we’ve hinted at some changes for The Media Democracy Project, and it’s finally time to spread the news! On September 15th at VIVO Media Arts Centre, we’re hosting a Co-Lab to determine what our program for this years Media Democracy Days (MDD) Conference will look like.
We’re calling all of you media artists, activists, journalists, educators, and organizers to come and pitch us a session that you’d like to make happen atMedia Democracy Days on November 19th at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
The Co-Lab will be a space for collaboration, to grow and strengthen our network of independent media makers in the city. Come with an idea for a session (a portion of our program from 45 – 90 minutes) that you want to make happen, and be prepared to workshop it with fellow media makers in the city. Be open to new partnerships, and each group that walks away to create a session in our 2016 program will receive a mini-grant to make their project happen on November 19th.
A session can be anything, from workshops and media trainings, to talks and group dialogues, to performances and debates, and more we haven’t thought up yet. Be as creative as you want, so long as each session uses media to accomplish its aim. We define media as the tools and techniques used to communicate with the world.
Speaking of topics, we’ve defined seven thematic “Tracks” for MDD 2016. Take a look through each of these, and use them as the framework for designing a session at MDD:
The Gordon Neighbourhood House has made it their mission to expand the conversations around food in Vancouver. Last Thursday at Heartwood Community Café, the questions “What’s With the Ethnic Aisle?” and “Why is the Food Movement so White?” were thrown to an impressive panel of Vancouver food advocates who had no shortage of things to say about the supposed lack of diversity in the food movement.
I say “supposed lack of diversity” because all of the members of the panel answered emphatically that the food movement is not white. It is rather the consumption based ethics of the mainstream environmental food activism which excludes many people of colour. This movement is often quiet about inequality, migrant workers, food sovereignty, cultural appropriation, and many of the other issues we face to build a more just food system.
It’s capitalist logic that tells us that buying expensive organic produce from a farmers market will save the planet, but doesn’t examine the reasons why that food is inaccessible to many or what impact corporate farming has had on many small farmers, both those who have immigrated and those who are born in Canada.
I spoke with Stephanie Lim of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank and Vancouver Food Council afterwards who was clear that part of the problem is the lack of food education in our public system. Lim said that many of the young people who they have spoken to had seen some of the larger environmental films, like Cowspiracy, but that the moral focus of these documentaries made the barriers for ethical eating too high for kids who might come from various backgrounds, and may not have the know-how or opportunity to cook for themselves. It’s good that there’s focus on the environmental impact, but it can shut out so much of the conversation when it’s centered on the morality of “eating green.”
Food security and food justice will continue to be a large challenge facing our future, so we will have to start by thinking about what we can do in the educational system and what we can do at home. Moderator Lily Grewal emphasized how important it is to know the stories of the foods which make it to our homes. Just learning about the series of hands that has touched one of the foods we eat is a start, because we can then share those stories with our communities.
Thanks to one of the spaces that focused on having food conversations, Heartwood Community Café, which will be closing its doors in August. Look out for more programing from The Gordon Neighbourhood House in the coming months.
It reminded us that there are so many people around the world who do not get the opportunity to feel safe. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and families of the victims in the Orlando shooting, and our deepest anger at the complex reality that allowed this killing to occur.
You, like us, might be overwhelmed by the media coverage of this shooting, and outraged by how it has been co-opted by some in racist political rhetoric. These headlines are important, because they can simplify a story that is not simple.
When you have the space, please consider deepening this conversation about the identities of the victims, the race of the victims, hatred for the LGTBQ+ community, gun control, masculinity, the personal history of the shooter, and what meaningful way we can join together to ensure that this does not happen again.
With that, we want to highlight the Queer Arts Festival (QAF), which starts today and runs until June 30th. QAF’s Artistic Director, SD Holdman, states in a message titled Orlando Furioso: “Come because you are not afraid, or because you are. You are wanted here and you are not alone.”
The programming for the QAF this year is exciting and challenging. It includes the visual art exhibition Drama Queer: Seducing social changewhich is leading the festival with the notion that emotion is central to the history of queer activism and that its existence in contemporary queer art is a political practice.
Those who may or may not identify themselves as part of the community targeted by violence in Orlando, will find that the history of both fighting and celebration can be seen in much of the festival content. The QAF has been moved this year to June in order to commemorate the Stonewall Riots and the enormous amount that has been accomplished by this community since June 28, 1969. We can hold those accomplishments together with the knowledge that there is still so much work to be done.
Please take this opportunity to support this vital community and question what actions we can take to end violence. Passes and tickets to events available here.
It occurs to us (because we’re not oblivious) that there is a wealth of
cultural and media production in this city that fits with our mandate: Know
the media, be the media, change the media. Our small team want to grow to
provide space for more kinds of work to be included in Media Democracy
Days’ programming in the future, as well as ensure that we’re paying
attention to the excellent and wide-ranging voices of activists, artists,
and creators that work in the lower mainland.
If you’ve taken note over the last few months, we’ve been using this newsletter to promote some of our favourite happenings in the city, reflect on our community’s impact, and understand what it means to participate in democratic media.
In trying to keep true to our word, we’ve been working on changes to our annual conference, Media Democracy Days, that will make it a more community-focused event; but what exactly does that entail?
I attended the Community Arts Council of Vancouver’s Community Arts Unconference last week. Participants included recipients of their Community Arts Fund programming, including Hooker Monologues, Vancouver Moving Theatre, the Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver and more, who all shared their experiences from planning community arts projects. The most distinctive thing about being in a room with this group of people was the constant reiteration of values included in all forms of problem solving. It provided a space where help and advice, from hiring technicians to grant writing, was shared freely, with a constant emphasis on active listening, inclusivity, and mutual respect.
The best planning starts with getting together to take an inventory of what a community has, and what people can share. It’s a way to ask what we can do to build capacity and use the skills and experience that already exists to make something better.
Some of our other partners who have taken community development to heart in the form of civic engagement are OpenMedia, who have recently shared their vision and values for crowdsourcing, which you can find here. OpenMedia’s focus have been on ensuring that their work is directed by their community’s needs, and that the opinions and voices of those wanting a more democratic media system are valued and respected.
The program for Media Democracy Days will be a work in progress; it will grow and change with time. We look forward to seeing what works and what doesn’t, and we hope you join us because we’re going to need your input! Look out for more information coming soon.
So what exactly does a comedy show about rape look like?
This year, local comedians Emma Cooper and Heather Jordan Ross managed to repeatedly sell out East Vancouver venues for their production Rape is Real and Everywhere, featuring comedians who are also survivors of sexual assault. If that sounds unlikely, you can be sure that there are a wealth of locals, like myself, who were excited at the prospect of going to a comedy show where we wouldn’t have to cringe at self-excusing comics deploying oppressive stereotypes for clichéd punchlines.
Rape is Real was just as I had hoped it would be: actually funny. The show is balance between jokes that “punched up,” reflections on the culture and legal system that allow so many survivors to go without justice, and personal stories that were nothing except brutally honest. For some of the comics, the difficulty of telling these stories was palpable, but the crowd provided claps, cheers, and kind words to help everyone through their sets. If being part of a supportive atmosphere contributed in any way to personal healing, then it was well worth the ticket price.
But can comedy make an impact as a political tool? Comedy in comparison to other kinds of storytelling is an insider/outsider artform. Punchlines need to be relatable to land.
It was no surprise that the vast majority of hands in the audience went up when Cooper asked at the beginning of the show if anyone was a survivor of sexual assault (and that no hands went up when she asked who in the audience was a rapist). The overwhelming response in Vancouver is telling us something about this specific conversation. Can many comedy shows with such a “narrow” focus take off so quickly?
In an interview with VICE, Ross says “I have this joke where I say: “I always hear from guys, they say, ‘If you can tell a murder joke, you can tell a rape joke, right?’ And my response is always, ‘I don’t know if one in three men in this room have been—murdered.’ I think we’re talking about something a little different here.”
Rape is Real and Everywhere has kicked off its national tour, and is by now heading east from Ottawa. The show will include local comics from each stop, all with stories of their own to tell and laugh about. Finding and knowing that this community exists, has similar struggles, and is willing to talk about it, can make all the difference.