Truth On the Airwaves

An illustration of an old school radio with a sketch of a raised fist above it

Community Radio as a Tool for Social Justice

by Mina Ramos

They say you can’t understand resistance until you actually connect with it; the moment it hits your heart. When it resonates with you. My moment of connection began while studying abroad in Guatemala in 2011. I’d been travelling to Central America since I was little to visit my dad’s side of the family (I am mixed white European and Latina). But this time was different I was older, understood the world a bit more and was craving to know my people; to understand the significance of where I come from. Although my family is actually from El Salvador, I jumped on the opportunity to go. Guatemala shares a border with El Salvador. 

While there are differences (big and small), both countries hold similar histories and share Indigenous Mayan lineages. Throughout my semester abroad, as a class we took trips to learn firsthand about the history of the country and current political struggles. We met with indigenous communities resisting mining companies, former guerillas who had started intentional communities, different communities suing the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for fucking them over, Mayan people investing in permaculture without all the stupid entitlement and bullshit environmental rhetoric we see so often in North America.

It was so beautiful. It was urgent. Something I had never encountered before. It was also painful. I cried a lot. I remember the feelings I had as I learnt more about the atrocities that had occurred in the Guatemalan civil war. Taking in that during the war 200,000 Guatemalan people had been “disappeared”. 1

After my semester was over, I got in touch with the organization that had taken us on a few of the trips on my semester abroad. They are/were called Rights Action (to this day they do some incredible solidarity work). My ticket was for May but I didn’t feel like touristing around. I had gotten a group together who wanted to learn more about resistance movements and support in any way they could.


They called the civil wars that happened across Latin America the dirty wars because of the ways that people disappeared without a trace. Many people ended up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To this day mass graves continue to be discovered across Latin America.

One of the members, Grahame Russell, asked if we would be willing to go to Honduras. Manuel Zelaya, a left leaning president had just been ousted in a military coup and Porfirio Lobo (a right wing extremist) had been put in his place. He told us that if we were willing to write articles once we returned, he would make sure someone could connect us to different resistance movements that were going on in the country.

When we got there, the country was in chaos. Under Lobo, corporations had been given permission to swoop in and essentially steal large portions of land. At that point, almost seventy percent of the land titles “officially” held in Honduras were under Canadian corporations. They were investing in the palm oil business and opening up, taking over or expanding mining companies. Building cruise ports and resorts for tourists.

I began to notice that everywhere we went communities had two things in common. The first thing I noticed was the amount of networking that was going on. Desperation had forced people to work with each other in ways that I had never seen before. It was unbelievable. Everyone had a role to play in the struggle down to the taxi drivers. I remember sitting in awe as I listened to a taxi driver recount how he had dropped out of the army and was now driving taxi by day and smuggling political leaders earmarked for death out of the country by night.

The second thing I noticed was that every single community we went to visit had a community radio station. At that point mainstream media was (and is still) highly controlled. Although there were alternative newspapers in the city, in the country, many communities could not read. I understood that community radio was essential to the functioning of all of the different movements I had witnessed.

It was used to inform, educate and keep people involved in the day to day activities of different movements. Radios were cheap to buy and radio stations were cheap to run. They always looked the same. A small room somewhere with one old computer, a two channel switch board, one microphone and a pair of headphones. So simple but so effective. There were general news shows, women’s rights shows, shows about unionizing, shows for the youth, shows explaining indigenous history, public health shows and of course incredible music shows run by community DJs.

I was impressed.

It sunk in that with all the technology in the world, community radio continues to be the only media technology that (after you buy the radio), is free. Anybody can tune in. Even though people have their own independent shows, I realized that community radio allowed these people to be part of something together. To have all of their different voices come together on one platform with the goal of speaking the truth. To have their experiences and stories heard. A true media for the people by the people.

I realized that for all the actions, struggles and stories that take place in the world; without a way to get them out, to connect them to each other, to bring them together; they disappear or are forgotten. Media gives us the opportunity to remember. Community media forces us to remember directly from the source.

After this experience, I grew such a big appreciation for community radio and all other grassroots media alternatives. Although I find that community radio here is whitewashed with way too many indie-music hipsters, my experience in Central America helps me to stay grounded in the idea of the importance of media to resist. 

That although it is important to get news out to the masses; when the platforms are owned by the people we are fighting against, we will always have to appeal to their discourse, frame it to their narrative, respond to their backlash; always worry how they will change the narrative and if they want to, shut us down.

We must never forget about the grassroots options we have and how to make use of them, especially in these times.

As I got the idea to write this article, I remembered that when my dad came to Canada he too became involved in community radio and used it as a platform to speak out about the war in El Salvador. It’s funny how things come full circle. I decided to interview my dad and end this piece with his thoughts about community radio and the role it plays in waging social justice and creating space to express our truths.

Mina Ramos: What was your first introduction to community radio?

Hugo Ramos: I came to Canada in the summer of 1983. By 1984, I found some friends in Quebec City. They were friends that I knew from the old country. So I quit my job and moved there. I had done some solidarity work for El Salvador in Toronto and Kitchener. Once I got to Quebec City, I got involved in a radio program that my friend Miguel and others had going in a community radio, Radio Basse ville in lower Quebec. This radio operated from a basement at an old building near a mall. In a very, very small place. The program was on Mondays for an hour about real news from El Salvador. The program was done within an hour in three languages: French, Spanish, English. It was therapy for all of us, we could talk reality over the pile of mostly fake news about the war of our little country.

Mina: How has community radio played a role in your life?

Hugo: Over the years at one point or another I have been in contact with community radio. Nowadays people call it alternative news; same thing. To me it is real news; news that can for the most part can go on the air unfiltered and raw. I’d rather tell people the truth, so does community radio…most of the time.

Almost 30 years after the little Quebec City project, I still keep in contact with community radio in El Salvador. Telling people the truth as much as it might hurt is important to me. Public radio like the CBC does not come close as to the truth that community radio has the potential to deliver.

Mina: From your perspective, why is community radio used as a tool for social change?

Hugo: Well, you as my daughter know that well enough. Community radio doesn’t need to kiss anybody’s ass! We as a social whole walk a very fine line of political correctness; it drives me nuts! The truth shouldn’t be painted pretty! The truth hurts, but then again so does a lie.

Social change can only be understood if the reality of it is put raw to the masses. We aren’t that naïve, and if we are, let the truth smack the shit of our fake reality. Community radio can do that. Community radio has a very big burden if it takes its responsibility seriously.

Mina: You have been involved in community radio both in North America and Central America. What are the similarities and differences in community radio between the two regions?

Hugo: None. People who want to give real news, will give it. People who want real news seek it. Community radio offers that platform. This is why Amy Goodman is successful with the program “Democracy now” It is a good thing to know that most people who want real news are somewhat intellectual, they want to understand beyond what is fakely given in the ordinary rich everyday media. The big conglomerate media spends millions understanding the populace ignorance because by understanding it, they can will it.

Mina: In your experience, has the face of community radio changed over time? In what ways has it changed/not changed?

Hugo: Very glad to have seen it changed! it has gotten bolder! Thumbs up for that!

Lets not forget that in the not so democratic countries sponsored by the g7 countries an average of 50 daring journalist are assassinated every year to say, or rather report the truth. Just in the little isthmus of the center of our “democratic” continent an average of 35 journalist are assassinated by systems that are deemed conveniently democratic even by our present barbie male prime minister.

Mina: In your eyes, how does community radio maintain its significance in the digital age?

Hugo: It is totally imperative that the voiceless have a voice! Bishop Romero, now saint of El Salvador, had a saying “la culebra solo pica al descalso” (“a snake only bites those who are shoeless”).

Mina: Who are the shoeless?

Hugo: The populace that can easily be manipulated. Ignorance isn’t bliss. ignorance is the ticket Baystreet exploits. The challenge of community radio is not to be intimidated. Community radio has to keep up with the latest technology, not easy as their budget aren’t in the billions. But be very much aware, community radio is badly needed by the hungry everyday joe who knows that all kind of caca is given at all hours of our lives by the millionaire mainstream media.

This is the reason why I sponsor as much community radio as I can. Real news must get to those who are lied to in a convenient way, just to make them another consumer of products that are made in countries that might not have as easy of an opportunity to voice their discontent.


About Mina
Mina is a mixed race queer who is based out of Brampton ON. She is passionate about ideas, thoughts and issues grounded in resistance movements of all kinds and the intricate connection to spirituality but specifically organizes in the realm of migrant justice.

Hybrid

Queentite in a black hat and blue open-skin blouse with her head down holding a custom-made purse

by Queen Tite

In 2016 I embraced my beauty, owned my sexuality, harnessed my power, and let it all shine. I chose to channel this light into my relationship with myself as my own muse. I saw unapologetic Beyoncé in me. I saw dapper Janelle Monae in me. I saw mouthpiece Butterscotch in me. I saw soothing Akua Naru in me. I saw Concha Buika in me. I saw Nubian Badu in me. This is why it is so very important for Black women to not only be represented in our media, but in our communities as well.

Michelle Obama has inspired me. Nneka has motivated me. Iyanla has healed me. Patrisse Khan Cullors welcomed me. These women invoked a deep love within me. 

The visuals of natural queer beauties with Locs and Afros that look like me at Afropunk, truly renewed my deep faith that what I do, what I create, who I am, is needed and wanted. This prompted my current NATTY (Natural And True To Yourself) Photoshoot titled ‘Melanin’.

In this collection I celebrated the strength, the beauty, the raw sensuality of Melanin. I paired that with the purses I paint, the images I create to express how I feel, like a proud Weirdo, mysterious Queerdo.

Because I am seeing Black women in the media, music industry, modelling world being positively and dominantly rising to the top, it allows me to dream bigger, create more, take chances, dance with risk, and let my own Melanin shine.


About QueenTite:

I’m a winnipeg born, west coast grown, toronto based multidisciplinary artist. I AM; a black, proud, queer, Hybrid. My roots are laid in art, activism, education, black liberation, poetry, love, and in constant pursuit of more love. When I’m not busy changing the world, you can find me devoted to my personal projects which include; Co – Founding Prosthetics For Foreign Donation & owning Black Heir.

Find QueenTite on Twitter , Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat: @missqueentite

The Authentic Indigenous Family will not be Destroyed by Colonialism

by Andrea Landry

The stereotypical Indigenous family is a charade continuously seen in a variety of media . It is even being recycled through the writing, film, and artwork of Indigenous peoples themselves. The characters that make up this family are typically seen functioning in colonial spaces attempting to make a life for themselves or they are seen functioning in spaces which were built by the colonizer but are believed to be our own spaces (ie. reservations).

Where did these stereotypes derive from? They derived from the intimidation tactics that were deployed as soon as those ships arrived on the shore. They became the roots for the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. The roots of this relationship were primarily based on a concoction of degradation, humiliation, and even fictional stories of who and what an Indigenous person was on these lands. These portrayals of the Indigenous person, and the Indigenous family, were then filtered out to the masses, and it is the same portrayal being seen in society today.

It began as the savage, the heathen, the dirty Indian, the uncivilized. It later expanded to the alcoholic, the drunk, the abuser, the violent, the unintelligent, the self-loathing, the welfare collector. And the most horrific part of it all is that Indigenous people are re-telling this story in their own stories. Authors are writing about it, over and over and over again. Artists are portraying it in their scripts and films. Indigenous peoples have claimed the role of the colonizer and are now doing their work for them, specifically in the area of reiterating stereotypes in media. The Indigenous family is no longer sacred in this area. The Indigenous family has now become the colonizer’s version of the Indigenous family.

Broken down into roles, the stereotypical Indigenous father is often portrayed as an alcoholic, the Indigenous mother; single and struggling with men or addiction, the children; experimenting with drugs and alcohol, or hiding some kind of abuse from their mother. Their home on the reserve is run down with little to no food in the cupboards, poverty is the backdrop, and violence is the background music. The truth of the matter is, the families in these stories are suffering. They are suffering so ferociously that humour is always interwoven throughout to ease the pain, to lessen the burden, and to significantly reduce the hardship and misery.

Yet, this is where the authentic Indigenous family becomes lost in the stories. Authentic Indigenous families share stories of oppression, they carry colonial wounds that are carved in their lineages, and they bear life memoirs of suicide, murder, abuse, and alcoholism. However, authentic Indigenous families are more than their stories. They are families that are as complex as the land, and as diverse as the seasons. Authentic Indigenous families harbour an intricate entanglement of love, devotion, rage, healing, laughter, and most importantly truth.

Authentic Indigenous families recognize the stories that threaten the colonizer’s version of Indigeneity. The real stories of Indigenous peoples are the ones that are dismantling ideologies and annihilating colonialism one word at a time. It is unravelling their version in such a way whereas the colonizer is doing everything in their power to maintain these dehumanizing characterizations through the discourses of media, in university settings, and through governmental practices.

Herein is the truth. Authentic Indigenous families will no longer abide by the summarization and description of their existence by the colonizer. The normalization of alcoholism, drug-use, gang-violence, sexual violence, and family dysfunction when sharing stories of Indigenous families will no longer be tolerated. Authentic Indigenous families will no longer play by the standards of their assumed roles in a colonially orchestrated society. Authentic Indigenous families will no longer succumb to the mentality of existing as a highly functioning colonial family, yet a very dysfunctional indigenous family.

The truth of the matter is that the revolution of authentic Indigenous families can be seen on the lands. It can be seen in the Indigenous students at universities recognizing that they do not need to reclaim space in order to be seen and heard, they are recognizing that the space for them to thrive has always existed, within themselves, free of the colonizer deciding which space

they can exist in. It is seen in the families that prioritize healing before anything. It is seen in forgiveness. It is seen in truth. It is seen in the mothers and fathers who grieve their children they lost to suicide for as long as they need to. It is seen in the children who grieve their parents or grandparents, as tears fall down their faces and their support systems state “it’s okay to cry.”

It is seen in the young people, as they find their voices and stand up for the cause, for the struggle, for the fight to exist on their homelands and feel safe about doing so.

Authentic Indigenous families recognize the pain, it is not avoided or swept casually under the rug. The stories within the families are made up of the crisis at hand, yet the stories are recognized as just that. Stories. The pain that comes with the stories, the emotion that ties these stories together, comes and goes. It is felt fully the moment it comes, as often as it comes, in prayer, in love, and in truth.

Columbus and colonialism have taught us well in the area of desecration of self. Indigenous family’s worthiness has been dictated so long by colonialism that it was beginning to become a social norm that was allowable. However, Indigenous children being born today are now being raised in environments where boys are proud of their braids, girls are not afraid of their womanhood, fathers teach their sons to show emotions, mothers do not let their colonial rage oppress their daughters, and the Indigenous family knows who they are, where they come from, and most importantly natural law and the law of the land.


Andrea Landry
Andrea Landry is Anishinaabe from Pays Plat First Nation but currently lives on Treaty 6 territory on Poundmaker Cree Nation. She holds a Masters in Communications and Social Justice from the University of Windsor and teaches for the University of Saskatchewan. She also facilitates workshops and programs in the areas of Grief and Recovery, Healthy Families, Colonialism and Oppression, Crisis Response, Suicide Prevention, and a variety of other topics. She is currently raising her five-month old daughter, River-Jaxsen, alongside her partner as they both continue to battle oppression daily.

Indigenous Femmes Talk Tradition, Culture & Anti-Fashion

An Interview with Sage Paul

Interview by Gesig Isaac

Gesig: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art.

Sage Paul: My name is Sage Paul. I am an Indigenous woman. I am Denesuline from the caribou clan and was born and raised in Toronto. I currently live and freelance in Toronto with my fiancée, playwright Cliff Cardinal, our dog Frodo (the happiest living being of all time), and our Bengal cat, Tiga. When I wake up, I start my day with the view of an art deco building from our 5th floor apartment window across the skyline. It’s like we live in the sky. Then I get to real life.

I am an artist and designer. My mediums include mixed-materials, craft, fashion, costume design and visual arts. Broad, though I feel the language and beauty of those materials and practices weave a succinct narrative. That narrative comes from a deeply personal place from within a collective experience and blood memory. My most recent work is called Re-Dress (Redress), which is a pair of caribou antlers I saved (…purchased back) from a trendy furniture store in Toronto, and with the help of my mom, I am clothing the antlers with the beaded-red peyote stitch.

In practice, I usually finish the production of my work with my sister and mom (in fact, I think my mom’s helped me bead or sew everything I’ve ever done). The very act of making clothing or art with my mom or sister is an act of resistance and the restoration of Indigeneity from the grounding of family. It’s this kind of space I hope to maintain, for the fundamental necessity that family and land thrive. This philosophy activates sovereignty, culture, and resistance for balance in our modern society.

Gesig: Tell us about your Setsuné project.

Sage: Setsuné means “grandmother” in Dene and we are an Indigenous fashion incubator founded by myself and Erika Iserhoff. Gabi Caruso of Red Pepper Spectacle Arts was also vital in the development of the Incubator. Setsuné was founded for the purposes of creating a collective platform for Indigenous women who create works in fashion, textiles and mixed-materials. It is a platform that provides access that we didn’t find anywhere else: to traditional practices, techniques and skills. We create and exhibit our works in an artistic context within an Indigenous framework. Setsuné is the largest project I’ve been working on for the last few years.

Our programming includes a series of hands-on workshops in an intimate communal environment facilitated by Indigenous artists from across Canada. The series takes place in downtown Toronto right now, with the goal of touring them, and includes hide tanning, fish scale art, silk screening, sewing, moose hair tufting, roach headdress making, regalia making and any other skills or knowledge we seek. These workshops are traditional, cultural and contemporary; they’re for anyone and everyone with amplified access for young, self-identified Indigenous women. The workshops are truly Indigenous in a traditional and contemporary sense in the very act of us doing it.

Our first exhibit speaking to cultural appropriation is called Indian Giver: Truth Telling and Narratives of Representation. Exhibited artists were selected by community members, and then artists worked together and independently to develop pieces in fashion, textiles and mixed materials. The final works are diverse in form and craft. They are unique, empowering and abstract as they relate to fashion. A group of 8 artists opened this exhibit to a really great response at Gallery 1313. The show will be touring Canada in 2017.

Access to this type of knowledge, skill and space has built a community of artists and creators that now work together outside of the workshops within their own practices. The strong sense of self-determination and community is a positive and inspiring outcome that we see from our programming. It is really rewarding and exciting. The platform we so greatly needed was actually more widely necessary than we knew. This community of Indigenous artists continues to grow. There are now multiple requests coming to Setsuné from mainstream and western organizations who want to collaborate with us and the artists we work beside.

We are committed to bridging the gap between Indigenous artists and the mainstream art, fashion and retail sectors. We will maintain community and sovereignty through our partnerships as we continue to grow. Two of our goals are to be working nationally and internationally and have a permanent home for a gallery, retail space and studio. We listen to each other and the artists we work with to ensure we are serving the needs and desires of our community.

Gesig: On the Setsuné website you mention being anti-fashion- tell us more! What does that mean?

Sage: Personally, being anti-fashion is about using fashion as a medium to share my vision, tell my story and assert my political views; and not a commodity. I am free to create work not confined by the constructs of the fashion industry or the history of western fashion. It’s a simple concept that I hope lets people experience my work in an accessible way.

The inclusion of “Anti-Fashion” on the Setsuné website is about shining light on the work that takes back our ways and stories implicated by cultural appropriation and commodification. Just being native is political because we are not supposed to be here. We have experienced the largest genocide in history and we’re the fastest growing population in Canada. There are now a number of artists using fashion, textiles and mixed-material as an art form to reclaim and broadcast our culture and ways. Anti-fashion builds a platform through the fashion industry and the mainstream to widely celebrate our stories and ways for and by us.

Gesig: Can you define what is “traditional”? Is it definable at all? Is that something you get hung up on in your work?

Sage: Yes, traditional is definable, although I know there are years and years of academic discussion about it that we could get into. Traditional is the way things were done in our community before me and us, the way we continue to do them and how we will do them in the future. To put it simply, traditional is cyclical, evolutionary and timeless in a way that respects our ancestors, family and land, and in turn, myself. Knowing and practicing traditional ways keeps us alive.

When it comes to getting hung up in tradition: I get hung up on a lot of things in my work. It’s a part of the challenge and process of creating. What comes out in the end is what the work wanted to say, whether or not there are traditional aspects.

Gesig: Are there taboos for you? Things we can and cannot touch as indigenous people who are looking to our ancestors and culture for inspiration?

Sage: There is an individual responsibility to be respectful and accountable for how we “use” culture- our own culture and others. If you think you’re doing something wrong then you probably are, and that is the light-bulb moment to go find guidance from Indigenous leaders, knowledge holders, community members… I think it’s important to question oneself throughout creation, especially if something is ceremonial or sacred. Being inspired is only one part of the creative process and doesn’t justify cultural use. Looking to ancestry or culture for inspiration stirs a lot of questions. This exploration makes our ancestors proud and resonates with future generations.

More importantly though, there’s a wave of non-Indigenous artists and designers who are looking to use their art to honour our culture and in doing so furthering their own career. My advice for these heart-in-the-right place assholes is that they should fuck off. Whatever that warm feeling in your heart that’s making you feel really good about yourself, you should ignore it. Buy a Cris Derksen album. Go to a rally. Vote with your heart; but don’t steal our fashion like you have everything else.

Gesig: What advice do you have for folks who maybe didn’t grow up around parents who created art, practiced their culture etc?

Sage: For those who are interested in art and for those seeking to understand more about their culture, my advice is to jump in! Dig deep for that knowledge, because it’s there: Setsuné, cultural and community centres, friends, family, elders, art, libraries, within yourself, everywhere. There’s a lot of really beautiful and not so beautiful parts of art and culture that will take a lifetime to understand. The important part is to just listen.

Gesig: Have you seen a surge in upcoming Native fashion designers in the past little while? If so, why do you think that is?

Sage: There is definitely a surge of Native designers and craft artists since even only ten years ago. It is important to acknowledge though that there are millions of Indigenous artists who create fashion and craft and have been doing it for a long, long time – craft, adornment and storytelling through dress and utility is ancient. I think modern visibility of our art has grown because of the fact that we reclaiming our ways. Since contact, our ways and culture have been violently exploited by the colonizer and we are only the first, second and third generation since the residential school system, which banned practice and visibility of our culture. We still thrive and continue building and rebuilding our platform and economy that supports each other. This includes supporting our artists, designers; buying Indigenous-made, and encouraging larger society to do the same.

Presently speaking, there is a sense of pride from within our community to see and wear our stories by our designers. It shows we are here and alive. On a practical level, we also live in the digital age that connects and grows our national and global Indigenous community and economy.

Gesig: What future projects are you excited about? Tell us about them!

Sage: There are a couple big projects confirmed for Setsuné, including the tour of our exhibit Indian Giver in 2017. Confirmed stops are Toronto, North Bay, Regina and several others to be announced. The tour will also offer hide tanning workshops and panel discussions. All details for this will be available in the new year with dates and venues at our website, setsuneincubator.com as well as at our presenters’ sites.

Another project we are working on is in partnership with a large retailer that upcycles the unused textiles of the retailers’ products.  We are designing illustrations for a collection of textile-based products. We will work with Indigenous women specifically for the development of our own fashion and textile retail businesses. The completed collection will go on sale early next year in Toronto. The partnership will allow us to fairly employ Indigenous women artists and also supports the growth of Setsuné.

We are condensing our annual workshop series into a weeklong seminar. Old School Seminar brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, cultural leaders, and arts and crafts leaders for an immersive program of North American Indigenous dyeing and weaving workshops. Lectures will explore the symbolism, storytelling and identity of our culture through these mediums. Dates will be released in the new year with the full program of activities.

Personally, I am working on a few costume design projects, including design for two plays written by my partner Cliff Cardinal and a Young People’s Theatre production Munschtime!, a play based on the stories of Robert Munsch and directed by Herbie Barnes. I am also working on a play produced by Storefront Theatre called Divine about water diviners. I’m looking forward to dreaming up the style of these characters, it’s a magical experience to create and design someone’s vision and story. I’m super stoked about all of them!

I am also in the research and development phases of working on a multi-faceted, conceptual project of fashion, storytelling and video. And another fashion collection. These are for 2018.

Wow, 2017 and 2018 are going to be big years! Thanks so much for reaching out, this was a lot of fun to share.


Sage Lovell
Sage Paul is from the caribou clan. She loves beauty. Her work reflects her values in family, culture, and resistance through fashion and mixed-materials. She most recently was a curatorial leader and exhibiting artist of Indian Giver: Truth Telling and Narratives of Representation (2016). She has completed three fashion collections and designed wardrobe for film and theatre including collaborations with Danis Goulet, Kent Monkman and a Centre for Indigenous Theatre production directed by Herbie Barnes. Sage is the co-founder of Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator.

Gesig
Gesig is a mixed race, half-breed Forest-Femme demon. She currently resides in wolastoqiyik territory.

Redefining Brown Bodies Through Art

an illustration of a magical girl wearing a nose to ear chain and a awoken third eye

An Interview with Chitra Ganesh

By: Shabina Lafleur-Gangji

As a South Asian woman I feel the complexities around how colonialism have shaped our minds and imaginations are rarely explored. So often brown bodies are depicted as non-sexual and dirty. This is why Chitra Ganesh, a Brooklyn based artist, has always inspired me.

Ganesh explores topics like shadeism, sexuality, diasporic experience and colonialism in a way that allows the viewer the witness the current state and reimagine the possibilities. the current state and reimagine the possibilities. For this issue of the Peak I was lucky enough to be able to get in touch with her to ask her about her work.

Shabina Lafleur-Gangji: As an artist, what inspires you to explore sexuality and depictions of darker skinned brown women in your work? What is the role that art can play in helping us reclaim our histories and our imaginations?

Chitra Ganesh: I am interested in expanding the bounds of what kinds of female bodies are visible, legible and represented in both art historical and mass mediated contexts, such as fashion, entertainment, and popular cultures. More often than not, we come into contact with an extremely limited pictorial range of female bodies –whether this is in mainstream culture or within the realm of the art historical canon. Art historically speaking, within the traditions of Western Classical and European art, brown and black women are frequently adornments to their (white) protagonists and counterparts- anonymous maid servants, wet nurses, handmaidens, slave labor, and so forth. They are literally relegated to the pictorial margins, or blend into the backdrop. The ambiguously gendered subordinate black figure in Manet’s “Olympia” is a key example of this, where brown and blacks women’s anonymity props up white female sexuality. In mainstream representations across the globe, dominant images of women veer towards extraordinarily thin, young, hairless, light skinned, and more. My own frustration and boredom around this reductive visual monotony in part inspires me, and so I make the kinds of images I would like to see in the world. Art gives me, us, the capacity to imagine something beyond the existing norms- space where non normative bodies, attitudes, and affective or psychic states can inhabit, thrive, and desire in a potent imaginary field. Among many other things, art and a gender based critique of power are exceptional liberatory tools to harness as we move forward.

Shabina: How do you feel that the experience of class/ of shadeism differs from South Asia to countries like United States and Canada?

Chitra: As I see it, each particular place has its own geopolitical context, a history of hundreds (or hundreds of thousands) of years that inform attitudes towards skin color. In both Eastern and Western hemispheres, skin color has long been a signifier of class– a differentiating marker between manual laborers, say, and a ruling class who have the privilege of being at home while others toil under the sun.

On the South Asian subcontinent, these distinctions certainly converge with caste oppression, which mandates the harshest and most brutal forms of labor to be performed by Dalit populations. The US certainly has a very unique construction and framework of race.  One thing that this election has taught me is how much of our national history and current politics are built on the back of anti-black racism and the legacy of slavery. On the one hand, anti-black racism and the caste system both produce social and economic oppression that are alive and well today, and in many way, form the backbone of their respective nations. On the other hand these two histories are irreducibly singular, though they can be strategically considered in the same frame to render legible how these oppressions continue to operate in everyday life on the 21st century– for example, to raise visibility around issues of caste oppression in an American context.

Shabina: How do you feel the colonial legacy impacts the way South Asians are seen and the way we related to our own bodies?

Chitra: I think attributing the preponderance of South Asian subject formation to British Colonialism doesn’t do justice to engaging the incredibly complex politics and history have operated in South Asia long before and after British occupation. I think the British colonial legacy in one piece in a much larger puzzle of histories and attitudes that inform how we may see ourselves and one another. The legacies of American imperialism and xenophobia also perpetuate these continued poles of orientalism and illegibility that South Asian women, for example, have to face on a daily bases. Our identification(s) in the US may be as is as much a product of how misogyny, islamophobia, and xenophobia continue to operate here. Incidences of anti-muslim hate based attacks have risen 67% in the US in the past year – and this is the tip of the iceberg, only that which has been reported. And how frequently do we see these issues, or Standing Rock, for example, mentioned in mainstream American politics?

Shabina: One of your more recent exhibits Protest Fantasies focuses of global resistance to violence on bodies and land. Can you talk what the inspiration was behind it?

Chitra: The particular theme of Protest Fantasies came about by just being really struck and amazed by the power of protest in this moment. It’s been an ongoing part of my life, whether in 2003/4 to protest the Iraq War or any number of things, but then really looking at a lot of the images of die-ins and talking to another artist friend of mine, they look almost like history paintings. The gestures are just extremely performative. There are so many versions of how people are thinking about protests now.

One piece Rana Plaza depicts images of the women who survived the Bangladesh sweatshop collapse, and this is their one-year anniversary performance, getting ready to march and sing. It’s indistinguishable from performance art. Similar to monks who set themselves on fire as a form of protest against China’s oppression of Tibet.

The piece Femme Power captures the rich emotional texture of wanting to resist — tears of rage that ferment into something. It brings out the part of an otherwise peace-loving person that can’t deal anymore.

I feel that exposing that pain with a sense of agency is really powerful. It’s not a kind of victimization. I think empathy is as important as fantasy. And art enables empathy. And if you remove some of reality from the story, people feel more comfortable empathizing with a different character. I think that’s how science fiction works, for example.

We’re artists, and our role is also that of translator — to translate things from one mode of expression to another within our own practice. To get from journal to memoir to essay to a poem, and use that translation to invite the audience to step in. I feel like myth does that too.


Chitra Ganesh
Chitra Ganesh is a Brooklyn based artist widely recognized for her experimental use of comic and large-scale narrative forms that bring to light representations of femininity, sexuality, and power typically absent from canons of literature and art.

Shabina Lafleur-Gangji
Shabina is a queer mixed race weird witchy lady from Guelph who is into community organizing and revolution.

Untitled

illustration of three women. One in a bra and underwear texting, the other taking a selfie and the other posing for a photo

by Kamika Peters

The dialogue is between two young black, femme adults/millennials. Illustrating how the ability to screenshot has influenced culture and the culture of ‘receipts’ (which is a african-american vernacular coined by queers basically meaning ‘proof’ – used in reference to someone being problematic). As well as, how screenshots allow us to archive, collect, call-out, and curate personal online profiles, media, gossip and other stories.

INTERIOR: FOOD COURT

Two black femmes are sitting in a booth, facing each other. Their orders from the menu are splayed out in front of them. OW and SLAYOMIE are eating with one hand and on their phone with the other.

OW:

damn, she even made a photo album called ‘the tea room’. it’s got a kermit picture and everything. screenshots of conversations. you’re in there too! you want to see?

SLAYOMIE:

I know. do you forget she @’d me?

OW:

she’s really coming for everybody. i can’t believe she came for my mom. my mom is a lovely woman, leave her alone!

SLAYOMIE:

it’s a good thing that i called him. he showed me other parts of the messages that she left out.

OW:

good. (shakes head) this girl she’s now going for now, have you seen the conversations? how she lured this one into a public psychological diagnosis? (cackles)

Dr. Phil stahp! it’s not right to out someone like that.

SLAYOMIE:

she went into archives to find them. so much has changed since the summer.

OW:

I know right?! she came for me at 9am. trying scalp me while i still had crust in my eyes. rocked my night scarf off.

Slayomie holds her arm out, her phone in OW’s direction. Looking disappointed, she hops out of her side of the booth and joins OW. She squishes OW and holds her arm out.

SLAYOMIE:

act right! (poses, snaps photos) k, got it! (heads back to seat) i’m still laughing ‘cos he’s so awkward. i thought it was just to me, but here are the receipts that it’s with everyone. hi exclamation mark. night exclamation mark. have you seen how he texts me? i can show you?

OW:

(laughing)

yes, every time you send me screens, i try not to die.

SLAYOMIE:

awe, your mom is so cute. she’s liking all my pictures. (pause)(laughing) she posted

the photo we just took of us to her page!

OW:

i taught her how to screenshot, so she wouldn’t harass me to send her photos. she can steal as many as she wants of me now from the intranet.

SLAYOMIE:

what’s going on with you and your man? he’s so fine, did you put that chocolate bar emoji on his face? is it really like that?

OW:

it wasn’t me! he probably did it for me and any other side combo.

SLAYOMIE:

girl, what are you doing?

OW:

you have proof that i clearly don’t know.

CUT TO BLACK

THE END


Kamika Peters
Kamika Peters is an odd, twenty-something years old budding multi-disciplinary artist who happens to be a black, queer, femme with disabilities born on Algonquin territory to West Indian guardians. Predominately self-taught and interested in exploring  complex truths in their identity, their trauma, and the oppressive paradigms that exist in their world using many mediums.

Where Does the Self Hate Begin?

a drawing of two naked men embracing each other in the clouds

by Emmanuel

Where does the self hate begin?

When does it end?

When I think of media that has consciously and subconsciously influenced what I value as beautiful or worth loving, I think of porn. As a queer cisgender man, I grew up watching gay men in porn. Here you find mostly white men on sites such as Sean Cody, Chaosmen, Corbin Fisher, Citébeur and other film studios. On the other end of the spectrum, you find the Latino film studios such as Papi and for the black audience you will find Flava Works and a few others. In these films, the guys that you mostly find have the perfect desired bodies. They are usually hyper masculine. 

In these films, the guys that you mostly find have the perfect desired bodies. They are usually hyper masculine. They ascribe to either topping or bottoming and versatile sometimes. In these films, the erasure of fat bodies, disabled bodies, “unperfected” bodies is not accidental but very deliberate. The message that it sends to most gay men is that you are not desirable unless you fit these standards. The standards themselves are not sustainable. It then creates a culture of always trying to achieve or preserve what won’t last. This culture than creates disharmony within yourself. A creation of a gap that will never be filled.

In moving towards the ugly by Mia Mingus, she writes “We all run from the ugly. And the farther we run from it, the more we stigmatize it and the more power we give beauty.” I am tired of running. Can we imagine a celebration of our sexuality that reflects us? One that doesn’t dehumanize you and objectify you and reduces you to the size of your penis. One that doesn’t need for you to have the best chest, legs, ass, face, hair, etc..? One that sees all of you, your imperfections, your insecurities, your fear, your ugly, your beauty and choose to celebrate all of that as a whole.

How do you (un)plant a seed that has already grown?

How do you learn to love yourself again?

I lost myself

Trying….

Trying….

To look like those who never wanted me

Took for granted that the sun kisses me every morning

Left my body in a battle zone

My mental heath left to be devoured by the violence

Learned to hate myself

Desired…

Desired….

What never wanted me


Emmanuel
Emmanuel is in the process of reclaiming and learning the power found in unapologetic self-love. He is currently teaching and learning new ways to acquire knowledge. He is interested in creating from a place of urgency and authenticity. He loves going out to do cute things with friends and talking about how air signs are awesome. Listening and honoring his past, the energies in the universe and his body is increasingly very important for him at the moment.

An Interview with D’Bi Young

by Savannah Taylor

I recently sat down with d’bi.young anitafrika to discuss the importance of theatre in our digital age and to learn more about how The Watah theatre, a professional theatre company founded by d’bi.young, cultivates such a necessary space in this urgent time

The Watah Theatre – grounded in African Oral Storytelling traditions – is a crossroads where the radical performance traditions of Dubpoetry, Caribbean theatrical storytelling and Black wombanist thought, intersect with critical Pan-Africanist theory-into-practice, Ifa-Tao-Buddhist principles, balanced by the global mind-body healing modalities of Ashtanga Yoga and Qi Gong. Arts-engagement sits at the core of the organization’s commitment to providing world peoples with the tools to self-actualize, create urgent art and uncover crucial mentorship skills for each one to teach one; facilitating an ongoing exploration of our place on this planet and in this cosmos. Watah celebrates the artist as a whole human entity who mirrors society and helps to shape it circularly and inwardly. Like being in a mother’s loving womb where the child is nurtured and cultivated, Watah is a cauldron of cultivation for a new generation of storytellers.

Savannah Taylor: Can you introduce yourself ?

D’bi Young Anitafrika: My name is d’bi young anitafrika and I am a storyteller who writes plays, performs in monodramas and multi-character plays, who mentors, writes dub poetry, who plays with a band, who writes revolutionary theory and who’s a mother.

Savannah: Can tell us more about the Watah Theatre?

D’bi Young: The Watah Theatre is a professional theatre company and also training ground for emerging and newly emerging artists. It’s primarily for black artist and within that it is primarily for artist who identify as women. Our doors are open to people of colour, Indigenous people, LGBTQ people and trans people. We’ve really never turned anyone away but everyone who comes through our doors knows that we are primarily serving African Canadian artists because that is absolutely crucial right now.

Savannah: Theatre isn’t the first thing I would think of if someone asked me about media but why do you think is it still so crucial in 2016?

D’bi Young: I think theatre is media because media is storytelling and media is storytelling geared towards people and media has very specific objectives. Whatever media we’re talking about that propaganda and narrativizing storytelling is geared towards getting people’s attention in a particular way. Theatre is storytelling as well and it is also geared towards getting people’s attention in a particular way. [That’s why] I really do feel that we can say theatre is a type of media. What’s most important to me when I think of all of this is what stories are we telling? You know? I can’t help but think about what has just happened in the United States of America. A part of me feels like acknowledging that, as a black queer women, artist and mother, my reality has always been to create space for myself to be valued, to treated fairly, to be treated equally and that has been life long reality. Part of me feels like, well the world that you live in is going to continue to be the world that you live in. Then there is another part of me that can’t help but respond to the over aggression that has already begun and will continue to escalate given that the veil that was prior somewhat concealing the deep hatred of black people, indigenous people, LGBTQ people and differently abled people, immigrants, the working class and the working poor. Basically, all the people who are not the elite and who are not the upper middle class. To see the sheer disdain for us, even while I recognize that this life of struggle will continue, there is a tangible worry. There is now a tangible worry around the fact that people have been issued a renewed license to be violent. So when I think about media and I think about theatre and I think about the role that the media played in getting Donald Trump elected and the role that the theatre that we’re making plays in maintaining systems of inequality, I can’t help but think about what stories are we going to tell?

Savannah: As a student at Watah, I know that those are questions we ask ourselves and we talk about. How do you feel Watah provides tools for emerging artist to create this space that you mentioned earlier?

D’bi Young: More so now then ever, I am deeply appreciating Watah and the work that we’re doing here. Sometimes you get confirmation about the choices you’re making. More so than ever, I am reminding myself and saying, “d’bi just stay focused. Just stay focused”. What we are doing in here is absolutely revolutionary and simple. It’s not high-inaccessible science or intellectualism, it’s actually pretty basic. Our premise here is that each one of us has been born into a birth right that says we deserve to self-actualize. It’s that simple. So, colour, race, ethnicity, gender, social standing, all of these ways that we create these walls that people have to climb in order to prove their humanity, In this space we say we don’t actually believe that narrative and we’re going to try to practice what it looks like to not believe in that narrative. We’re not even working in counter-narratives; we’re not even working in opposition to those narratives. Actually, we’re centering ourselves and saying those narratives are not the focal point, the focal point is us. This, more than ever, I’m so deeply thankful for and we have a set of real tools to support us through doing this. They are real and tangible tools that when we sit down and we dialogue about self-knowledge; about the stories we’ve been told and orality; and the rhythmic rituals of our lives; and the politics of our own power and the language of our own bodies and mouths; and about what is urgent and sacred to us and how we embody our integrity. That is not intangible. That is not theatrical mumbo jumbo. It’s so important that as we work through these ideas around self-actualization that we have tangibles. My physical body, my mental body, my community body, my economic body, my emotional body, these are real pieces that we experience every day and I am so bolstered by the fact that this is how I spend my time. As I look around at the shear madness that is going on, I am like how do I spend my time? What do I spend my time doing? It feels like a daunting time but it also feels like, right here inside of me are the tools I need to move through these times. You know? That’s a really rounding feeling.

Savannah: Can you explain in more detail self-actualization and the S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I Method is?

D’bi Young: Here at Watah we really encourage each artist to define for themselves these ideas. Because we’re unique, because we each have a particular framework and way or lense through which we see the world you’re never going to get any two people, at least here, defining something in the same way. Which is brilliant because it means that if you have a definition and I have a definition it means that together we can sit and look at all our definitions and learn from each other. That’s really crucial. Other models out there tell us that there is one way and one direction. One, phallic white, male, patriarchal framework but what we come from as black people and women identified people is that we come from the circle, from the collective. In that model, these are indigenous models, in the collective each point on the circle is crucial. So, in defining self actualization, I feel for me it could the ability to grow into the deepest version of one’s self. What’s the deepest version of one’s self? I feel like it is where one gets to explore and expand into one’s most profound integrities. What is one’s most profound integrities? Well, I feel like that is the ability to truth tell without self-deception to the best of one’s ability in each and every moment. I feel like the idea of self-actualization is both at once extremely dynamic and complex but also simple.

In terms of the Anitafrika Method, the method is essentially a distillation of all the mentorship that I’ve received over a lifetime. What I’ve done is taken those life lessons and highlighted what I feel are eight crucial principles. Four of those principles directly come out of my mother’s work in theorizing dub [theatre] in Jamaica. The four principles that directly come out of her work are politics, language, performance and music. I tweaked them a bit and so language is language of communication, non-verbal communication; music became rhythm, rhythm as ritual; politics became politics and political context; and performance became orality. Then I added four other principles self-knowledge, urgency, sacredness and integrity [ Which creates the acronym S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I] . That then forms half a system that is balanced with eight bodies [some I mentioned earlier]which includes the physical, mental, emotional, creative, spiritual, economic, community, and beyond body. So together with the principles and the bodies we have a series of questions we ask, per principle, and also a series of meditations that accompany these questions. It’s really such a beautiful thing. Of course I’ve had the pleasure of being in the lab with all of you who teach me every day what the method actually means.

————————————————————————————————————————–

The Watah theatre currently has a funding campaign online in order to continue to provide the mentorship discussed above. Will YOU help SAVE Watah? Visit www.gofundme.com/savewatah to read more on how you can help.


d’bi.young anitafrika
d’bi.young anitafrika is a queer Black feminist artist, United Nations speaker, Canadian Poet of Honor, InkTalks/TED speaker and YWCA Woman of Distinction. The internationally celebrated African-Jamaican dubpoet, dramatist, educator, director and dramaturge is also a 3 time Dora Award winning writer-performer for her epic triptych of plays The Sankofa Trilogy and The Orisha Trilogy. anitafrika’s groundbreaking creative praxis – the Anitafrika Method – uses the Sorplusi Principles as an intersectional anti-oppression human development framework, which is studied and practiced globally by artists, instigators and policy-makers. d’bi is the founding Artistic Director of Watah; Canada’s only professional theatre company that offers year-long tuition-free artist residencies to Black and diverse artist-instigators. She is also the founder and CEO of The Sorplusi Institute and Sorplusi Publishing, a research-based social enterprise with a micro press extension producing and publishing works by Black and diverse creators. Author of 7 plays, 6 dub albums and 5 books, d’bi has toured nationally and internationally.

Savannah Taylor
Savannah Taylor is a young performing artist. She has recently graduated with her undergraduate and  is an alumni of the Watah Theatre. She is now currently growing her art form. Her art has always been attached to her identity as a black queer woman and she strongly believes that storytelling is essential for the movement of black liberation.  While she continues to unearth what her artistry can look like, she stays committed to connecting and understanding the integrity of its roots.

Interview with Gunargie O’Sullivan

illustration of a radio mic making sound waves to an earlobe

by Carly Forbes

Carly Forbes: Can you start out by sharing with us how you became involved in community radio?

Gunargie O’Sullivan: For the 18 years I lived in the Fraser Valley, I listened to CKNW (Vancouver Talk/News Radio) 12 hours a day. I realized that a lot of people, especially the government didn’t value our First Nations people. They didn’t value our values, our morals. They didn’t want to hear about the fish anymore or any injustices. It always seemed like they were always yelling at us about something or another. It usually had to do with resources, the fish, the trees, the timber, the water, the oil. Everything.

It was a lot of stereotypical material out there about First Nations people. Listening to mainstream radio really gave me a hate on for myself. I didn’t know what it was that I was feeling. I couldn’t identify it because I was living in it. I never got a break from it.

One day when I was 19 years-old I went into Mission to get my status card. While I was there, you have to fill out all of your statistics. Who your Mom was, who you maybe thought your dad was, what year you were born and so on. We had a local newspaper here at the time called Kahtou. My brother, Raymond Williams, who worked on a show here at Coop radio, here on a show called When Spirit Whispers. He went and he put in an ad for this local paper and said he was looking for his sister, who was probably adopted in the 70s and was probably around 19 years-old. And our mom is Thelma Williams.

It just so happened that the lady who helped me fill out my application at the friendship centre read the ad and she put one and two together. She called my adopted mom and said, you know Cheryl, that’s my first name, her brother is looking for her. My Mom met Raymond first and made sure everything was copasetic. And then they contacted me. And then I got to meet my brother for the first time when I was 19 years-old. He worked at the radio station and he recognized that I had a gift for words and he thought that radio would be a good fix for me and he brought me into the station.

Carly: How has being involved at Coop radio helped you build community for yourself?

Gunargie: I have managed to build a really great community of artists. We had a lot going on in our community that simply wasn’t being covered. I knew that we had a strong group of literary artists based in Vancouver, who were poets and writing short stories. We had the union of BC Indian Chiefs right here in our back yard. We had theatre and musicians. And we have issues and news that needs to be addressed. When I started out, I mostly played music and PSAs (Public Service Announcements). I was stuck in a colonial mind and it was radio that drummed it out to me. I started playing music and then I started going out to events. When you do radio there are events that are happening that you need to cover. There are book launches, poetry readings. These events got me out into the community and they still do to this day. I can record things with my phone, I can pick up some interviews and I can bring them to the station. Just those things alone help me as a journalist, as a reporter but it also helps me build that relationship with people in the community. Community radio, at this radio station especially, Coop radio is becoming like my second home. I know a lot of the other programmers and I make a point to talk to them and build that relationship of understanding. There’s no better place than Coop radio because we are a multi-cultural establishment. We have every kind of person you could imagine at this station.

I go out into the community sometimes and people if they are having problems with the ministry, the police, or an organization, they will come and tell me. I have become a maternal person for people. Someone they can go and tell if they are not being treated equal.

Community radio has helped me become comfortable in my own skin as a First Nations Woman. In the 90s, the Oka crisis affected me deeply when I saw the coverage that we were getting. It tarred us with a really bad brush. It painted us as violent people, as aggressive people. It made us seem as if we had no rights. And if we look at what’s happening at Standing Rock. We have people out there who recognize that the media isn’t covering it. It does not matter what mainstream media wants to cover anymore because it’s in our hands. If we left it to mainstream media, we would believe that the water Protectors are being violent yet we have all over social media images of them praying, singing and dancing in ceremony peacefully while the are being rioted by police and and bullied with their pepper spray and dogs.

When the Oka crisis happened it made me feel sick to my stomach. It also turned me around from wanting to be a white girl to wanting to be First Nations and wanting to be proud. I wanted to stand alongside my people and do what I could. Communicating with others build that bridge and relationships.

Carly: I was wondering if you could talk a bit about the people who have mentored and inspired you?

Gunargie: Obviously the first one to inspire me was my brother Raymond Williams. He at the time was working with a few women, Panechi, Kelly White, and Kerry Chanley. They were all basically women at the time who were running the shows here. They inspired me a lot. They had strong cultural background, they had backbone, they were articulate and they were committed to community radio at a time that was crucial. A lot of people were coming back to their families. They were making their journey back to their people. It was important to have strong culturally minded people culture and the traditions. I think that turned me around from being shy of being native and of the culture and traditions to accepting it and embracing it.

I was also influenced by CKMW and mainstream media. I grew up on it. I am not kidding you when I say 12 hours a day. I learned that a broadcaster has a lot of influence on how people feel about Indigenous people. There was a need for First Nations broadcasters. We needed to be heard, to celebrate our skills and our talent. I know that we have a strong background in the arts. We are oral storytellers, we are dancers, and we are singers. The only way that we can influence other people who are on the same journey as me, coming back to their people, coming back to being who they really are. It’s hard to ask questions. It’s a hard place to be to have to go back and meet your brother. It’s a hard place to be to have to go back a find out who your dad was. For a lot of people out there who haven’t experienced child apprehension, or displacement. You don’t realize, knowing when your mom was born and when your mom died, it’s not a luxury. It doesn’t just end there. We don’t know anything about ourselves and there’s a big void and that’s where we come in here at this station. We fill the airwaves with positive things and also things that need to be addressed. I have also learned from those I have mentored like os12 aka Ronnie Dean Harris and Suzette Amaya on how to take it to the next level. The advice I would give is to take charge of your media, honour and allow your community to tell truths of matters we are most affected by.

Carly: Could you share with us, some of the work you have done as part of Resonating Reconciliation?

Gunargie: We had shows here at Coop radio way before Truth and Reconciliation raised its head. One of those was called Hidden From History and another was When Spirit Whispers. I was taking an employment course at YWCA, during that time, the announcement for the residential school agreement came out. And people had to sign this agreement, opt in or opt out. When I found this on the internet I was thinking, Wow I haven’t seen this anywhere and I’m a residential school survivor and an intergenerational survivor. The proposed agreement had been out for a month or two. I had applied to go to the Gulf Island Film School for an intensive week or two of filmmaking. I proposed PSAs and a little short on the residential school agreement. That’s how I began covering the residential school agreement and also the idea of truth and reconciliation. I continued to work on stories about residential schools and ideas of reconciliation. At the same time, I became engaged in the National Community Radio Association (NCRA). I started networking with others and collaborating on projects. I did a show on CJSF which is on Burnaby Mountain called Nation to Nation. One year we went to the National Community Radio Association Conference (NCRC). Sarah Buchanan and I collaborated on recording the UN declaration on Indigenous people. We engaged a whole bunch of other people from the NCRA. They lent us their voice to read articles from the UN declaration. We were building relationships from station to station, from nation to nation. Another year I went to the NCRC and the residential school agreement had just been approved and we got the national apology.  CBC was there and the approached the native caucus and they said they wanted to shoot the native caucus watching the apology on TV. Just before the camera crew came in and the apology was being announced, I ran from one workshop to another and banged on the door and said “I’m Gunargie O’Sullivan, from the Native Caucus, and CBC is going to be filming us watching the apology and I think it’s important that you come and sit with us.”

That’s what really piqued my interested. That is how I began building a stronger relationship with the members of the NCRA and the board. In particular, the Executive Director Shelley Robinson, who was a really, enthusiastic, inspiring, and compassionate. At that point, Shelley and I got together and I told her about this funding that was available. We talked about doing a project that would fund forty stations across the country, and they would go out and find people to train as producers and they would go out into the community that they were connected to to collect stories about residential schools and reconciliation. They got funding to hire a producer or two producers from their community. Those producers went out and did a documentary on residential survivors and intergenerational survivors. That was a year long project. Some of those stations felt the need and compelled to make two or three documentaries and we ended up with 70 radio documentaries about truth and reconciliation in Canada.

It takes more than one person to reconcile. I think we’re just at the beginning. We are just at the point where we get to reconcile with ourselves. We can begin mending the ways with our families but it starts with us. It’s important that you listen to those documentaries so that you understand what it is that we’re reconciling. It’s important for us to tell those stories through radio, through film, in plays, until we get what it is that we are trying to fix.

UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Media

“Article 16 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination.

8 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity.”


Listen to Gunargie Live on Coop Radio www.coopradio.org

When Spirit Whispers Mondays 1pm PST
Sne’Whaylh Tuesdays 1pm PST
Late night with Savages Wednesdays 11pm PST
Kla How Ya Thursdays 5pm PST
Listen to The Resonating Reconciliation Documentaries
www.ncra.ca/resonating/documentaries


UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Media

“Article 16 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination.
8 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity.”


Carly Forbes
Carly Forbes is a queer settler living and working as a nurse on Anishinaabe territory in Thunder Bay, On.  She has volunteered as the National Coordinator of GroundWire Community Radio News and is a member of the steering committee.

Gunargie O’sullivan
Gunargie O’sullivan is essentially a multi media artist whose specialty is in communications. She has mentored several people of all denominations in radio production .Most recently she served as NCRA (National Community and campus Radio Association ) National Program coordinator in the production of over 40 radio Documentaries. She is producer and host of 4 radio shows at Co op Radio. www.coopradio.org and is one of the content producers and hosts of Access Community Television.Gunargie has also produced three short films, Unsettling, Power of Prayer and Demolishing  Grief.She is the proud mom of Nimkish who is 23 years-old nd Aisha Grief.She is the proud mom of Nimkish who is 23 years-old nd Aisha who is 11 years-old who she describes as multi talented and self motivated