A brand-new collective born out of the Black Lives Matter movement held its first event Thursday, June 25, a fundraiser hosted by Change YYC at containR in Sunnyside.
Change YYC aims to create societal change in Calgary with the help of allies by supporting Black, Indigenous and People of Colour causes, businesses and artists that would not otherwise get attention through raising funds and awareness.
"Ultimately, our goal is to change how people interact with Calgary, and make them more aware of how they live their everyday lives can help change someone else's life," says Tola Adedipe, Change YYC's social media coordinator.
Event attendees Ifunanya Okwuobi, Grace Jang and Haleigh Mackenzie, came out to support the cause and their friend who was performing poetry readings on stage. Photo: Angela Lackey
PUTTING PEOPLE IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Adedipe, a spoken-word artist of Nigerian heritage who's from South Africa, helped form Change YYC only two weeks ago.
Adedipe describes the folks behind Change YYC as diverse in age, background and what they're able to bring to the table. Pooling their resources and contacts, they were able to organize an event that's just as diverse as the group that made it: offering singers, rappers, dance battles, poetry and more.
One of the events' artists, Dorsa Lena, an Iranian-Canadian rapper and singer-songwriter, says she wanted to contribute to this project because she and artists like her often experience marginalization due to their ethnicity and gender.
"It's important to put these people in the spotlight, it's important to hear their stories," says Lena.
"I feel like it's helped me gain the confidence as a young
black woman to be able to speak up and say
something next time something isn't right,"
— Haleigh Mackenzie
Event attendee, Ifunanya Okwuobi, says a benefit of the movement has been creating more spaces for black people.
"There's a lot of predominantly white areas, and you don't see a lot of spaces for black people. And so seeing what it's become, and seeing a lot of allies show up, it's really cool. I love it."
Grace Jang says she came to the event as a person of colour to show support for the Black community.
"There are so many people of colour who think just because they aren't Black that they don't need to care or it doesn't apply to them," says Jang. "You need to show your support just as much."
Haleigh Mackenzie, who also attended the event says the movement is helping her to find her voice against the everyday microaggressions that she faces.
"I feel like it's helped me gain the confidence as a young black woman to be able to speak up and say something next time something isn't right," says Mackenzie.
Dorsa Lena, on stage, performing her final song, the audience raises their fists in solidarity. Photo: Angela Lackey
"You never know when something racist is going to just ruin your day….
It's like someone is chasing you. And all the time and you
keep having to like, watch your back."
— Tola Adedipe
RACISM IN CALGARY
Adedipe says that coming from an African country, she was much more aware of her “blackness” here, experiencing many incidences of outright and overt racism.
"You never know when something racist is going to just ruin your day. So you just kind of come to almost expect it in almost every conversation, which is very emotionally tiring," she says. "It's like someone is chasing you. And all the time and you keep having to like, watch your back."
Lena hopes this event and the movement encourages people to call out racism and be actively anti-racist.
"Society has bred into us, at least a small degree of racism in everyone. And we just need to look internally at our own implicit biases and how we contribute to a system of oppression. I think that's one of the most major things," she says.
Maddy Vine and Liz Olecko, attendees and allies to the Black lives matter movement. Photo: Angela Lackey
In an effort to create social change and racial equality in Calgary, allyship is a central tenet of Change YYC.
"Black people have been protesting and protesting and protesting their whole lives, but we need everyone to come together," says Adedipe. "To support the cause, to propose a change because, in the end, no one can do this alone."
“I hope that my allyship continues to change
and evolve as they tell me it needs to be."
— Maddy Vine
Liz Olecko, another attendee and ally for Change YYC, says, "Understanding what you could never understand from your perspective, and just doing your best to empathize and listen, and work on making waves and donating and open your purses."
Echoing a similar view Maddy Vine, says that the movement is helping her become a better ally.
"I can never be a perfect ally. I don't think that exists. There's just been so much more learning opportunities and education out there … I hope that my allyship continues to change and evolve as they tell me it needs to be."
- By Angela Lackey