Taking our own space changed everything. For the festival, for example, all facilitators, performers, and other organizers were paid an honorarium. Those are parts of us that can be painful to remember or be reminded of, or to have brought up to us in an accusing or excluding manner by other settler POC folks. We found we no longer had to keep quiet in meetings; we no longer had to silence our own needs, discomforts, and experiences of violence and oppression from our colleagues. From organizing and managing multiple fundraisers, to donating their skills and artwork to silent auctions, or using their positions of power to provide us with free spaces to hold our events, people stepped up to increase the capacity and well-being of us as POC organizers, which was something most of us had never experienced before.
Namely, we found that there is much work to be done to ensure that those who are light-skinned, white-passing, or even half white are able to find safety and community. For us, this piece is crucial, because without the active participation and direction of these communities, we are re-enacting settler colonialism. What did you want to achieve through it, and what were some of the powerful lessons from it? There were many difficult periods along the way, and certainly the festival itself revealed new and nuanced issues that were huge lessons for us. We found we no longer had to keep quiet in meetings; we no longer had to silence our own needs, discomforts, and experiences of violence and oppression from our colleagues. We wanted a space that would be safe for those expressions, conversations, and connections to be made. But for Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities, it has meant outward attempts of erasure of our languages, our cultures, and displacement from our homelands. Monetary considerations have also been a way in which we challenge oppressive systems and white supremacy. And, foundationally, this is the place where Indigenous folks for thousands of years have made their homes and lives. From organizing and managing multiple fundraisers, to donating their skills and artwork to silent auctions, or using their positions of power to provide us with free spaces to hold our events, people stepped up to increase the capacity and well-being of us as POC organizers, which was something most of us had never experienced before. The collective will expand, shrink, and become many things as we continue. First and foremost, we wanted a space for IBPOC people who were creators in some way to be able to express themselves freely, independent of the agendas of well-meaning but white-centred organizations and events. As we put our heads together, though, it became clear how necessary this event [the Brown, Black, and Fierce Festival] was, both in our personal lives and for our diasporic communities — including for those displaced on their own lands, on which we are settlers. We consider the audience to be Indigenous folks, Black folks, and people of colour of all ages, especially those who identify as women, trans, queer, two-spirited, and gender non-conforming. There has been so much internalized oppression and a push toward being model minorities that often we perpetuate colonial and lateral violence on our peers. Half of our collective had never done organizing like this before, and almost all of us had only ever organized in circles of mostly white people. Taking our own space changed everything. The festival unpacked issues of immigration and decolonization, and processes of racialization. Based on responses to our first steps, though, we quickly realized that this would grow into something beyond our initial plan. Ultimately, it became a day-long festival with 17 workshops and just as many performances. After the festival, we had many people approach us to say they wanted to help organize future events; lots of people have also connected hoping to have us partner in some way with their endeavours and groups. Our collective members are fierce as individuals in ways we define for ourselves, but we are also fierce as a group in how we make decisions and how we structure our organizing to be independent of white supremacist organizations that gate-keep and hold power over us. We are ready to talk about truths, and not have to sugarcoat them for others. See more of their work. First and foremost, we wanted it to be a genuine experience for all involved. They are whom we still want to reach the most at this time. Fierce means so much:
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