Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton – Session 2 Stakes and Strategies

okay hello everyone welcome back from
lunch and welcome to pressure points this is
as Abedar mentioned the second session called stakes and strategies so just to
review the theme of the conversation how have individuals and local groups
responded to gentrification that’s something that we will be discussing in
depth during the session we will introduce possible solutions as well as
a range of creative actions and strategies that could be used to assist
both the root causes of gentrification and its harmful effects so we’re
thinking through some some three sort of foundational questions why should people
care about doing something about gentrification what are some possible
solutions that we can pursue and what are some tactics and strategies that we
can use as individuals as well as collectively so my name is Tara Bursey
I’m thrilled to be here and very excited to talk to our five esteemed guests
around me who I know will offer a lot of credible insights to today’s
conversation so I will introduce everyone wait quite quickly and I’ll
start with Danielle Boissoneau we’re not actually you know in order so I could
just kind of give a whoop whoop thanks okay so Danielle Boissoneau is Anishnaabe kwe from the shorelines at the Great Lakes she’s a mother
a writer a seed keeper and a change maker Danielle has recently returned
from the Indigenous storytellers writing residency at the Banff Center for the
Arts in Treaty Seven territory C.A. Borstad Klassen thank you is from
Hamilton after studying music and planning they returned to Hamilton
working at the Social Planning and Research Council for nearly six years
they coordinated the neighbourhood action evaluation and consulted and
program evaluation before starting their role as a community-based research
coordinator at McMaster University Stephanie Cox graduated from the
University of Western Ontario with a degree in Social Justice and Peace
Studies and political science she’s consistently been at grassroots
community activists both locally and internationally after obtaining her BA
Stephanie proceeded to law school where she focused her efforts on community
access to justice practicing in the areas of immigration and migrant justice
as well as housing and income advocacy at non-for-profit legal clinics
stephanie is currently a staff lawyer mountain community legal clinic funded
through legal aid Ontario providing representation to low-income individuals
precariously housed spearheaded capacity-building
in the community and combating the systemic issues related to housing in
the City of Hamilton locally professionally and through community
development initiatives and litigation in the superior court of justice
Danica Evering is an artist educator and writer from Cobourg her MA and Media
Studies from Concordia question social practice through interviews with artists
and creative analysis of her fieldwork she was a founding member of the
Publication Studio Guelph and help develop the venchik Youth Council a
radical arts education program in Rijeka Croatia Erika Morton works for the
social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton
she’s the program coordinator with the street youth planning collaborative or
the SYPC and the youth has a support project the YHSP which involves
working with community to prevent and end youth homelessness in Hamilton and
finally myself I’m an interdisciplinary artist independent curator writer and
arts worker with an interest in social history and social justice working class
identity and printed matter currently I’m on leave from my position as
program coordinator of the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre a place that I
really really love and I’m currently the Interim Manager of Education at the Art
Gallery of Hamilton so to begin just to root us in the conversation and to
share a little bit about the work that you do on a
daily basis could each of you please describe the work that you do that
grounds you in today’s conversation and maybe we’ll start with to my right with Stephanie thank you as it was said in my
introduction I’m a housing lawyer the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and so my perspective is coming from seeing daily tenants in our city at risk of eviction
or facing eviction so and then even if you’re not already a tenant seeing
individuals have changes in their lives in terms of that really results in their
lack of income losing their housing and then they become writers so daily I
meant you’re facing with the folks of Hamilton who are literally being
displaced through the legal processes of the landlord tenant court thank you so I think the best way to describe my
connection to this work is that I have had To survive continually since birth
displacement in the context of colonialism and what keeps me rooted in this
work is the necessity of survival for my children and my children’s children and
not only that but the land and the water and this is the way that I see the
world because I’m Anishnaabe kwe my connection to the land and the water
supersedes my current place in this world and goes back through my ancestral
DNA since time immemorial so the sort of displacement and violence
that my people have experienced is kind of what’s happening through gentrification to everybody else right now so I’m working through a place of
compassion and pity because my people have been through this and now that
everyone else is experiencing it I feel compassion and I feel pity so I’m here
to help as much as I can hi everyone so what brings me here today
so um I work in the community I support local organizations including
young people that have the experience of homelessness and so just carry with me
the frustrations that they’re feeling around seeing young people being
displaced in their community through gentrification I’d also say
there’s other systems that result in displacing young people to
the streets as well so from seeing that from sort of supporting the
community through some of those issues and then also another part of my work
with these housing support projects so it’s a project that works directly with
young people seeking support to to find housing or to you know be prevented from
experiencing homelessness and having to deal firsthand with some of the
situations that no young person should have to experience in their young years
and feeling that you know coming from a very collaborative lens that all the
work that I do requires working with community partners and you know the arts
community and everyone in this room can be a part of that solution so here today
to kind of bring forward a youth perspective and also just to remember
that you know people they’re you know they’re our next generation and we need
to make sure that we’re able to achieve their fullest capacity and we need to
start working on we need to start working today
to make sure that all young people are able to reach the kind of goals and and
their fullest potential as much as possible My name is Danica Evering and I’m an artist and writer and I’ve also done some research but the I come into this as someone who
worked at an international associated arts organization in Guelph and kind of
through that work we often were involved with organizations that often use the
words social change and kind of as I started to listen and be part of these conversations I became
very critical about what that meant within cities in terms of unification
and gamification and those larger processes of funding and so I think in
that work there was a lot of really great but also a lot of work
that means further and really problematic objectification and injustice and the city’s I worked in and
so then my Master’s research was questioning and critiquing that and
through interviews of practitioners I developed a couple of tactics that I’m
excited to share today so when Sean mentioned this morning that artists as citizens really feel bad about it and that’s the kind of perspective that I hope to the work so I’m excited to talk I’m happy to share with you but just sharing
is caring I’m C.A. I think I’m here because of the
work I did with the Neighborhood Action Evaluation I’ve done a few things anyway
so I’ll talk time with that and then I’ll talk about what I think comes
before that so the Neighborhood Action Evaluation Sarah Wakefield’s we’ve heard
from my first panel this is the principal investigator on that and I I
had coordinated it and so we so that was an evaluation of the Neighborhood Action
Strategy which was a collaborative initiative from the City of Hamilton and
and the Hamilton Community Foundation it is effectively not happening it’s on pause like nothing’s happening I’m just going to say that that’s not happening right now but I don’t work for Sarah anymore so I get to say that
to and I don’t have to worry as much because I work for McMaster in a general doing so much stuff so so I
think I’m a community based researcher I think I am
and I’ve come to that mostly just because I’m a human person who I was
born raised in Hamilton and we grew up on well you see Ontario Works and I
just really care about my community and I really care about all of the systems
that make things very shitty for people and I want to try to make them less
shitty and so I’m always trying to figure out how do you like do that and I
don’t always know but I think that’s part of how it comes like I I don’t know
I sort of like okay research is one tool so I think that’s sort of taking that up
as a tool I question its efficacy daily I do but but I’m in it it still so I
don’t know I mean I try to be useful I think I stop talking we probably have other more important.. it’s a harder question to answer than I thought it would be I guess like why are you here Fuck I don’t know why I’m here okay C.A. well I’m gonna coax a
little more out of you right now so I was actually really interested in the
work that you do and probably like a lot of people I confused your work with a
Neighborhood Action Evaluation with the Neighborhood Action Strategies so just
quickly for the sake of the the giving folks a broader context on that work
could you kind of share the role of each of those agencies and their relevance
and how they interact with one another yes I can talk about what they are how they’re different and how they interact and I don’t know that I can speak to their relevance, that’s a grander question but I can try so the neighborhood
action strategy essentially was the sort of major piece of major initiative that
the city was like Code Red this is very bad have to to do something over
simplifying but anyway and so and so partly if the Community Foundation in the City
were like okay we’ll do the Neighbourhood Action Strategy because we have health
inequities that are rooted and income and they’re in neighborhoods so we need
to go over the neighborhoods where this really bad health we need to do things
let’s go to those neighborhoods and do some things but we need to definitely
not tell them what to do we need to do community development we need to hear
your have priorities set do clinic processes that engage residents there
and so they can tell us what they need and then we’re going to partner or were gonna
kind of figure out so there are these Action Plans
they love neighborhoods most of them in Lower City went on that West
Mountain there’s been there have been community developers trying to do
work for many years in various ways there so yeah some of that planning and
priority setting as part of it and I’m working with the city and other service
providers to try to do some of the things that were on the Action Plans programming?
programming? ehh programming not so much I don’t like do us I don’t know well I mean the initiative
was like sort of the the planning the local planning processes and then trying
to work towards those goals so any purpose if there is programming on the
plan and I would be but some of the things on the plan would be like Keith
had an initiative about trying to get like some cute neighborhood North End had
an initiative about fire and having fire alarms in all of the houses and so there
was like a community-based thing partnered with I think the fire department
I’m not sure anyway as a you know this is a major this is one this is one apply
one way that we can try to improve the health and keep our neighbor safe and
build community at the same time whatever so yeah so that was Neighbourhood
Action Strategy, was that clear? sort of fits okay and the community developers themselves
you know like the sort of structure of it moved around initially they were they
look they would never City of Hamilton employees and so the agent that first
they were at five different agencies because that was gonna be good and then that
wasn’t working so while I was gonna be all in one agency that was gonna be good and
that didn’t work so well be at the Community Foundation and that
didn’t work so anyway so like and now they’re nowhere we do not know where
there’s still human people still doing things but those rules don’t exist
in that same way so that’s the NAS Neighbourhood Action Strategy and then pretty
early on in those conversations some of the implementing partners are like wow
we really need to make sure we research this and then we evaluate it so that we
can show if it’s working so that we can continue to get investment from other
orders of government to support this work and so Sarah and others Jim Dunn’s
work at McMaster on the hillside neighborhood studies which isn’t that
what another kind of evaluation anyway there are lots of different pieces of
evaluation ours is primarily process evaluation like what is happening what
are people saying about it so we did a lot of focus groups and interviews
of qualitative data and gentrification came up a lot than that
I think people were worried about it and that there was a concern so I maybe the
relevance to this conversation I can speak to is that a lot of what we heard
was concern about gentrification and things like the towers in the East End
people getting pushed out or like we would go to meetings when we like where
the researchers we’re the Evaluation Team and residents would come up to us being like
I got this notice from my landlord saying my rents going to go up by 200
bucks can they do that like that’s not okay
who talked to you is this that and the other person person but anyways so that was
coming up there was a concern and like can you say
conclusively that this happened to now or like it is worth considering whether
I think the Neighborhood Action Strategy by identifying certain
neighborhoods and those being very publicized became a kind of magnet for
the like higher income folks being like I really want to go and be part of that
neighborhood you know and to know about and then be like I’m gonna get involved
in my community association do things that I have all these professional
skills that I can contribute so know so it’s not bad that it’s like then
you’re in a public process a public consultation process that still has the
same voices that are in there and the priorities that get set into those plans
are not representatives of the struggles very broadly within a neighborhood and
so that limits the effectiveness of that kind of strategy on the problem it was
designed to address does that make sense? Yes
okay I’m going to stop talking that was too long okay well thanks for the that context and that
actually brings me too a question I have my mind around
community benefits so community benefits in kind of a more broad way in some of
the community benefits that you know a lot of us within an arts
context are used to like galleries programs and opportunities to engage in
culture more broadly but also community benefits such as parks and green space
local food systems programming and of course transit being a big one so a
question that I think a number of you will be able to speak to is there is
certainly a tension between the creation of community benefits like the ones that
I named and gentrification how does this tension resonate with the work that you
do how have you worked at if at all to mitigate any of those unintended
negative impacts of community development work for communities
vulnerable to the effects of gentrification so how does that idea of
community benefits basically you know ideally being there to serve vulnerable
populations or working-class folks then get sort of distorted through the
process that you’re kind of talking about C.A. can can each of us kind of
speak a little bit to that sure if it’s tough so I like you I could talk for
hours so trying to make this succinct can be difficult a lot of times
when you look at even Metrolink’s website about like Community Benefit
agreements that they have with the cities they’re talking to a niche
privileged group and so obviously those interests are going to be preferred and
a lot of values value statements are resonating with the concept of we’re
going to hire local individuals but they don’t talk about the individuals who are
being displaced from their home and how they’re going to transition out or if
the community that’s been selected for the LRT whether that’s an affluent
community or if that’s going to be in the space where there’s maybe the only
affordable homes and in the community and now you’ve eliminated that the small
amount of affordable homes and so community agreements
tend to look good on the surface but they really have excluded excluded a lot
of the vulnerable individuals who are going to be subjected to the results of
for example the LRT the other the prospect of the LRT going into Riverdale
was motivation for CLV to you know reposition and find more desirable
tenants to be able to market that area as you know a new place to come its
revitalized we have the LRT it’s pushing out those community members
because they find many ways to put pressures on the inherited tenants to
move out and frustrate them so definitely this is a question of space
and this is a question of who’s at the table having these discussions when
community benefit agreements are being spoken to and is there an understanding
of the domino effect that a park or light rail transit will have one on the
people who are gonna have the daily struggle and so I think striking a
balance of creating that space but not taking up someone’s voice can be a
difficult thing to do when you’re an ally and standing in solidarity with the
communities that are affected by these projects I’ve now gone on too much so
I’ll let all that someone else speak so one of the reasons that I became an
artist is and I mean I still struggle with identifying as an artist because I don’t
see myself as bad I see an artist as someone who was really got the space and time
and comfort to be able to create things in a beautiful way without any sort of tension
I on the other hand have used words to be able to create a narrative that is in
opposition to the narrative that colonialism and capitalism creates on a
daily basis that’s the need for constant development we need to be constantly
creating things that are made from the land and the water and we need to
constantly moving people we need to be constantly developing and moving all
these things and this is a trope that’s existed for black, Indigenous, people of
color since forever so this is a thing that marginalized peoples faced all the
time so this is not something new this is something that people have
experienced forever I think that’s this tension that folks are feeling right now
is very close to home and so because folks like artists are starting to feel
this tension and folks that have never had to feel this tension before are starting
to feel it that these conversations are starting to happen in these sorts of
spaces and I think that that’s a little bit unfortunate because what we’re doing
here is really talking amongst ourselves about something that seemingly you know
when it’s not and what we really need to be doing is talking with and including
the people that have lived through these experiences since forever I think unless
we start to do that we’re really just wasting our time we’re really just kind
of like revolving this wheel that’s been going on over and over again but what’s
happening now is that because folks who have not experienced this before are
experiencing now it’s starting to become like higher level importance to people
in terms of allyship i watched this really great video this woman is that
all right if you want to be an ally you’re not Beyonce you’re not Kelly
you’re Michelle so if you don’t know who Destiny’s Child is please look into this and then we’ll see whats great about this and this is the case I mean I
really think that in order for us to be doing effective work we need to be
bringing the voices of the marginalized people to the very front not only
because it presents a different narrative and there’s these people who
are living these experiences at the front it’s because what they have lived
through and what they have experienced will inform our actions will move
forward in an effective and impactful way
and unless we serve to do that we’re just going to be spinning our wheels
over and over again and when I decided to come to this panel and I decided to
speak today I was really kind of struggling because of this
and I’m really working hard I’m not being cynical and you know I’m really
working hard on like being in the moment and being present because that’s my
creative process because unless I’m not living in the moment and if I’m not
being present I get anxious and I get overwhelmed and as we all know this is
not really beneficial to any sort of creative process so for me not only is
it a matter of survivance it’s a method in which I’m able to be creatively
resilient and I do encourage folks you know not to get overwhelmed by their
guilts because that doesn’t help anything either
you know what I mean like really just stay in the moment and stay focused
because what I’m seeing right now there’s a lot of people who are really
interested in what the next steps are and how we’re going to move forward and
I think that for me to look beyond what is in front of our faces you know and
I’ll say it there’s really like a lack of representation right there’s really a
lack of low-income folks in this space there’s a lot of marginalized people’s
in this space and what are we going to do to be more inclusive I think that’s a
really important tension that hasn’t been mentioned as well and for us to be
able to do so in a meaningful way that’s something that we all need to consider I feel like they might let go some of
the comments but kind of like us to remind in terms of community benefits is
that I think in theory they would be great of we’re looking at the formal ends
of inclusivity and thinking about the needs of all people in our communities
so if we’re looking at you know redeveloping parts not including benches
that would prohibit someone from laying down because they can’t find a safe
place to sleep or god forbid they’re using the free Wi-Fi at the rec center
you know kids from something to do their day and we don’t know what they’re doing
on their Wi-Fi so so I think community benefits really people want them they
just need to be created with more inclusivity but I think what happens is
you know it becomes just another how it kind of operates it just becomes another tool
for people to feel more more marginalized so again speaking from sort
of the lens of young people they’ve already had lives and in their short lives
experienced a lot of you pushed out systems of family and community out of
school and now sort of the creation of these community benefits it’s just
another way that they’re being pushed out to the margins and so I would agree
that it’s important to make sure that we’re engaging with people you know
reaching to two different groups in the community and getting their input and
their perspective and including their needs and their voices
and I think part of questions like what are you doing I mean one of the small
things that I do is i work with a committee of young people with lived experience of
homelessness they’re called that Street Plan Collaborative Youth Leaders
committee and i mean as much as possible I can pull them in and engage them on
conversations or they’ll certainly tell me when there’s things they want to talk
about but it’s not adequate I mean it’s not it’s it’s one person and it’s one
committee the table should get feedback on some things so we really need to
broaden our engagement with with folks that have very marginalized voices I
think in our community so that they’re all benefiting from the same great
things about our community so that’s all I suggest I fully agree with the panel I think there’s this question of what are we gonna do to be more inclusive Is really really important and I think that’s the angle that I come from from an art perspective in terms of organizations Xena, is your name Xena yes, Cedar yeah see there what you were mentioning this morning about kind of galleries doxing
people or kind of like contributing to some of these forces that move people out
I think that’s exactly the opposite of the kind of thing that galleries
should be doing um i think there’s a lot of talk around diversity and accessibility
but what that looks like tangibly is really tricky and often it’s located in
kind of like physical accessibility which is so important particularly these
old cities there’s a lot of staircases but it’s not the only form
accessibility and there’s some really good work going on in Toronto by Anne Zbitnew’s who is part of Tangled and she is doing some work on access and language
and and how that kind of like a lot of art has this really kind of theoretical
language put around it but it’s or you go in and there’s no information or no
education around how people can engage with it so I think that kind of like I
even like I remember I come from a really small town and like when I
started to engage with art spaces I didn’t feel welcome and I’m like a low
hanging in terms of accessibility so I think in my research I interview
cheyanne turions who’s an Indigenous curator and scholar she really firmly stated that exhibition
spaces like are like civic spaces and we need to hold them to the accountability of the
fact that we are publicly funded in public spaces and so I think that we
need to ensure that Art is the public service that it could be so I think
there are little ways to do that like Lakeshore Arts, Ashley Watson is really
great she was in Hamilton Shorts in Etobicoke and they’ve just opened up
their restroom I made it really everyone in the community that they can
come in no matter what and use their washroom and that’s like a super little
thing but it makes a huge difference in terms of people feeling like they have
space, Xpace in Toronto just started putting an open sign up so do
you have like step science language we welcome refugees black lives matter
we’re on stolen land like these kind of things send a message to people and make
people feel accessible where do we advertise like do you advertise at the
library and laundromats community newspapers am radio these are little
things but they really matter I think so yeah that’s all I’ll say… oh you’ll use the little mic yeah many of the things I would set here
the only other thing I think I will add is that Hamilton has a community, Hamilton
Community Benefits Agreement Network folks who are trying to organize around
this and trying to develop a policy and push the city to adopt a policy that
would require any City investment project over a certain financial threshold
to develop legally binding agreements that would have various stipulations and
each one each project looks different but that we’re not the first
people to do that but lots of these other kinds of things and so I think
that that is one of many tools imperfect absolutely and would be very much
strengthened by doing exactly what Daniel is talking about – making those
choices to the friend and learn from the folks who have being through all these
kinds of processes for so long and not just learning from and like extract that
knowledge but like actually build solidarity and and yeah just make yeah we have a
relationship so you actually relate the in solidarity in a long-term way to
advance the interests of folks who are often left out of those processes
and then in terms of how to to judge my work one of the things that he do with
masters I supervised the research shop where groups of students take on small research
projects for community organizations through the semester and so there’s a
group finishing up a report for the Hamilton Community Benefits Agreement
Network which is an environmental scan of some other Community Benefits
Agreement Networks in other places and to look at what some of the specific
things are that are built in some of those as a kind of menu of options for
that group to consider as they try to develop a binding policy with the city
so it’s you know slow but people are working on it some people working on it
yeah that’s one way thank you so you mentioned the Hamilton Community
Benefits Network Danica you mentioned some really important small but very
powerful gestures that art spaces can do to increase accessibility through
language and through initiatives like signage and that is really really really
important while we’re on the topic of building of those kind of solutions and
also conversations around allyship solidarity and getting people at the
table giving input and specifically you know movements that where working class
folks Indigenous folks basically folks who are marginalized you know at the
forefront of them are there any other initiatives either locally that have not
been represented represented either to the talk that happened that Kojo
facilitated earlier is there anything else that we should know about
either locally or nationally or internationally some models that have
created accessibility and of the opened doors for folks so that they have a
position at the table in a very effective way and what is that kind of
recipe what have they done right exactly either locally or in a broader sense not all at once now
so most I mean like yeah I wish I had the recipe
I don’t but some things that have been touched on that I’ll just like that I
had prepared to talk about which had already talked about but the Hamilton Tenant Solidarity Network like is doing something amazing work if you
don’t know what they’re doing $3 things think about if you can give them some
time or some money or both like those are there are some very tangible
examples of how like rent strike is one thing and there can be more organizing
that can happen that can that can disrupt you know that can really resist
in a very tangible way the ridiculous nonsense I think I wrote it down but what Shawn said but but this for this isn’t a functional the way it does it requires our compliance with the
ridiculous like we’re not cool with it then we need to
demonstrate that we’re not cool with it so I think just want in another plug for that group doing amazing work another group that I just
want to name I don’t know exactly where they’re at in their process but there is
a group Hamilton Community Land Trust which is trying to do another another
strategy of yeah sort of intervening in whatever, land or get space basically to try to have
community ownership to try to preserve or create afford – some housing
affordability I think they’re a pretty small group but it’s also worth checking
out and Land Trusts in general are among those and like relatedly I think
Community Development Corporation’s they’re more common in the States because of
various sort of political structures but anyway that there are some sort of
organizational formats that can be used to try to like to have a capability to
have like within like sort of capatalist system that we have there are still some very
small sort of legal types of entities and processes that can try to intervene to
mitigate it we don’t know how effected they are
really like a bit like you would look at the whole big thing there are ways to
mitigate harm within the system that we have in their own ways, that Tara was saying at the break there are ways to imagine try to create
like actually like other ways of living and being with each other yeah and like
we probably need both but it’s important to try to distinguish like which is
which like and where we’re putting our energy in any given every day I
think anyway I was rambling I think in terms of models and practices that are being used to be more
inclusive my perspective is really focused on how we’re existing outside of
these systems because these systems are going to fall and they’re gonna fall
really hard so if you’re still in the system when it falls guess who else is
falling? you so the models and the practices that I want to point to are the models
that are currently existing outside of this system particularly one of the most
influential and impactful ones that I’ve heard is that when a stolen camp in
northern British Columbia and just by show of hands who’s heard of this camp
lots of people so it’s not actually a camp it’s the home of the people that
live there if you haven’t heard about it please do google it and there is also
another place up by Elliot Lake called Nimkii Aazhibikong this is another camp and I
use camp very loosely because I understand that camp can be understood
as a place where there are people just using this land for a period of time it’s actually
these people that are reclaiming this land these people are going onto the
land they’re like I don’t have to ask Canada to live here I don’t have to ask anyone to live here because this is my land and I’m going to live here anyway so this is what’s really going on
in these spaces it’s a real strong sense of reclamation and this comes from a
decolonize sense of how we’re existing with the land and I think that this is
something that’s very different that we need to understand is that a lot of the
time our understanding ourselves as the land being a commodity the land is something
that we can sell or we can own or we can buy but when we’re looking at it
from a view outside of the system we’re understanding that we are actually
subservient to of the land and we are subservient to the climate we are
subservient to these things that we think are just extra outside things because
don’t really bother us because I need go to my nine-to-five job and make money so
I can get groceries and I think that when we’re talking about this in particular in my
own experience because I’m an urban Anishnaabe kwe so that means like
I’m an Indigenous person living in the city so I’ve come to understand and to
accept my role as being contradictory because as much as I can be like yeah
you know like the system sucks it’s gonna a fall I’m still going to go back to
work on Monday do you know what I mean so how I as an artist
and looking at models that exist outside of the system is one way that I’m
helping to create a more resilient future for my children and that’s really
my focus and that’s really how I am using my art and my time and my skills
to be able to create this new future I think the models that we’re using need
to be more creative you know you what I mean we can’t keep recycling these models of
inclusivity because it goes beyond inclusion it goes so beyond inclusion and really needs to be about how we are taking the
leadership from people that are marginalized and that have this limited
experience you know and when we start to do that work I think that’s when change
is really actually going to start to happen when we become less human-centric right when we stop complaining about winter because winter is actually
Mother Earth resting and if we could take ourselves out of that mindset where
we come first because we’re human beings maybe being like oh it’s beautiful
that Mother Earth is taking some time to rest because of all of the shit that we
are putting Mother Earth through do you know what I mean so these are the sorts
of things that we really need to be looking at when we’re talking about
inclusion and diversity and allyship and solidarity is because we need to put
ourselves at the back right and even myself is as Anishnaabe kwe when I’m
consistently you know marginalized or having to speak up a lot because
otherwise my voice is not always going to be heard I’m still of the mindset that it’s very
important for me to put myself at the back and this is something otherwise
known as humility right and I think that we can all have a little bit of dose of
humility and moving forward because at the end of the day I think someone
mentioned it, it might have been Sarah talking about climate change it’s not
that is not something that’s going to happen we are experiencing climate
change as we speak and just because here in Hamilton we’re not experiencing
devastating floods and torrential hurricanes doesn’t mean that it’s not
happening in the rest of the world right so in terms of models of inclusivity and
diversity the only thing that I really want to have you take away from my part
of the conversation is how am I as a human being in this time and space making
space for voices that are not heard uh so..I’m not gonna lie I was thinking as we were talking about what I’m going to talk about, but actually I started thinking about.. so models of inclusivity, I feel like in my world there is a lot of talk about how do we do that and not a lot actually happening And I should probably apologize I feel like my framework for this conversation that’s coming at
like the continuum of like gentrification in displacement like my
work is centered on you know homelessness and people that have been
like devastated and impacted by displacement so I feel like I have a bit of a different framework for how I’m talking anyway so I was at this thing last year I don’t even remember what it was or where I was.. Calgary or something anyway it doesn’t matter
as a part of this committee work that I do and while I do love this committee
nearly and dearly it’s a National Coalition of Youth Homelessness Service
Providers and we have these working groups um.. working groups..and one is on youth voice and engaging youth that
have lived experience as a part the work that we do and it’s been a conversation
we’ve been having since I joined this commitee which was like five years ago we just
seem to spin and spin and spin on it and so in the last meeting that we had you
know it came to this part of the meeting thinking okay we’re going to be moving
ahead we’ve got this commitment we’ve got this goal then there was just like
really shitty conversation that happened in this meeting like why are we doing this why are we doing this why do we need this and seeming very sort of resistant and and yeah really
resistant to this concept of having like a national advisor of voice and
spitting out kind of like oh you know that they won’t keep coming back for
meetings or you know we have to make sure we’re very clear on our intentions
of them and just spitting out all these excuses and I just find it super
frustrating because I don’t think people seem to
understand the importance of sharing sort of the power that we have and
giving it up with the young people that really have way more expertise around
sort of what issues and solutions we need to be focusing on so it really struck me
in the moment that way why is it even a question and then why are we fighting
this and so I don’t know what I’m going with this but I think that just people
spinning on it it’s just and it’s not just there that I hear people yeah we’re
thinking about engaging you know lived experience I think people really have this hard time
with letting go their own power and privilege in their position and make
assumptions you know that they know people with lived experience aren’t going to be
interested aren’t going to want to contribute ideas but you know again
going back to some of the experience that I have is like some of the best
ideas and conversations I have and most honest conversations that I have are
with the youth that I work with so long story short thankfully we’re moving
ahead of the said youth voice and I’m definitely on that working group
committee I basically signed myself up for that for life which is really flying
but I think that yeah people really need to reflect on how are they using their
power and privilege in a smart way to make sure they’re creating and making
space in a meaningful way for people with lived experience outside of that I don’t have any
other groups that – I might mention though more again on the homelessness side of things there is a great resource called the Homeless Hub and people have heard of
it’s a website that provides loads like watts of free research around the whole
sort of continuum around homelessness of prevention
you know housing they do sort of like analysis around policy and funding and
so it’s not just research or reports they look at
models that are working in communities and across Canada and they have sort of
focuses on different groups of individuals experiencing homelessness so they certainly have lots on youth but you know Indigenous folks as well you know women
you name it, all sorts of groups so if you’re interested to know a little bit
more about you know creative solutions and ideas I would suggest you check out
Homeless Hub Dossier for lots and sign up for the newsletter I feel like I’m
their like media spokesperson right now but it’s very great tangible
information like not no offense it’s not like academic research very usable
translatable not harping on academic research at all I’ve definitely experienced this in meetings as well this is kind of like people
like suggesting other people should be round the table and just being instantly
shut down by people being like oh we couldn’t possibly like it’ll be a
different conversation and we can’t have it and I think yeah I’ve heard this from
other people do things like there is a real hesitancy for people in power to give it up you know but I could get there who says to try and try different models
Danielle was mentioning this idea of supporting and putting yourself at the
back and I think that’s been a real important part for me too I think a lot of the conversations in art circles that I keep hearing is
kind of like how can I contribute my art practice to this work of antigentrification or social justice and I think there are
ways to do that we can maybe talk a little bit about that later but what I kind of
come to as an artist and arts worker is that I can be a participant in activism
and that doesn’t mean necessarily contributing my art practice I think when Shawn was talking about the citizenship of artists I think that’s so important that we are
present and present in the streets and present in MP’s offices and present and
supporting those movements of the voices that need to be heard instead of being
the center of attention as creators which almost always even if you’re in a
community based practice you are the author and you’re at the center of
that attention so I think that’s kind of I think you can have your practice and it
can be your art practice and be great and it doesn’t always have to necessarily
relate to your social change practice which can be supporting the work people
who are doing the really good work so in terms of thinking about other strategies
national strategies The Public is a group in Toronto they have a really
great primer that I’m going to suggest that is the Art Design and Gentrification Primer and they in that they talk about different strategies nationally
internationally and they talk about the Oakland Creative Neighborhood Coalition
which seems to be doing really really great work Betti Ono is leading a group of
black women who are doing kind of artist led spaces in Oakland and they
have real success in negotiating a community benefits agreement with
developers and then advocating for the city’s Planning Department so I think
artists can be present but artists can also support through, some of us have resources some of us don’t it depends on where we’re at but sometimes we have access and people
will pay attention to us in different ways and I think it’s important for us
to use the fact that Hamilton is valuing us currently to kind of leverage that
and be present in those spaces where other people might not be listened to okay thanks Danica and in my conversations leading up to this panel with Abedar Kamgari we talked a lot about the kind of um idea that a lot of artists
sometimes get stuck on which is you know the way that I’m going to contribute to
a cause whether it’s anti-gentrification work or or anything really as I’m going
to make I’m going to make work as an artist that supports supports those
ideas but what you’re suggesting and what a few of the ideas around this
panel are suggesting is kind of thinking shifting or thinking away from being
artists within that context in being citizens within that context which is a
really useful framework so a question that I have is if well if anyone wants
to kind of expand on that idea and how can we think about creative acts, not
artistic acts, but how creative apps can be generative and foster anti-gentrification work in the community so shifting away from the
work of artists and works of art and more towards creative creative
strategies and creative acts, acts of creativity so like I said earlier I had
a really difficult time with identifying as an artist and when I was at Banff
Center for the Arts one of my mentors was Ryan McMahon and he’s a podcaster and
a comedian and really brilliant human being and something that he’s shared
with us that has stuck in my mind ever since has been process over product and
as… I’m not an artist I’m a writer I could definitely say that I’m a writer with
being comfortable with that being part of my identity and the process of being creative often
involves community building and involves relationship building it involves eating
food together it involves laughter and this is really what we need to be doing
right now because as much as we can be offering solidarity to each other if we
only see each other at events and like protests and things like that I don’t have a
relationship with you I know you from the street and that’s completely
different then someone that I would want to be going into a situation with where
danger violence might happen so these are two very different things and I
think the process of being creative is one in which we’re reclaiming our time
and our energy and this is very important as well because if we’re
constantly living in a place of resistance we’re often left depleted and we’re
left angry and this is not beneficial to any sort of creativity at all and I find
that for myself because I’m a mother of five children I work full-time I’m a
writer blah blah I do a lot of stuff I think at
the end of the day what’s most important to me is that I’m using my energy and my
gifts and my skills to create a better world and I think that at the end of the
day that’s what a lot of artists are doing their work for is because they
want to use their gifts and their skills to make the rules a more beautiful place
and I think that this is honorable and I think that this is something that we all need to focus more on because unfortunately capitalism has made art
a product art is something that you buy art is something that you consume
right so as people who are working in creative processes to create substantial
change we really need to be shifting the focus away from the product and we’re more on
the process I really liked your emphasis on relationship just speaking to at
least at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic you know it’s daunting to require
people to come through our door we’re an institution we’re part of other
institutions that are part of the structural violence you know so
relationship building is so important and what that means is going to those
invited spaces meeting people where they are
we’ve at least in our agency have made sure that we go door knocking to
Riverdale we go to we have community barbecues people I hope see me as
Stephanie and not just the lawyer we it takes time to do potlucks to build
that rapport to build that trust our office has made sure that there’s a
lawyer, or social worker, community development, worker at the shelters. at McMaster
Family Practice, at other agencies so all these trusted intermediaries are places
where people are are going daily and and being invited into that space and that
going to that space as opposed to requiring people to come to the very
institution that is exasperating they’re like inability to meet their
basic needs it’s a really big ask and so going to that space going to that
community having that rapport building having that relationship building it
takes it takes time and it takes patience and it takes effort but I mean
the work that I’ve done with some tenants
only been possible because of volunteers and HTSN taking the time to to to go
and speak with folk – have a tea have a coffee, get to know them as a person and
not just as a number or a victim I don’t know what I’m answering the question but I’m just gonna say something…um… so I actually think that the beauty of
the arts community and creativity and all that good jazz I’m not an arts
person so I don’t know if i’m using the right language but art stuff is actually a
really youth friendly mechanism for engaging with young people particularly
you know youth that are marginalized which might include youths experiencing
homelessness and so I think and there’s some good examples of art stuff looking
over at Nea Reed and Colina maybe is gone now but youth specific designed opportunities
organizations initiatives for them to engage in the arts and whatever that
looks like you know maybe with the frame of social justice but maybe not maybe
just says you know an escape for some young people for them to have a healthy
coping mechanism for them to maybe build some skills build their capacity around
creating creating the arts and a really important function of that too is
helping them to feel more connected their community to feel that they’re
yeah just more connected to their community and so I think that you know
one great opportunity full disclosure I think a few of us were panicking on this
panel thinking oh my god we don’t have a solution to gentrification holy shit but
you know strategy strategy – strategies thank you, so during lunch we were like “uhh so how are you feeling about the panel” so yeah so one strategy is definitely engaging
young people in sort of non-traditional ways which can include the arts around
issues like gentrification and displacement the zine is like super rad
is one really awesome way I think that you can engage use in the conversation
that bring to light some of the some of the issues to the public and so I would
encourage you to, I don’t know, ask around about you know youth groups you may be able to
connect with and talk to maybe organizations that may have project
ideas or partnership ideas there are youth that are definitely hungry and looking
for opportunities to be engaged in sort of a artistic and creative manner as
well and it might not come come easy sometimes it takes a while and a little bit of
relationship building to build rapport with young people especially youth that
maybe you know adults have been kind of shitty to them throughout their lives
but you know that’s why you reach out to the community and ask for you know how
can we work together what ideas do you have what what you know what assets or
resources can I offer that we can bring together and start to build
relationships within sort of the youth serving community
sorry I shouldn’t mention Re-create too is another great collaborative um sorry if I’m missing other youth stuff too – there’s lots of Hamilton that’s another
great opportunity there’s no lack of like youth organization with youth groups in
Hamilton that can be reached out to it and engage and pulled into this work
and if you want any ideas let me know I’m more than happy to chat or Nea can chat or yeah I don’t know that that answer that question at all it was very selfish
it’s okay it was not selfish I guess I’ll add to it just by saying that I think it really of this really
depends on where you’re coming from and I think I mean something this morning
about like just needing to be kind and compassionate and like support each
other as creators I think that’s so true anything for many people like the youth that you’re talking or working with your gifts or what you
you like someone thing like what you bring to the world and it’s so important
to use that as a generative force for yourself when within your community I think where
I’m coming from this speaking with a lot of kind of arts organizations who are
kinda trying to make that and utilize that as a tool for kind of urban
development and I think that that’s when it gets really sticky so I think if I’m
just about to say I think what each of us brings to the table is really
important so in terms of finding creative solutions I think my from
talking with the artists that I’ve talked with a lot of them talked about
leveraging and so what that looks like is kind of taking stock of ourselves
so what access do we have what resources do we have what are we good at what can
we bring what spaces can we offer what knowledges cab we bring to the table then taking stock of the context that were in so who
is listening to us or who’s our community who are benefiting like who
and whose side are we on and who I might be withholding access to or giving access to and what are my
revenue sources who am i responsible to and then once you’ve got stock of that
of yourself or your organization and in your context and you can really act with
intention within that so… but it really starts from yourself and taking that
stock of where you’re at before you can do that so what I think, like
depending on where you are on that scale it can be leveraging, so I I spoke
with Cristóbal Martínez who is part of Postcommodity which is an Art Collective and he talked about kind of leveraging for kin so Postcommodity is an Indigenous Art Collective and they are often quite popular with socially engaged arts organizations they said there’s a lot of nodding when we talk, so for them it’s about leveraging the attention that they got
there to get resources for other Indigenous organizations and people of
color in their community and then or when Cas- I spoke with her cousin she did they did an MFA in New York and they were talking about that being a privileged
position for for them it was about getting the space they had and then
seeding that power to other organizations at the school that didn’t
have it so I think we can work really intentionally depending on where we are
in that spectrum – yeah – to either leverage for kin or leverage for
community or seed the spaces and organizations and resources that we have you don’t have to I feel like a lot of smart things have been said on this and I’ll just…. okay so I think we are running out of
time You can go a little over A little bit over? um… I would like to maybe it would be a good time though to open it up to the floor if anyone has any questions and comments remarks for
anyone on the panel or just in general with the ten or so minutes that we have A common question, I have a small arts organization in Toronto called Arts Pond we have a collecting impact effort that’s looking to address many of these questions of how do we.. what is the scope of the problem what are – how to be better engaged, better educate our community to feel more empowered about leading social change initiatives like this and the big issue that I’m most concerned about is..
about lack of evidence data and solutions to help us move forward so how –
where is – what is scope of the problem to help advocate and bring in more partners outside of the arts what are the barriers to involve arts leaders and
to empower arts future arts leaders to being engaged in this conversation… I have… we’re going to be publishing by the end of the summer a literature review over 1500 sources
looking at solutions around the world but also what is the scope of the
problem globally and how it can we potentially learn from other
communities so stay tuned for that was going to be about doing two
province-wide surveys of arts industry workers in the general public launched
in partnership with a couple Hamilton organizations including Hill Strategies
Research and Cobalt Connects at the end of May so I’d love to have all of you participate and share your stories the question i have for the panel is in terms of evidence
and research what do you – what are the barriers you’re experiencing or need to
better understand how to work with the arts community and have the arts
community being more engaged and more have more citizenship in this issue what
what kind of research or evidence or questions do you need an answer to
better engage with us or to have arts become a better leader in this
conversation what would you want the survey or our research to look at um… in the context of data and evidence for me specifically as Anishnaabe kwe I consider that question and those those
sorts of questions to be almost I mean depending on what you’re looking the
evidence in data what you’re looking for I think that you know believing lived
experience and working with folks that when they tell you their stories, that
you’re believing that I think that this is one of the best ways that you can you
can do that and just a caution of how you’re approaching the question as
well because to a lot of folks who have this lived experience and are unable to
come up with data or evidence it can almost be seen as like a little bit of a
form of gaslighting because you’re like I don’t know if I believe you because you don’t have data or evidence do you know what I mean? And I’m not saying that you’re doing that intentionally The position of this evidence is that the project is called Groundstory, and so I’m actually interested in the stories and from the stories, evidence or whatever can be recorded and I think that’s the great thing about
art right is that our stories are there is an Ojibwe writer named Thomas King and he says all that we are is our stories right so I think that really looking at
it from a perspective of like how are your stories sharing your experiences
might be a more useful way of engaging folks who have these sort of stories to
share because I think otherwise folks would just shut down and just feel like
oh well I don’t have data I don’t have evidence so it might feel like my story’s invalid
do you know I need so yeah but thank you so much for your question I don’t have like specific
questions that I would like I got.. anyway just the way that I do think about
research a lot and to me part of what can happen in a day like this and that
could be used more broadly to is to is to try to… whether it’s through story
or other ways – what make make clear made visible the ways that art and artists are –
can be positioned within processes of gentrification and displacement as a way of.. what am i trying to say… just that they think that sometimes we get into like whose fault
is it and that’s not very useful – I mean it’s capitalism’s fault so like so okay and what does that you know so yeah I mean that we need to think about the things to do and
we can think about – but yeah but like the who’s respons- it’s all I think the
implication then is like whose fault is it or who can they blame or like artists
you know they’re they’re being used and then they’re being used by capitalism
yes and that’s a great point that Cedar made earlier but like even if you could
point a finger and be right like that doesn’t really that that doesn’t tell
you very much about who can do something about it because actually we can all do
something about it it’s very passive, it’s passive Yeah but it’s and it’s a deflection I think tactic to you know to
be like oh it’s a deflection and so that we can all just be we can almost like
take responsibility for acting actually regardless of
we’re not regardless but like understanding how are positioned I think
to see clearly is it I’ve noticed something I’d like you basically a
theoretical you know all the things you said just like we need to understand
what our resources are what our leverage points are so that we can have an
analysis to design what are most effective things are that we can do in
relationship with other folks but… I was going to say something else and it’s gone now just like blame oh the other thing about
blame and like which like self blame, the guilt is it’s just like so fucking draining and it doesn’t it’s not generative it hurts and it stalls us out
and it makes us – like inherently less effective so I just didn’t agree
with things that people have already said about building relationships
finding joy building beauty like these are ways that we energize for the work which is not a research question at all…sorry I just want to add to that cause like there’s this idea of guilt is like applicable to so many things to like there it’s often like an apology that like
white people do when they’re like we’re sorry, we can’t do anything about it, or or or like, the acknowledgement of privilege becomes just like well I know I’m privileged so like, you’re privileged so that means, what privileged means is you have access to resources that people listen to you differently so do something with it any other questions? or comments from the floor? okay, Cedar? yeah I really like those last couple comments, cause I was just thinking like when we frame a problem that leads us towards what solutions we think are possible right? and to me the problem is that we don’t have control over our basic living conditions right? so my understanding is that way a lot of bureaucratic solutions don’t necessarily get us any closer to having economy right? and then we’re looking at being like well it’s capitalism right the land is a commodity to and we can trade it but it’s like almost too big to understand but yeah I think it’s a question of like finding our own reasons for this you know i feel like I’ve heard a couple different stories and i really like this idea about how do we get that outside of these
systems because inside there isn’t really a great solution you know but i feel like probably nobody is more than three bad months away from like getting displaced too you know and I feel like we’ve all got a scheme in the game and just like the inclusivity question is super important but i think part of the problem is like that there are spaces that have power over others you know and then maybe rather than asking how do we make those spaces
more inclusive maybe how do you abolish that power and make it so that people actually gain control of their neighbourhoods and I guess this is getting into the question part but just that the artists have a pretty big skill set in that because kind of what art is is about communicating what feelings and ideas in an evocative way that gets around some
of our like alogical defenses we might have built up right and I mean um yes so I think what are we like punching that than in like like surprising ways you know just like a
take outside of like gallery spaces that take you outside of art schools to
take us out of the places where it’s expected consumed and consumed and kind of where it like blurs the line between like art and like attack or something like that
being beautiful but also in-controllable but yeah I’d love to hear if anyone else has anything to say about that way that problem impacts me personally just like
how are your understandings of this or advise your solutions clinic of attention
everybody here has their own reasons for choosing to do this with their lives
instead of something different hi guys um for me it’s been a process
of becoming more vulnerable so I’ve spent my entire life building walls to
protect myself and for me being vulnerable meant sharing my most
heartfelt words that talked about what I felt and what I would experience as Anishnaabe kwe on stolen land what it means to be going to have a percentage of
being 12 times more likely to be missing her to go murdered it in life what these
experiences aren’t very very close to being poetry other in poetry since I was
like 13 years old but I’ve never shared it and I’ve shared a lot of political
essays I’ve wrote a lot of these sorts of things about how I think people could
overcome these systems and I think that I was really um impacted by what you
said about how art can find ways around ideological differences I think that’s
what being vulnerable does right and I think there are a lot of times that
folks are just so used to being heard and to facing violence on a daily basis
that no one wants to be vulnerable and when it’s actually our vulnerability i think that creates these connections with each other you know when we’re ready to say
that you know I’ve been hearing it you’ve been heard and how we all been
hear about this then what are we going to do because we
love each other and ourselves so much that we’re going to overturn these
systems and we’re going to create new ones or we’re going to decolonize
ourselves and create new pathways you know and I think I probably would not
have said that four or five weeks ago because at that time I still have my
walls up and I still do in certain senses but I do realize that being
vulnerable is one way to build authentic relationships and then to be able to
create new pathways to how we’re going to work together I mean so I’m sure that
I’m understanding your questions that I could try and answer it
we’re just like about how we’re positioned like what brings us here but what’s your stake in it? what’s my stake in it? yeah I mean I think… I don’t know yeah that’s hard to answer I feel like I have walked in to like two
worlds on a lot of different axes in the world where like I have this middle class
job than this middle class life but I feel like in my mind like I’m just a poor kid
not just but like that’s my reality even though that’s not my reality here
you know I was socialized as a woman and lived as a woman for most of my life and as I unleash my my trans magic I you know I feel more myself than ever before and
also feel like deeply scared all the time in a way I never felt as a woman and like not that I wasn’t scared as a woman but it’s like very different to be different in my body now
and I also like have used the class privilege that I’ve had to access
education and so like I have a master’s degree that I used to try to do research
in ways that I think that are going to advanced a project of social justice and
like it’s imperfect always imperfect and and just feel like I’m like yeah I feel
like I’m in-between you you know i n so many ways in terms or gender in terms of
class right like my job right now is at a university but it’s like at a university community and like I know a lot more about community than
with about the university and but I get heard in the university in a way that I’m like you don’t even know me why would listen to what I say but it’s like oh well I don’t know there’s some kind of like weird way that I get seen that in the
world anyways so I feel the tremendous
responsibility is what I’m coming to a tremendous sense of responsibility to
use the privileged I have to to try to make the world any more just at all in any
way that is accessible to me yeah and I think particularly like I think about it
and particularly in terms of my whiteness trying to use my privilege and
complicity and sort of power that gets given to me without my merit at all –
yeah – to dismantle racism to understand racism to actually fight and in terms of
in terms of gender that like trans folks like the rates of violence are quite
tremendous and I have been protected from a lot of that for most of my life
and now I’m slightly less protected but I also have masculine privilege now
in all kinds of queer spaces and that’s a super weird thing
okay like yeah so I’m just consta- anyway I feel like madness
and sanity and I like genuinely I feel like I walk in both worlds and I feel
like I’ve often said to myself like I think I’m too crazy to work but like I have to
work and so I just try to cope in whatever ways that I can and I feel gen – I feel very grateful for the ways that I’m supported in coping to be able to keep
doing that but like it’s a mess.. does that answer your question? thank you for calling me up to be more vulnerable I was kind of like I don’t know how to answer this question but I just like cried so like thank you I kind of want to end it there
Abedar what do you say? yeah I mean that’s right on the mark on the second thanks everyone, chat with all the panelists we have a whole afternoon ahead

Zane Wilson

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