesn't make sense to a lot of our people. Even if like a lot of ourpeople don't have a whole lot of knowledge on how our own people would have runthings, just because we're not familiar with them. We're not around them allthe time. And so how that translates to us being like in other foreign systems.It's just like -- I don't feel like how you're running this organization isright. I don't feel like it's a fit for me, but I really don't have a frame ofreference about how it could be run.

Which I think in turn, a lot of our people are choosing to createtheir own smaller projects.

>> Yep.

>> In their communities. So working in communities isoftentimes like prioritized. We know how to treat our own people or we'reworking towards that too, if we don't. Right?

>> Yeah.

>> A lot of our people struggle with that too. And I'll justsay, like, for example, there was a small group of people around the GeorgianBear --

bay. That's a couple hours north of Toronto. There was this youngwoman I knew, Kyla Judge and she's from shewany shewannaegant first nation. Andcreating an environment where all the community was able to come andparticipate. Everyone was fed. Everyone was taken care of. And I think that'salso like a piece too, is you need to -- if you want the community out thereand in there, you've got to make sure they're fed. They feel good about beingthere. They're not like burdened and don't feel out of place innit the system.Like y'all were saying about how the -- who is the art for then?

Like what?

>> Yeah.

>> The canoe, there's a lot of teachings in how you build itand all of that, but then also there's a lot of importance in how is that artgoing to keep going? How is it going to -- I don't want to reservice but how isit going to reservice the community again.

>> On that point, I think it's really -- Sage said somethingreally important about how people come together in community. The twoorganizations that I work with are ones they created. And I created thembecause I really got tired of bureaucracies, and I've been in many. I have seensome really good anti-racism work in some of them, but they die, becauseleadership changes.

People don't want it anymore.

How deep are you going. Next thing you know, I'm out the door, andthey've gone back.

And I said enough of that. And what I'm finding, and this issomething that really blends with my arts practice. So my group for example,we're totally collaborative. When we say choreography, it's the collective.It's the way we work. The way we get together and rehearse, we might work for30 minutes on the floor and then we might have a conversation for the next 30minutes about what was that and how was each person contributing to it? Howwere they feeling? Yes because they're led by Black bodies, we also havenon-Blacks who are in the program as well. How do we educate them? How do theyseek out the knowledge of this process and of the subject matter we're dealingwith?

Because we're dealing with issues around Black lives and so on andthe poetry is mine, and it comes out of that Black lives experience.

The music comes out of predompredominantly jazz and the way thosemusicians work is pretty much the same way. So we build up aesthetic practicesthat root us to who we are over time. So for me, I can see the practice linkingback to the various parts of southern Africa and so on up through slavery, upthrough the Harlem renaissance and the Black arts movement through today. It'sa continuum and that continuum has always relied on collaborative work.

Each person brings their spirit accident their creativity, theirvision to the process, and it gets shared.

>> Yes.

>> That's not what happens in a lot of other companies. Theartistic director comes in.

This is it period.

>> Uh-huh.

>> Bingo.

>> And when you have people or BIPOC artists in the space,it's their understanding or their vision of how they want you to fit into theirpuzzle that is being forced upon you. And that can't possibly be anything closeto authentic. Yeah. Did anybody else want to speak to that?

>> Yeah. I just think that back to what you were sayingabout this triangle in a round hole.

>> Yep. Yeah. You can't --

like take my theatre experience, my education in a class of 48students at a music theatre college, there were two visible people of colour,myself and one other woman. And it's just such a testament and you can see themfirst year how many BIPOC artists this year and how many of those peopleactually graduate. We can say yes, you're accepting people into the institutionand hiring people, whatever, but do they stay?

Does it last? Is it the institution a place that is safe andnourishing for these people not only to survive but to flourish? My friendSierra and I would talk about how much better would we be if we had not spent15% of our time to facilitate a safe learning environment for ourselves and notthat it's easy to do that either. It is work, and to be met with backlash andto be mat with ignorancy and people who don't want to change anything for you,but they want you to be there so their school can look diverse.

When you add on the fact that I am paying $10,000 to be here, so Ithink that I should probably have a say in who gets to teach me, in what I'mlearning and how my inquiries and my concerns are being addressed. And I thinkit also comes down to like, hierarchy and ageism as well, too, having youngstudents trying to speak up much oftentimes, they're just kind of brushed awaybecause of the youngness and then you compound it with my racialized body andgender and experience and all that as well, and it's deeply discouraging.You're like this is not made for me. I love to sing. I love to story tell. Ilove to play music and meet people and interact and collaborate. And the onlyinstitutions that offer opportunities for that don't work. So where do I go?What do I do? How do I art? And that's when you have these incredible, youknow, independent projects that start off, and that's -- then it starts a bellcommunity because it's about the people first.

It's about who is not being invited? What can we do to make themfeel included and then we can figure out how we're going to teach singing andall that kind of stuff afterwards.

>> You brought such an important point in. I think this ideaof arts education and who is doing the teaching, who is in these programs thatare then funneling into all of these institutions and organizations. You know,it's a really crucial thing. I think about my art school experience and mygoodness, I don't think I had a professor of colour.

>> No.

>> I certainly didn't have a Black professor. I do this alot of in trainings.

Skit people, what was the first time that you had a Black teacher.And it's not in grade one. It's not in grade nine.

It's not even in their master's usually. It's not -- when was thefirst time hu an Indigenous professor or Indigenous teacher teachure? Justplease name it for me. I do that in training and people are stunned when theyactually beening it. They're like oh, that's true. So we're not in the education.We're not getting the jobs doing the teaching. We're not in the curriculum. Thecurriculum isn't being taught to be inclusive of the stories of Black andIndigenous lives. The arts curriculum, I was at a class. I went to UT. I was inan art history class and told that the reason why the textbook and the coursedidn't have a lot of art by Black and Indigenous women was because they didn't--

"they" didn't start making work with in the 60s becausethey were busy with colonization processes.

>> They were busy?

>> Busy.

[ Laughter ].

>> And they didn't start making work until the 60s and thenthere wasn't good documentation of it. This was taught as a fact in school. Sowe're not not curriculum. We're not doing the teaching and we're not showing up,and that's who --

these are the schools that are feeding into the theatre companies,into the dance companies, into the arts institutions, into the museum studyfields and that -- this is part of the problem. This is part of the structuralproblem.

It's not just in the institutions.

It's also in the education system that is failing Black artists,Black and Indigenous artists over and over again.

>> I would say it's failing all.

Yes, certainly Black, Indigenous and shall racialized artists.

>> Yes, it's failing all of us.

>> As Syrus said, I've been teaching now for, I guess, 18years. And every class, I always say to them. Identify the two most importantinstitutions in your life. And invariable they come to institution and parents.

What's the conversation you have about your parents? Education.

I just give facts, no evaluation. I say let's include earlychildhood in your education because many would have been in early childhood.

How many years have you now been in these institutions foreducation? And you know, let's say if they're now doing post grad work, sothey're 26 odd years, etc., etc.

And I say OK. If 26 years, biggest conversation with your parentsabout this. How many Indigenous authors have you read in your formal education?Very few hands if any go up. Black?

Black queer? Queer? South Asian? You can go on and on.

And then of course I say white men and all hands go up. Right?

And you know, the interesting thing is they then see -- I put amap of the world up there.

You've only heard from this small part of the world basically.

>> Yeah.

>> That's what it is. So it's about how do you expand yourviewpoint to be able to engage in other things? And I also then say to them.Don't just look at the years, but how many hours do you spend in school?

Count your travel time. Count your homework time.

Who are your friends? And where did you meet them? These circlesof people that you have been with throughout your life, where did they comefrom? Your neighbourhood and your school.

Right? So you know, this funnel of education is really aboutfirming up conformity to a paradigm that's been violently subjected to us.

>> Yep. And if I was answering those questions, inelementary school, all of the other kids were white. All of the other kids --there was no one that looked like me other than my sister in the grades below.And so perhaps they could say, you know, oh, yeah, I had a Black friend, but Ican't say that.

[ Laughter ].

>> And also, of course, my best friend is Black, does notmean that you have had a diverse experience or that you are nonracist. It's nota get-of-jail-free cardget-of-jail-free card just in case you didn't know that.

>> I just want to call the brilliant work of Dr. Cooper intothe room, and that beautiful poem song she made that's called I don't care ifyour nanny was black. And she fed you grits for breakfast every morning and youknew a Black girl in high school and she was nice and then she goes to to sayall the reason, she doesn't care. If you listen to anything, kick back andlisten to that.

>> The poem is called "I don't care if your nanny isblack."

It talked about police brutality and talks about anti-Blackness.

It talks about so many things.

This constant refrain. And she's nice. And I had -- and she was yourbest friend and she was nice. I don't care. It's so beautiful.

>> I had a similar student years ago who was a white studentwho when challenged on the other handa these issues was saying her nanny was asouth Asian woman and when she dressed her up in Sares and bindies and howclose they were and she made her Curry and yada yada. I said why do you thinkshe did that? Oh, because she loved me. I said did she love you, or you wereher evaluation? Ooh. In other words.

She was there, her mother --

this is what we did today. I had so much fun. I put this thing andI had sari. And the nanny is employed. It sends shockwaves to think about itfrom that perspective saying you were the only way the parents in that familycould tell whether or not you were being treated well by your nanny. So it'snot, you know, this whole notion of friendships and I have a Black friend andAsian friend and all that kind of stuff is troubling. Particularly in this dayand age where we find. When I went to school, I was the only Black in my class.I had only oneone Black teacher in grade 8 with math. Math was my best subjectexcept that year much that was my best year in math.

Mr. Haze Hayes, when I walked in the door, I said you're theteacher? And he said yes I am.

>> My first Black teacher was a Black woman taught mesinging in mitts school and now I'm a singer. I'm going to take a question frompeople who are watching. How can organizations and companies address whitefragility through training as they begin to implement zero toleranceanti-racism policies?

>> That's a good one. What do you do when the white folk arefeeling personally attacked and defensive and taking it personal? How do wecontinue to get them to engage and change?

>> I think we can turn to the work of fractured Atlas.

Fractured Atlas is an arts-based organization that is looselybased around New York.

They do centralized and work from home offices. They do adviseartists and one of the things they do is strategic HR and they have developedthis team-wide strategy where they have a group and caucus structure so thewhite people in their organization take responsibility for their own feelings,for their own actions and only learning and own time.

They commit to doing a weekly caucus, and then there's also agroup meeting for the racialized members of the team so actually the racializedmembers get two times a week where they're away from white people which isprobably a nice gift. They do this important work together and they'recommitted to it. It's threaded through the fabric of the organization.

That's one example where some somebody is already doing a good jobat trying to do that.

Putting the responsibility back on folks who are perpetrating theharm. The tears actually don't stop the need for action.

The anxiety and the stress that you feel for being called out forracism doesn't stop your need to act and your need to respond. So you know,start a caucus. Start a group at your organization where you're going to committo doing readings tomorrow and commit to helping peach other, commit to keepingeach other accountable and try to make some of the structural changes in yourorganization.

That's your responsibility. She wishes she could have been asculptor or a painter on a gardener, but she was forced into this world ofstruggle because of oprotection and she was forced to be a warrior and astruggle. Fanny hamer says as racialized people, we were born in the mess sothey were caught up in. For white people, they haven't had to get involved.

Now the ball is in your court.

This is your responsibility to do this work, to do this labour, todo this work with your people to make sure that we are addressing these things.

>> Yep.

>> There are two other tools that are often used. One iscalled the privilege watt. It used to be called getting on the bus. Theyidentify privileges based on race, sexualorientation, age, etc.


That's again the process is one where people discover where theyhave privilege and the question is what do you do about it? The other one iscalled the power flower which is much more of a self-reflection. You identifythe main characteristics of the dominant group. And then there are varietypetals that say about race, language, immigration status, sexual orientation,etc., and you begin to decide are you in the outside on race or the inside onrace?

In other words, how does your social identities approximate tothose characteristics in the dominant group? So you have this basis of here I'modd. If answers honestly. That's the one thing you have to answer honestly.That can open up doors to say as I do with my class and say there's a lot wedon't know -- there's a language we don't know, and there's a way we have toget used to that language. So our ears have to open a bit more to the nuances.

So for example, take the Amy Cooper situation in New York with thebirdwatching photographerphotographer Christopher -- I'm forgetting his lastname. You may know the story. White woman walking her dog in a part of CentralPark which is for birds, and the dog is supposed to be on leash. She doesn'thave her dog on the leash. The guy who goes there regularly says hey, you know,your dog is supposed to be on a leash. And he starts recording her to get herto try to stop and so on. She threatens him and says, if you don't stoprecording me, I'm going to call the police and say there's an African Americanman who is threatening me. So she knew exactly what she was doing.

>> Yes.

>> When I see that, I always say when a white woman cries, aBlack man dies.

>> Yeah.

>> And you know, I say that because in my courses, I havesat in several dean's offices, sitting down saying what am I supposed to teachthem? You've seen the course outline. We are talking about this kind ofviolence. Am I supposed to be responsible because they can't hear it, becausethey don't want to hear it and then they go to their power base and say to thedean uh-uh, this isn't what we signed up for?

>> Wow.

>> Here I am once again, here's the course outline yousigned and using every excuse imaginable. So there has to be a point where --and it can't always be the labour, but they have tonight begin to listen toNina Simones and the Baldwins on their own and with they have questions thatthey've prepared, then let's have a conversation.

>> Yep.

>> Until they face that, it gets weary, and it's acontinuation of violence to be honest with you. There's no time I ever feltcomfortable sitting in a dean's office because a student has complained aboutthe subject matter. I've been there more than I care to remember in my 18 yearsof teaching.

>> And wow!

I would love to contrast that with a personal experience of minebeing in theatre school, having the program co-ordinator in a rehearsal hallbecause the N-word. He's a white man, using the N-word to -- context doesn'tmatter. He used it multiple times. I found myself in the dean's office acrossfrom the associate dean asking for him to address this. And being told that thestudents who witnessed it should be the ones to address it, and that at nopoint was that teacher called in. So a white professor can use the N-word andnot be called into the dean's office and then a Black professor can teach aboutracism and gets called into the dean's office. And the difference is Icomplained, and I am a woman of colour. And in your case, I'm sure that thestudents were white students whose voices are being heard and recognized. Sothese are the changes that need to happen. We can't do that for you. We can'tbe in every space making every decision for you, but you can educate yourselfand allow what you learn to inform your decisions as you move forward.

It's not about whether or not you are good or bad person much it'sabout whether or not you are living in reality and responding to it in a humaneway. Anyway, we have just under five minutes left. So what is making youhopeful for the future of these institutions?

Why do you keep talking about this stuff? What makes you thinkthat things are going to change?

>> I'm fundamentally very hopeful, because I know about thepower of the people. I havenesshaveness -- have witnessed it.

I've been an activist for 25 years and an artist for 25 years andI've been organized in the streets and organizing from home. I know the powerof the people. I know ultimately, we have it all. Black Indigenous people, thisis Indigenous territory, and Black people shaped so much of everything that'shappened here.

We literally are the content.

We are -- we started the gay liberation movement. In so many way,we have led everything on this -- to turtle island. Black and Indigenouspeople, with tiffany king and all the things written about our relationships.

We are it here, folks. We are infinitely more powerful than thestate. We are infinitely more powerful than white supremacy. We are buildingthese beautiful communities.

Look at work that Charles is doing. Two organizations dedicated toexactly eradicating the kind of erasure we're talking about. We're plantingthese new seeds and new organizations are going to grow from it. We areultimately --

we're it. We've got it. The institutions will change or die.

But we're it.

>> Yeah.

>> We're going to remain. We're lasting.

>> Amen!

>> To add to that, the demographics are going to beincredibly powerful over the next little while combined with the argument onwhites and on place. So we know the Indigenous communities are the

fastest-growing communities in the country. We have to accept it'snation to nation, nottoff a question of numbers. And we know that racialized communitiesare now one in every four and likely to be one in every three very soon. Thisis what -- we see it really more starkly south of the border. When you seethose photos, what they're fighting for is white privilege.

They're not fighting for

democracy. They're fighting to dominate others and they knowthey're losing the game because of changes coming down.

Starbucks Starbucks they said no Black Lives Matter and two dayslater, they were make T-shirts.

Looking at the whole issues of pipeline and so on and so forth andthe rallying around Indigenous space. Hey, you know, we cannot keep degradatingthe earth and we can't take land from people who have taken care of the landfor centuries, because we need oil. We have to figure out something different.

These things are coming up more, but I think they actually comeup, because some of us are playing into our roles. I really want to get out ofthese companies is I wanted to get out of these institutions. I still have afoot hold in some of these institutions, but I know I need to have I -- a homebase that is safe. I won't subject my life -- there was a time in my life I satin a room with four white people and when I left that room, I said that's thelast time that will happen.

That's the last time. And it hasn't happened again because I'm thenogoing to let it. I'm not going to be in those circumstance where is my lifehas to be jeopardized because these folks don't get it and don't want to getit.

>> Uh-huh.

>> There's an urgent update with the defonty Miller case,and I know we're just wrapping up. If it's OK, I'm going to jump off and justrespond. But this was the best conversation. What a way to go into Prideweekend.

What a way to go into this weekend of activism. I'm so honoured tobe with all of you.

>> Thank you so much for your time.

>> We'll talk soon.

>> Sage, did you want to finish with a word of how you'restaying hopeful?

>> Sure. I definitely think in what's been going on in themedia lately, there's a lot of -- and then how our people are responding.There's a lot of pitting each other -- pitting Indigenous and Black peopletogether because like whose issues are more important. I am hopeful that theeducation of Indigenous people and how we can support Black people and how wecan be supportive of each other's issues and they go so hand in hand, and justthe way that on even -- even like in conversation, we compete for the samepools of money and the attention and that's not so.

That's not how it has to be and how I see the conversationsgrowing in like you -- youth grass roots initiatives is the desire and we seethe need for each other to be working together. We need to be working togetherand hearing each other and holding that space with each other. And that's whatI'm hopeful for is the young people.

And then that return to Indigenous knowledge. It's important tosee that the --

that knowledge can come from all different -- all different stagesof life, not just old people, not just the people in positions of power,because we all hold that power, and we're all supposed to. And we're allsupposed to -- really uphold each other and also hold each other accountable. Ithink I'm hopeful for is having more conversations with other young peopleabout how that can happen and so right now, I'm working with Humber actuallywith a bunch of other Indigenous youth in the -- I want to shout them out. TheIndigenous trans media fellowship. We're going to be developing a projecttogether and hopefully that reflects what we're seeing, like how we'reresponding to what's going on in the media and also what we want to see in themedia field and in the arts field and yeah. I want to say thank you so much forbearing with me. That conversation of youth also has to do with my littlebrother. I really love him. He had a really hard time today. I know he's reallystressed out, because everyone in this house is having Zoom meetings. We're alllike in each other's face trying to be professional and all of that. He dealingwith a lot and seeing a lot and hearing what we're doing, but the future alsoneeds to respect people like him, young people, and that includes not justpeople 18 to 25. It means people like ten and under.

>> Absolutely.

>> Yeah. A hundred percent.

Thanks so much. I really love what you said about holding peopleaccountable, and I think that's going one of my takeaway, when we do holdpeople accountable, we're still holding them. It is still an embrace and stilla community. There's no negative connotation to that.

It's empowering and a gift and both of your perspectives have beendeeply empowering and gifts. Thank you for your time today.

>> Yeah. Meegwetch.

>> See you later.

>> Yeah.

>> Thank you so much for this conversation. I'm happy thatdespite all the interruptions and distractions, you still made it happen and itsounded very smoothly. It was really really good. So thank you so much.

Thank you, and it was our last panel for today. But we still havean artist

Welcome and Keynote Address Chat Log

Below is a log of the live chat that occurred during this talk. The format is:




Emojis that were used in the chat will appear between colons, e.g., :smile:

Chat Log:


Culture's Compass

Hello Welcome to Activism in the Arts.
 Just a reminder to please keep all comments and questions appropriate to the  session topic and refrain from using inappropriate language.
 Be sure to post any questions in the “Ask a Question” section at the  bottom of the screen!


Culture's Compass

Also, don't forget to use the hashtag  #CulturesCompass2020 on your socials!


Kristen Turner

Hi again everyone! Very excited for this session


Hana Glaser

Supper excited for this panel!



Me too :slightly_smiling_face:


Kyla Ross

This is so exciting to have you all here! cannot  wait to learn from you all!


Kristen Turner

(Just a note for people who may have been pulled  from the previous session like myself - it's live now, if you don't see it,  refresh your page!)


Kaisha Ayienga

Hi everyone! I am so happy this is happening.


Kyla Ross

I am moved and motivated by the wealth of  experience we are being gifted with in this multi-generational panel.


Kyla Ross



Jennifer Dick

Yes! Thank you for this conversation.


Kristen Turner

Well said Malindi :clap:


Hana Glaser

Amazing   article Syrus!


Jennifer Dick

Yes, and in the archive


Jennifer Gordon


Emma Burke-Kleinman

Thanks for the link, Jennifer!


Maria Morgunova

thanks for the link!


Jenneen Beattie

A small explain of giving over the organization  to Black emerging artist is Whippersnapper Gallery. They give the Black  Artists Union a 2 year residence to program the space.


Jenneen Beattie



Vicki Hargreaves

'We cannot get weary' The best


Jennifer Gordon



As was said yesterday "I'm tired of all the  BULLSHIT"


Vicki Hargreaves

The armada!!


Tracey Prehay

Thank you for sharing Jennifer


Jennifer Gordon

Hi Tracey! Great to se you here!


Kristen Turner

Welcome back Sage!


Kyla Ross

Yay welcome back Sage!


Jennifer Gordon

Welcome back Sage!


Taisa Petruk

My sincere apologies for the late join!


Taisa Petruk

If they are hiring you ... bring it up ...


Liz Pead

Good for you Charles, time for more people to do  the emotional labour themselves.


Vicki Hargreaves

Willful ignorance


Kristen Turner

Vicious cycle...


Jennifer Gordon

And the power of narrative. What stories are  told, how, and to whom


Taisa Petruk

Contract work , in this specific time, is even  worse. understanding contracts/agreements is not easy but I really encourage  it.


Kristen Turner

Yes Malindi... getting people in these spaces is  only the start. Moot point if there aren't efforts to support them to stay.


Colleen Smith

Agreed. Sustained presence and inclusion is  necessary.


Liz Pead




the curriculum is a very important point



Great conversation!


Grace Francisci

Hi Sage!


Belinda Cunha

So proud to have had a black teacher in Gr 3, Gr  8 and beyond. You are right! This made a big difference in my life and  everyone should have the same experience regardless of your race. I'm white  and he was by far my favourite teacher. Also brought in black guest speakers.


Kristen Turner

Thank you charles. Lots to think about here.


Elka Weinstein

Afua Cooper is amazing!


Tracey Prehay

Dr Afra Cooper


Kyla Ross


Mercedes Webb

This is cathartic to hear everything y'all are  saying and sharing and giving me strength to do my work in my community feeling  more supported just knowing these conversations are happening G̱ilakas'la  (thank you)


Chris Coxson

My experience with tons of creative contract work  is that smaller, independent community groups more receptive to change &  engagement & sharing. I find contracts with larger  organizations/corporations generally resistant and even hostile to listening  to others that they are not familiar with. Not open to change. Now is the  time for artists to choose to change the dialog and method of working with  others.


Culture's Compass



thanks for sharing the link because when I  googled it I found Ed Sheeran song :slightly_smiling_face:


Kyla Ross


Kyla Ross

thank you Syrus!


Belinda Cunha

Love that strategy. Puts the onus on the  individual or the perpetrator.


Jennifer Gordon

Yes, the danger of white tears


Hana Glaser

I've used those tools in an educational setting  before they're very interesting



How can I found these tools


Jennifer Gordon

White Fragility by Robin D'Angelo is a good  starting place


Kristen Turner

Open to feedback but I'd highly recommend reading  BIPOC authors over a white woman


Michelle Buchholz

Bryan Brayboy (2005) Tribal Critical Race Theory  (TribalCrit) is EXCELLENT - racism in education from an Indigenous  perspective



Thanks Michelle!


Culture's Compass

Thank you all for sharing these great resources!


Chris Coxson

Sing "Power To The People" Right on


Kaisha Ayienga

This has been amazing!


Karen Tisch

“Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People  About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge



The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and  Power by Desmond Cole



Thank you Syrus




Tracey Prehay

In the Wake: On Blackness And Being  by Christina Sharpe


Kyla Ross

Happy Pride Syrus! thank you


Kristen Turner

Thank you all for taking the time and energy to  have this conversation that you've clearly had your whole lives.  A lot to reflect on and move forward with.





Maria Morgunova

thank you


Emma Burke-Kleinman



Layan A.

:clap: :clap: :clap:


Chris Coxson

Desmond write powerful, thoughtful stuff. Read  James Baldwin also.



together we are stronger


Kyla Ross

Thank you Sage, one struggle does not invalidate  the other



:point_up_2:   this


Kyla Ross



Kyla Ross

You are powerful





Hana Glaser

"Until we are free: reflections on black  lives matter in Canada by Rodney Diverlus, Syrus Marcus Ware and Sandra  Hudson is also a great read!



Please!! Action takes precedence


Kyla Ross

ITMF! yesss


Chris Coxson

Yoko Ono once said each person has power, and you  can affect 10 others, who affect 10 others, etc


Belinda Cunha

YAY! Humber's Indigenous Transmedia Fellowship!


Kyla Ross

his struggle is real too!



Ues hana!!!


Kristen Turner

Absolutely Sage


Kyla Ross

The babies feel the stress


Hana Glaser

Thank you all sooo much for your energy and  commitment to this work!


Vicki Hargreaves

Zoom forcing us to acknowledge our contexts,  family, etc. Who knew?


Amy Calder

I couldn't agree more, we all need to support  each other to cause any true change. From the eldest to the youngest.  Mentally, spiritually, socially and politically.


Amber Melhado

Wow, what a powerful panel to listen to and learn  from. Thank you all for your time, your energy and your insight.


Chris Coxson

Your brother is fortunate to be surrounded by  people who care



I know Sage ... I have 2 daughters and I live  this


Catherine Shepertycki

Migwech - thank   you


Culture's Compass

Thank you very much charles, Syrus, Sage, and  Malindi for this very important and needed talk. We're honoured to have such  great generational wisdom with us on this panel! -  We'll be back after a short break with a musical  performance from Baoba!


Kyla Ross

Thanks all!!!!


Kaisha Ayienga

thank you!


Elizabeth Emond-Stevenson

Thank you very much


Kyla Ross



Vicki Hargreaves




Thabk you so much!!!






Thank you so much



Great panel!


Jennifer Dick

Thank you so much





Colleen Smith

Thank you everyone!


Pam Briz

Great panel!   Amazing job moderating Malindi!


Angela Songui

Great panel!