During the first week of May, there was something going on almost every day or every evening to check out. For those that may not have been around, there’s a lot that you missed out on. But it’s all good, ’cause I’m here to fill you in. From films, panel discussions, and festivals, the spring season appears to be off to a good start.
On the evening of May 1st, the month was kicked off with a film at Winnipeg Cinematheque put on by Black Space Winnipeg for the documentary, Free Angela: and all Political Prisoners. On May 4th-7th, the Spur Festival took place in Winnipeg which I was asked to be a part of as one of the volunteer photographers. Then, Saturday, May 6th, the week was finished off big as both Black Space Winnipeg and QPOC Winnipeg helped to sponsor an event with Dr. Angela Davis speaking here in Winnipeg at Knox United Church. Looking back, much of the week revolved around the importance of black thought in varies industries. In order to evolve, our stories, and our voices must be heard; that’s definitely happened this week.
On Monday, May 1st, the month started off with a special double-screening of the new documentary film, Free Angela: and All Political Prisoners. The double-screening, sponsored by Black Space Winnipeg and hosted at the Winnipeg Cinematheque, was about the famous scholar, writer and political activist Dr. Angela Davis. The film covers the series of events in the 1970’s during Dr. Davis’ career as a professor at UCLA, followed by the social revolution she inspired during her imprisonment and trial. In-between the two screenings, a panel discussion took place about the importance of social activism in black and racial identity.
The panel featured the founder and host of Soul Unexpected Adeline Bird, two University of Winnipeg professors Dr. Jenny H. Willis and Dr. Paul Lawrie and myself. Our discussion, hosted by Black Space Winnipeg founder Alexa Potashnik, revolved around the importance of awareness regarding social issues, what it means to be engaged and in what ways have things either changed or remained the same since the events of Angela Davis’ trial. It was an enriching and important conversation that I was thankful to be a part of. Sharing the panel with academic scholars and enlighten minds fuels my energy; it reminds me how much we can achieve working together.
Much of what we discussed touched on the importance of visibility in our communities as POC. Some of the questions from panel host Alexa are included in the following audio,
Unfortunately, the audio cuts out near the end when I give my thoughts on the importance of allyship. We mainly discussed allyship between marginalized groups but I also wanted to address allyship with those who hold forms of privilege. With my take on the subject, I wanted to address some of its shortcomings that may not always be talked about.
I should preface this by saying that I think it’s important we all do what we can to reach out to others. We can learn and grow from those we don’t always identify with and we can be supportive allies when and where possible. Also, privilege is not something only held by those who are white. Myself as a heterosexual, cisgendered and able-bodied male hold levels of privilege in society even while being a POC. The issue becomes when we as allies become oblivious to our own privilege and put ourselves in a position that takes up space in ways that harm the cause we claim to support. We take up room on a platform that could have been occupied by someone within that community. The power of a movement is in its voice and those who speak need to be champions of that community from its community.
The way I see it, allyship isn’t when you get up on stage and speak into the microphone. Allyship is when you’re willing to help set up the sound equipment. It’s about being useful where you’re needed the most and not where you’ll be seen the most – the platform is there for the people you’re claiming to support – not you.
Allyship isn’t when you get up on stage and speak into the microphone. Allyship is when you’re willing to help set up the sound equipment.
As for the film, Free Angela, it highlights the prosecution of Angela Davis’ and the way the system of white supremacy was built to silence her despite being a renowned scholar. Her academic teachings, criticisms of the US capitalist system and work as a social activist all helped to be one of the biggest inspirations for modern day identity politics. However, it was also what feed a fuel of hatred towards Angela that went all the way to The White House during the Reagan administration. Now, in the modern world of social media, grassroots activism is more connected and able to form real dialogue around identity politics. It’s during this new digital age that some ask what responsibility does this young generation play in furthering the conversation around identity politics?
What has become apparent is that as minority groups become more active in forming their voice for equality and representation as a people, there comes a growing concern around freedom of speech. Those opposed to identity politics have created this notion that marginalized groups that are using the internet to confront systemic oppression, are now dampening the first amendment and right to free speech. The conversations around many of theses social issues have now been turned into whether or not young people have become overly sensitive to their surroundings and just needs to toughen up.
This rhetorical narrative occurs even in the midsts of widespread outrage around instances of racialized discrimination. Recent instances such as the police shooting of unarmed black teen, Jordan Edwards in the US, along with the funding of an Appropriation Prize via twitter by some of Canada’s most established journalist and editors. It’s where instances such as these that the black, indigenous, POC communities and allies must come together to combat the ignorance and racism sadly still prevalent today.
…theses important social issues have now been turned into whether or not young people have become overly sensitive to their surroundings and just needs to toughen up.
The spring and summer seasons are when the annual Spur Festival takes place across Canada. This national festival is held across several major cities in the country with the Winnipeg Spur Festival going from May 4th-7th this year. With the Winnipeg Spur Festival, it showcases scholars, artists, live music and discussions around a broad range of topics focused on a central theme. This year’s theme was RISK – the risk in various industries such as artistry, journalism, and politics. Scholars were invited to the events to attend and ask questions to the guest speakers. I was thrilled to see so many from Winnipeg’s black community actively involved in a number of events.
Many black artists, musicians, and scholars contributed to the festival this year including young talented singer/ songwriter CISHA, published writer and scholar, Chimwemwe Undi, and scholar Milan Orridge. I was also involved as part of the Winnipeg Spur Festival photography team.
On Thursday, May 4th, Spurs’ first day of the festival featured the documentary Giants of Africa. The documentary film covers an NBA inspired basketball program by the same name that takes in a select 50-60 young men to enhance their skills in the sport. The program takes place across several countries in the continent including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda. The screening was held in the Muriel Richardson Auditorium at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and was introduced by QPOC Winnipeg founder and former Team Canada women’s basketball player, Uzoma Chioma along with associate producer for CBC Indigenous, Lenard Monkman.
Black Space Winnipeg hosted a panel on Friday for the Spur Festival – Risk, Race & Afro-Canadian Cultural Production. The discussion revolved around the struggles and significance of black artistry in mainstream media production, writing and film.
Saturday morning, Spur Festival also held Living With(in) Risk. Living With(in) Risk was a live discussion at the downtown Manitoba Hydro building. The discussion was with Manitoba immigration lawyer Bashir Khan, writer and lawyer Tom Denton, and refugee claimant Asha Ahmed. The group spoke to the audience and CBC moderator Karen Pauls, about the issues, and the myths, around the refugee crisis and its impact on Canada.
With events like these, it’s clear that efforts to be visibly represented and engage in authentic diversity continue to spread across numerous platforms. Despite ongoing discrimination, we have profound leaders. However, there is still lots of work to be done for making our voices heard; building our own platforms to speak from and tables to sit at.
However, it was Black Space Winnipeg and QPOC Winnipeg on Saturday, May 6th that ended the week off big. They sponsored a sold-out event with Dr. Angela Davis, speaking at Winnipeg’s Knox United Church.
Check out BlackSpaceWpg.ca and QPOC-International.com to check out more about the event and about both amazing organizations.
Continue to support the community.
Visual Director, Co-Founder of ÉZÈ STUDIO