Indigenous Brilliance Podcast: Episode One Transcript
jaye: Welcome to the Indigenous Renaissance. Yes, [laughter]. Aniin Boozhoo. My name is jaye simpson.
Karmella: Tansi, I’m Karmella Benedito De Barros. We are your cohosts for this podcast, a new initiative to the ever-growing Indigenous Brilliance reading series. The first episode is brought to you in partnership with CITRs’ Unceded airways.
jaye: Indigenous Brilliance is a quarterly reading series hosted at Massy books in partnership with Room Magazine and Massy Books, organized by collective made up of Patricia Massy, Jessica Johns, Emily Dundas Oke, Karmella Benedito De Barros, and myself, jaye simpson. Indigenous Brilliance, Massy Books and Room Magazine acknowledge that we operate and exist on the unceded, therefore unsurrendered territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-waututh and Squamish nations.
It is important to reflect on how we choose to organize and act on these territories, especially as folks who are Indigenous but do not belong to the host nations. It is also important to locate oneself within community.
Karmella: My name is Karmella. I was born and raised in foster care on unceded Tsleil-waututh, Squamish and Musqueam territories. I am an Afro Indigenous Nehiyaw. My mom comes from Brazil and came back to Africa through the slave trade and on my dad’s side we are Mistawasis Cree.
As a young inner city Afro Indigenous person. I focus much of my work on uplifting my community through the arts and my education at Simon Fraser University. I’m currently studying psychology and counseling therapy at SFU with hopes of applying techniques of psychotherapy to grassroots traditional healing practices and artistic expression in the community. Most of my work is focused on supporting Indigenous youth and I hope to continue working with young people to uplift and support them on their healing journeys. As an assistant with the Indigenous Brilliance collective, I am supporting my kin and community and creating opportunities to honour and witness each other’s Brilliance. Collectively, I believe this is important healing work and I’m super excited to see how this process unfolds.
jaye: My name is jaye and I was also born and raised as a youth in care on these territories and my experiences as a queer trans Indigenous youth in care is what brought me to use my voice, stories, and gifts to bring myself and my kin upwards. It’s always been important to locate myself as an Oji-Cree-Saulteaux-mixed Indigenous person with settler ancestry, with the French and Scottish. My pronouns are also they in them. I was initially invited into Indigenous Brilliance as a host for the reading series. I had loved the work that Patricia, Jonina, and Jess were doing with the reading series and was totally and extremely excited to be invited to more work alongside them. I think collectively Indigenous Brilliance role models what community care and capacity is, especially with inviting other talented folks into the collective. It’s been an exciting run and maybe it’s a little funny, but I am officially taking a smaller role in Indigenous Brilliance for the foreseeable future to focus on some personal artistic pursuits and feel hopeful knowing that those taken on the torch are beyond brilliant. Don’t worry though, you’ll still hear my voice as I am still going to cohost this new podcast alongside Karmella.
Karmella: but you’ll still be co-hosting the reading series from time to time?
jaye: You know me. I love that spotlight.
Karmella: Real humble that one. We want to dive into a little more about our history as a collective and how we’ve come to be. We’ve spoken to our collective to bring you the creation story of Indigenous Brilliance.
jaye: We’re saying collective a lot. Collective. Collective. Collective? Are we, are we a collective?
Karmella: Collectively, we are a collective.
Jaye: Because we collectively get together and plan. It’s called what?
Collective Indigenous futurisms. [laughter]
As a collective and what’s been done thus far, Indigenous Brilliance has really been a conduit for Indigenous futurisms. Having inspired other bookstores and literary agencies to further invest in Indigenous peoples of turtle Island, we are seeing a rise in Indigenous literature across many platforms. Justin Ducharme creating film. Jade Baxter, also doing film. We’re seeing Edzi’u and Jody Okabe create beautiful, beautiful music. We are seeing what Jeremy Dutcher said at the Polaris awards. Welcome to the Indigenous Brilliance.
Jaye and Karmella:
[laughter] Welcome to the fucking Indigenous Brilliance!
Wa wa wa, airhorn noises. [laughter]
One of the amazing things that Indigenous Brilliance has really been on the front of, has been about uplifting and prioritizing Indigenous Brilliance throughout many medias and platforms. We’ve had Bo Dyp as a drag performer, perform at Massy Books. We’ve had musicians. We’ve had you Karmella singing sweet, sweet, sweet nothings to us. We’ve had poetry, we’ve had performance art. We’ve seen films at Indigenous Brilliance. This is much more than a reading series now, and I really believe Indigenous Brilliance is, is going to be moving on to some very new and exciting things, like this podcast. We’re going to be able to bring you past recordings and past readers onto it. We’re going to be talking to you about some of the hot hit gossip that’s going around. Welcome to Nichi radio
Jaye and Karmella:
Indigenous Brilliance has always been about our capacity and ability to tell our own stories, in beautiful and breathtaking ways. Canlit needs to watch out, because Jeremy Dutcher said at his Polaris acceptance in 2018, “Welcome to the Indigenous Renaissance.”
Hi, my name is Jonina Kirton. I’m a Metis- Icelandic poet from territory one Manitoba, born in Portage la Prairie.
Late blooming writer.
We’re excited to have you here. So, I guess we were hoping to start with kind of hearing about your history with Indigenous Brilliance since you were one of the founding members. So, we kind of wanted to hear your story about how you got involved and how it started.
Yes. Sometimes I feel like I receive a little bit too much credit for the beginning because all that really happened was I was reading at Word [festival] and I understood, from the papers that I gotten from Word, that Patricia from Massy books had actually made a donation so that an Indigenous writer could read.
And so, I was quite honored by that. I thought that was really lovely. I’d never met Patricia. And, she was at the reading and she came up to me after the reading and it was really touching our very first meeting. Our very first conversation was beautiful. She’s such a gentle soul, and I was feeling kind of fragile at the time. And she expressed to me her interest in starting what she called a woman’s reading Indigenous reading series and asked me if I was interested in helping out, or reading either way. And I right away, thought this was a fantastic idea, and I was still healing myself, so I knew that I couldn’t do much. So, I suggested that Room Magazine look at partnering with her. And so, the first meeting that we had was with Jessica Johns, Megan Bell, and Chelene Knight, and Patricia. And by then, Jessica Johns had already come up with the name, Indigenous Brilliance, cause we hadn’t even yet thought of a name for the series when I was talking with Patricia. And at first I was sort of thinking, “oh, I had another name in mind. I cannot even remember what it was. It’s been erased from my memory. And as the time went on, I began to see the brilliance of the title, Indigenous Brilliance. And I understand that it came from another writer. Suddenly, I’m having trouble thinking, was it Leanne Simpson?
Yes, it was.
Yeah, and she had talked about Indigenous writers’ Brilliance. And so, the name was inspired by that. So, we were of and running, and we had our first launch at Growing Room [festival]. And, what became…it just over time, morphed into more spreading out. Jessica had such a vision for bringing in more than just writers, for extending it beyond just women, which I’m 100% in favor of. And that was, and room was as well. And so, it became something much bigger than the original vision through many people, many hands.
That sounds like that’ll happen pretty quickly?
It did. I was quite impressed with what they had done while I was taking some time off to, to heal. And when I came back to do the launch, I was amazed at what had been done.
Yeah. And since, Indigenous Brilliance, has been kind of coming into itself and developing, I know that you’ve taken a step back. So, I’m curious to hear what you’re working on now.
I’ve been working on a book and it’s called, “For All That Was Never Said.” And, it’s really sort of a woman who’s at this age, 65 looking back at all my regrets, the things I wish I had said and done differently, including my mother’s passing. She was… I was 31 when she passed and she had a long, slow death. And, I wish now that I had been more present, but at the time I was drinking heavily so I was not available as I could have been. So, there’s that and other things throughout life where you, over time you learn. I feel less angry, less harsh towards certain things and certain people. For a time, I was quite angry. And so, forgiveness has become a big part of myself, and it’s come slowly and I didn’t want to force it. I didn’t want it to be false. And so, the book is about that, about how do we do that without forcing it because I tried to force the forgiveness and it would always just come back up. That anger would come back up.
That’s another question that I can ask you, is what are some big teachings and takeaways that you’ve learned through your time with Indigenous Brilliance?
Oh, wow. Well, I’ve learned I don’t know everything. But I learn that over and over again. You know, it’s interesting being my age, and it’s… and I learn a lot from young people, so I know that there’s talk about OK Boomers and millennials and all [laughter].
I’ve just, yeah, I know. It’s just, it just, yeah. I got OK boomered recently…
Karmella and jaye:
I did and I kind of deserved it. [laughter]. I just stepped… I stepped into something I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t understand what I was stepping into. And so for me, learning these things, I’m so grateful to the young people who are teaching me all the time, including Jaye. And so, what I’m finding is that I’ve spent years of my life in social justice in another form, in with women’s issues, as a mother, as a single mother, as a low-income single mother, as a woman in recovery, and all of that. But I really had a limited view in a way. And so being a writer, I’ve had to expand that view, and I’ve been really grateful. So Indigenous Brilliance, they hit all… they tick all the boxes. So, it’s like a master class [laughter] in learning.
Yeah, we’d like to collectively learn and leave no one behind. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you got OK boomered. [laughter]
So humble, so humble. We love a humble queen. I think one of the great things that you’ve helped shape with Indigenous Brilliance is that they don’t have to be these large names in the big culture. Like you’ve supported a lot of folks who are up and coming or don’t like the largeness of it all. You’ve supported a lot of like multimedia creators, you’ve supported directors, screenwriters, fashion designers. You’ve been a big auntie to a lot of people. Is there anything else you wanted to share or say with our time here?
Wow. What, what could I say? Well, I brought the poem I wrote, I wrote last night.
Oh my gosh.
It’s a rough draft, but you know, I tend to be a free writer. I don’t tend to think of format until after. So I write, kind of vomit on the page, and then figure out what the format needs to be. So, it was kind of a bit backwards for me, but it brought something forward that I had not, I don’t think it could have come any other way. And this is the beauty of being together. So, I’d like to read it if that’s okay. Keeping in mind it’s a rough draft. So,
Born of water meant to float. I sink until I rise to the big sky. Songs of my people, traveling rivers, strong arms paddling, one stroke every minute. My ancestor’s canoes carried them North, where a daughter is born. The mixing of blood, continued until I born of water. Give thanks. Hold my hands to the big sky. Rolling back West, I kneel before the mountains. Sit by an ocean of words floating me to the top of a world I do not understand. My place uncertain, until I, born of water, depends in an ocean of words and the songs of the Metis voyagers paddling one stroke a minute. They’re strong arms carry me, carry us, to our mother.
It makes sense when you think too, of Louis Riel saying, “my people will sleep for a hundred years and it will be the artists that will wake them up.” So, it’s the artists that bring beauty. So, not everything we do is beautiful. I mean, obviously we write very traumatic stories. But for me, what I love is when I can turn a sad grief ridden story into a thing of beauty. Then it’s, then it becomes something beautiful. And it’s also helped me heal. I think I’ve received a lot of healing from writing. So, I believe that we’re going to shift into even more of visioning for ourselves. Like what do we want? Not what don’t we like? And we need to do both. You have to do the what we don’t like, what has happened, what has been hard, and then what’s, what do we want now? And so, I’m dreaming, I’m trying to dream a new future for myself and for all of us
Hello with me right now is Jessica Johns. Hi, how are you?
Jess: I’m well how are you?
jaye: Oh, it’s so good to see your face. You’re so cute.
Jess: Oh, stop!
jaye: So welcome to the Indigenous Brilliance podcast.
Jess: I’m so excited to be here.
jaye: Finally. Do you remember when I first suggested it?
jaye: It was over a year ago. And Jessica said “Big dream, maybe not.”
Jess: I was like, let’s focus on what we’re doing currently. The realistic, the realistic auntie. And jaye was like, “but what about these things?”
jaye: And I’m so grateful we waited.
Jess: Yeah definitely. There’s more capacity now, which is what we needed in the end.
jaye: This podcast episode is all about capacity and boundaries apparently. So Jessica, tell me, how did you get involved with Indigenous Brilliance? Like what’s the story? What’s the history? What’s the sitch?
Jess: The scoop? Okay, well yeah, so my name is Jessica Johns. Otherwise as Jassica B Johns, my online alter ego persona. Whenever I want to tweet something shady Jassica B Johns comes out.
I am Nehiyaw (Cree) on my mom’s side and English-Irish on my dad’s and a member of Sucker Creek First Nation, which is in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. I have been living here for three years now and I got involved with Indigenous Brilliance about a year after I moved here. It all started as I was a Room collective member, so I was kinda just doing small editorial stuff for the magazine and just volunteering in that way. And Jonina Kirton was also an editorial member at the time and she had been having discussions with Patricia Massy about, well, they didn’t really know what it was going to be yet, but they were talking about starting some sort of Indigenous reading series.
And when that conversation started immediately Jonina and Megan said let’s bring in Jessica. Like see if she’s interested. And I was talking to some of my friends at the time and I had said out loud, “I want to be doing more” cause I was at UBC at the time, so I felt like I was in these institutions and organizations that were very just like white-centered. And I was just like, I really want to be more involved in the community here. Like I just feel like as somebody who is not on my territory “how am I contributing? What is my role here? And like what does, what does that look like when all I’m doing is sort of like taking?” I was just taking resources. And so once we had that initial conversation and I was like, I’m in, what do I do? Give me spreadsheets, I want to organize. At the time I had the most capacity out of everyone. So we had a meeting where I met Patricia for the first time and you know, she runs and owns a bookstore, so she’s busy and Jonina at the time as well. You know, she brought so much like love and light and ideas to the forefront, but also her capacity was lowered and I was like, I will put away everything. Like let’s do this. So in a deeper discussion about what we want it to look like, we wanted to focus on Indigenous women and Two Spirit, non binary folks. And we, at first we were like, let’s do this monthly. And it was like immediately like, that is not going to happen. Like our capacity, you know, how is this going to be? So that from that initial conversation, then I just like, I was like, all right, I’m going to just organize. And that’s just how it began.
The reading series and, and just Indigenous Brilliance in general, it was never going to be something that I was just like, I will be the main organizer of this. And you know, it was never going to continue working that way. I think at first when I had the capacity to, and I was like, I can reach out and I can do this stuff. That was never sustainable. Never going to be sustainable. And expanding it into more of a collective almost accidentally, when Jonina had to step back, and we asked jaye to be a part of it. I didn’t want to do it alone. Like I didn’t feel like it was something that should be held alone.
And I think as well it was really important if we’re going to be talking about you know, trans Indigenous women experiences and Two Spirit experiences, like two cis women shouldn’t be at the head of that anyways. So, you know, that felt very organically started and then we just kept thinking about capacity and we kept thinking about sustainability and like what that looks like. And it was never going to work with just like one person at the head doing all this stuff. It was always going to be something that needed to be collaboration. How it originally started with me just being like, I have the ability and I’ll just let me just kind of, you know, spearhead this or something was just, that was, that’s not how this is going to be run. And that was a big teaching in that of course it was never going to work any other way. So it was a good reminder of that. And also it was one of the best changes because we wouldn’t be doing this right now. We wouldn’t be talking about chapbooks. We wouldn’t be doing chapbooks. We wouldn’t, might not even be doing any more readings if we hadn’t have thought about how was this going to continue into the future and how are we going to organize together?
jaye: I feel like you’ve touched on so much. You’re just one of the greatest people in the whole wide world.
jaye: Maybe this is like a fun little question. Is there any ways that you feel like Indigenous Brilliance has a metaphor within kombucha?
Jess: Oh my God, so many! And you know, I’ve thought about this before.
jaye: Let’s talk about it.
Jess: Well,I mean, honestly, the process of collaboration is a huge metaphor for it. You know, it is made from symbiotic and collaborative relationships. It’s made through reciprocity. Like, that’s how it exists. That’s how it multiplies itself. And I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been in this process of collaboration and reciprocity with each other and also like a revisiting, like you have to tend to your kombucha, like even if you’re not making it. And that’s been a lot of what we’ve been doing. We’ve had to revisit everything that we’ve, every step we’ve made we’re like what does this look like now and how do we possibly make this better or more generative? How are we going to feed ourselves? Like how are we going to be thriving here and what are we doing for the people around us? And I think that revisitation has been really necessary. And that’s something that kombucha needs as well.
jaye: I feel like we’ve talked a lot of growth and collective agreements and capacity. Could you tell us about the famed all day Indigenous Brilliance Growing Room event last year?
Jess: Oh my God. Yeah, sure. We had four events. It was a full, full day. Four full events. We had an Indigenous marketplace with, you know, Indigenous vendors and it was just transformative. It was so amazing. All the feedback that I’ve had from it have just been people like this was such a fantastic day. Like not like, Oh, this one event was really great. But like this day was amazing.
This year we were doing exactly all the things that we said we were going to do. It’s still all day and it’s so fabulous and amazing. There’s one less event and we’re not hosting everythin.
jaye: It’s the first time we will not be hosting.
Jess: Yeah. But like how wonderful that like other people who we’ve had on and people who we haven’t had on Indigenous Brilliance yet get to hold that space and have that opportunity. Hosting Indigenous Brilliance has been one of the most amazing things I feel like I’ve, I’ve got to do here.
What are some of the books you’ve been reading or other Indigenous Brilliance in different platforms that you’ve been like watching or keeping an eye on?
I have been really interested in VR and AR stuff. Yeah. So I dunno. I feel like especially when I talked to like you know white people about video games or tech that is have Indigenous people at the helm or Indigenous focused, they’ll seem like almost surprised or something?
jaye: Shocked. It’s like, it’s like when they call us eloquent or well-spoken. They have this narrative that we’re savages, that we don’t like technology, that we don’t know how to use it. We can code, mamma. When we talk about futurism in the Indigenous perspective, it’s non-linear because of course it is, right? So it just really speaks to that.
Jess: Yeah, no, for sure.
Karmella (reading Jessica’s poetry):
KOKUM IS SO METAL
for the kokums Mary Jane Cardinal, Eileen Smith, & Loretta Johns by Jessica Johns
kokum is so metal
she’s newer than nu-meta
like evanescence but brown
& with a braid
then curly hair
then a bleached white pixie cut
setting fire to our long line
of loud women
(i wasn’t loud
when she did this
but I’m learning
kokum is so metal
she doesn’t want to be called kokum
but goddess instead
bc that’s self-determination
she also lives up & down
not backwards and forwards
flying through now, tomorrow, & yesterday
with a telephone to her ear
& laughter louder than a gibson flying v
when the yt doctor at the walk-in
clinic tells me anxiety
is just nervousness
i can see kokum there
all teeth and smoke
using his dimpled chin
as an ashtray
while she knits a noose
then sells his head for cheap
at the craft show
(& did you know that crabs
will rip off their own claws
they’ll maim themselves
bc nature is metal too
so metal like kokum)
kokum is so metal
her band is bigger than yours
her groupies too
everyone with her genes
they spill out from the funeral hall
touch time & space
like sound vibrations
in a tin can
but the can is the world
do you get it? do you get
how metal kokum is?
kokum is so metal
she’ll visit you in your
dreams just to say
not to pass on a message or perform
she’ll give you the finger guns
and leave you with a cackle
kokum is so metal
kokum after kokum after kokum
nothing but bones and drums
everything with drums
I listen to a podcast called “not another D and D podcast” I don’t play D&D but I’ve literally been listening to it since the summer and it’s the only podcast I listened to now. Well because I’ve been so immersed in like Growing Room planning and Room stuff. When I have my downtime, like I want to be taken somewhere else. Like I don’t want to be thinking about CanLit. I don’t want to be thinking about like even just like just anything serious. Like I listened to a lot of really wonderful podcasts that are like so informative and like these critical discussions and I’m like, I just can’t.
jaye: You need laughter, you know, you need a fantasy.
Jess: Yes! I just want to talk about, you know, this Crick Elf who is, you know, going into a rage and just like getting her possum to attack people. I just, that’s what I want to listen to. So I’ve just, I’ve not been listening to anything else. And it’s funny because I’ve never played D and D in my life and I love this podcast and I’ve learned how to play through listening to it.
jaye: So hit us up if you have like a quest or you’re a great non problematic DM.
Jess: But yeah, those are, I mean, I don’t know, none of those were really like an answer to your question.
Karmella: I think it’s important, though, to be talking about like this whole podcasting series is about futurism and I think for myself, being able to see people, Indigenous people and Black people like being nerds and being into tech and being able to imagine alternate realities for ourselves. And like you’re saying that escapism is necessary when we’re living in a world that is consistently pretty traumatic. Like to be able to just go somewhere else and do that in community, like through playing games like online or board games. Like, I think that that’s so important.
Jess: Yeah, exactly. And I think I felt a little bit of shame for a little while talking about escapism or like admitting like, Oh, I don’t want to deal with this all the time. I took a break from social media for a while when I first got my job at the managing editor of Room because I was really overwhelmed with that responsibility and it just felt like too much all the time. Just everything. Again, the everyday traumas of just like, you know, so just doing that and just being like, I just need to not for a while. I just, I felt a lot of shame around that I think.
jaye: And I think that’s designed. I think folks paint us in a narrative that’s like angry or serious Indigenous person all the time and they don’t think we contain multitudes. That shame is totally designed.
Karmella: Like her idea of like resilient, powerful, like persistent strength is like sometimes we need to fucking rest and that okay.
Jess: Yeah. And I just even like, I just need to zone out and watch a shitty TV show.
jaye: The Witcher! Like, I just need to binge watch for 10 hours.
Karmella: And to be modeling, I think for our community that it’s okay to do that as really important. And that kind of like comes back to I think the values that are at the foundation of this collective and modeling taking space and like giving ourselves and therefore everyone else permission to do what we need to do to take care of ourselves. Yeah. So even like having this conversation is reaffirming this teaching that we share. So I really appreciate it.
Jess: Yeah. No. Well, thank you for saying that because even as I was talking about really needing to do that, I wasn’t putting words to the fact that like, you need to take that time for yourself. I was just like, Oh no. Sometimes I just need to nerd out and listen to this podcast for hours. And it’s like, Oh, this is what it is. It’s about resting. So cheers to being nerds.
I just want to talk a little bit just in terms of how things have like changed and in a really great way. Something else that I feel like the change within the reading series was that it became very, very quickly, we were like, this is about more than just writers. Like this is about brilliance in all its forms and Indigenous Brilliance and all its forms. So storytelling as it exists through film and as it exists through a spoken word and performance and art. And I feel like we’ve really been leaning into that. Because I mean we all know it as a fact. Yes. But also like at first we didn’t necessarily name that. And so it’s really exciting to me that every single event has featured more than just like the brilliant Indigenous folks who write books and that’s wonderful. But also more and other, you know, varied kinds of storytelling,
Karmella: Holding space for more than one area of creativity as well, like allows us to be our full selves when we’re sharing our creativity in our work. Because it is hard when you’re at an event that’s maybe like just for literature, but then like you have a full other practice. We’re very diverse people, so being able to share whatever we’re comfortable sharing I think makes our reading series a really safe and open space and you can feel that it’s different than most other events. I think it’s because there’s a trust in each person who is up there to just like share themselves. It doesn’t matter what specifically that is or what genre or category of creative they fit into.
Jess: Well yeah cause it allows you to show up as yourself and if that’s what we wanted to create first place.
Karmella: So often I think we feel like, or I feel like I have to show up as a very specific version of that.
jaye: Yeah. It reminds me of Bo Dyp’s performance at Indigenous Brilliance where it was just such a collaborative experience where like in less than two seconds all the chairs were moved aside and then there was this, this dance that came up from the voices that we were sharing. Collectively, people are open to do that given the history of the accountability process that we’ve had within our collective, but also with our artists where inevitably in CanLit something will happen and something is going to happen as marginalized people in a predominantly white scene, we’re going to be targeted. And there’ve been times where we have experienced that and the process of like having our collective conversations has spoken loudly in our practice. Like it’s got, it’s gotten around where people are like, okay, like I can go here and know that the people who are organizing it will fight for me.
jaye: Hi, how are you Emily?
Emily Dundas Oke: I’m good.
jaye: Thank you so much for coming onto the podcast.
Emily: Thanks for having me.
jaye We’re so happy to have you. Wow. It’s been quite a journey for us, hasn’t been Emily?
Emily: I think we’re at our one year ofIindigenous Brilliance, but we go way, way back from there.
jaye: It’s been a little bit more than a year, but yes, like our, our big event anniversary is coming up at Growing Room. So what, what is your, your creation story with Indigenous Brilliance? How did you get involved?
Karmella: No, sorry, let’s rewind a second. Can you introduce yourself? Who are you? What’s your story?
Emily: Oh, I didn’t think introductions were necessary.
jaye: Do you know who Emily Dundas Oke is?
Karmella: If you don’t know you’re about to know.
jaye: You’re gonna find out.
Emily: Tansi, Okay. I’m Emily. I’m one of the organizers and collaborators on Indigenous Brilliance. I’ve been living in this city for about a year and a half. I’m nehiyaw, michif/ Cree, Métis, Scottish and English. Yeah, I just do things in the arts. That’s kind of my, my thing.
jaye: Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Indigenous Brilliance, a reading series, as a visual artist and curator. What’s been that journey?
Emily:I would say it was totally serendipity because I’m fortunate enough to know jaye from before both of us moved to unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-Waututh territories and we know each other from our time living in Secwépemc’ulucw. And I’d been in Vancouver for like half a year and I was working a serving job one day and I’ve collaborated with jaye on projects before. And I was like, man, I haven’t done anything with jaye in a really long time. I should see what jaye’s up to. And that evening I got a text from jaye being like “Yo! I need your help with something!” and I was like, okay, I’m down. And then of course, because I think as we kind of talked about already with like capacity and how much that figures into Indigenous Brilliance I didn’t hear from jaye for a little bit because I think Growing Room stuff was just in full swing. And then they reached out and were like, yo, do you want to be an assistant in this collective towards Growing Room 2019. And I was like, that is so wonderful. And as someone who’s new here to be like, welcomed in to not only a community that is just there to like support Indigenous creativity and resurgence, but is like spearheaded by Indigenous responsiveness and care. It was just so changing for me as I was like working at in older institutions, older white institutions, and just having these two kinds of worlds to go through and realize what each one can or is doing to kind of my wellbeing.
Emily: So yeah, I started off as an assistant towards Growing Room 2019 organizing along with jaye, the Future Ancestors event and just supporting the collective and a lot of the big, the big job that it is to bring so many brilliant people together. So since that’s about a year ago and since then as Jessica’s stepped into her role as managing editor of Room Magazine and leaving an enormous legacy and shining such light for all of us, I’ve started to take on more of the like general organizational role of admin stuff. But still everything is, I aim to be as collaborative and collective as possible in terms of how we move forward.
Karmella: Can you share a little bit about the Future Ancestors youth retreat weekend and why it was important for you to organize that and what were some like big teachings and takeaways from that experience?
Emily: Yeah. The kind of Future Ancestors youth weekend retreat, which was in September, was called Reignite. And Jessica came up with that awesome title.
Jessica: Did I?
Emily: Yeah. You’re so good.
Karmella: Brilliance. [inaudible]
Emily: Yeah, I think, yeah, it was centered around storytelling, but once again, making a space where we could sit together and folks could open up into the storytelling that’s being kind of created in a retreat. So we hosted four workshops for folks under 29 years old at Massy Books. So there was sound kind of like music workshops by Edzi’u. Adrienne Larocque did a beading workshop. Selina Boan led a poetry workshop and Cease Wyss and Meghan hosted like a dirt and seed nugget workshop. So thinking about decolonizing dirt into soil. And I think what it did was, because we’re urban Indigenous people there’s community spaces for, to meet people, but they’re often, yeah, they’re white, they’re centered around like drinking or we find or are forced to find community through work and stuff. But I feel like a big part of coming to these territories and being new here was like I found so much kinship and connection through spaces that are Indigenous run and for Indigenous people. And so kind of trying to extend what we can for those communities to build, to build more connection for folks who are maybe away from their territory or, and to be respectful to those who territories were on.
Karmella: Yeah. I really appreciated that our youth retreat was for people up to the age of 29 cause I find that a lot of funding goes towards the youth, which I think is really important. But then a lot of people who kind of get forgotten is this like in between young adult stage that all of us are in right now. And that was really cool to see like who showed up and who needed to be there. It was actually a lot of people like between the ages of like 19 and late twenties and I was there and I found like a lot of really meaningful connections happened and, and people who I wouldn’t have seen each other, our paths don’t always cross in this city because it is so big. And we all are kind of isolated in our own ways.
Emily: So true. And I think, yeah, and back to like the age demarkation of like 29 versus like classifying youth is like under 20 I think. I think of how many barriers folks face up till the ages of 20, mid twenties so that in order to like actually get to a point where you have the freedom to spend a Saturday afternoon with other people, like that can take three decades to get to the point where yes, you can sit and bead with people. I mean, because so many people I think are similar to me are new to these territories. And how, how do we find connection in these spaces?
Karmella: Yeah. And being able to learn together about the culture. I think being inner city Indigenous people and young people sometimes displaced from our communities and our families, like where do we access the teachings and where can we learn together? So having a space like this is really, really cool.
Emily: Yeah, and having a space where I felt like it was open in a sense where we weren’t there to just listen or learn from, but we were all sort of contributing just by being really present and having the time to be really present. Cause it wasn’t just an hour or two beading workshop. It was, you know, there were, there were five hour days we were sharing meals together by Indigenous caterers and that kind of slow time as well was important to realize, I think.
Karmella: Yeah. So thinking about futurism and our collective, I’m wondering how do you imagine us carrying this forward? Like what are some like big dreams and goals for bringing in the youth
Emily: This day, for me today is really exciting because I think as mentioned, you know, early on the idea of a podcast was really lofty but so beautiful to think that we could, you know, be a part of airways and reach people in that way. So I’m really excited that the podcast is getting going cause I think that’s something that many of us would have loved to see happen but it wasn’t always possible. So I’m so stoked for jaye and Karmella, your work in realizing this and that it’s come out as well through a collaboration with other Indigenous folks at CiTR Unceded Airwaves and that it’s growing that way. And I feel like that kind of hands reaching out to broaden the circle – I am excited to see that continue in multiple ways.
Karmella: This podcast, this first episode is designed to provide space for people to speak to us and to the community because it is really important to take a moment to really acknowledge like what’s going on here and to say like this is important and it is worth listening to and learning from
jaye: And the importance of ensuring that our listeners get to know about our creation story and how we didn’t just instantly start performing like this. We didn’t instantly start collectively working like there were bumps, there were hiccups, there were accountability processes, there were conversations.
Jessica: And there still are.
jaye: And it’s not just like a group of three people doing it all. Like I’m stepping away for a little bit. Jónína has. We’re inviting other people. We’re ensuring that the voices are being listened to. Right? So I think it’s been very gorgeous to have you both on and Jónína earlier and we’ll hear from Patricia. This podcast has been filmed over three days.
Hello everyone, this is Karmella checking in I guess post production. Does that make sense? Basically, I’m sitting in bed right now and I’m editing the podcast and all of our interviews and bringing things to a close or trying to, and I wanted to acknowledge a few things that were left out during the process of our interviews. One thing that I really want to highlight is the importance of Patricia Massey as a founding member of indigenous brilliance and unfortunately we weren’t able to meet with her to have an interview before growing room literary festival and the publication of our first episode of the indigenous brilliance podcast. But Patricia has given me permission to speak on her behalf. So, I’m going to be reading out her bio and explaining a little bit about Massey books, which indigenous brilliance is in partnership with. I guess something important to note; I am Afro indigenous nehiyaw I do not speak the language, so when I am reading a Patricia’s nation, please forgive me if I pronounce it incorrectly. Patricia Massey is Cree and a member of the As’in’I’wa’chi Ni’yaw Nation. After 17 years of working at various bookstores and nonprofits, she was inspired to open her own used bookstore that would also serve as an event space for the community. Patricia believes books connect us to our humanity and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Ask her about indigenous studies, psychology, health or the rare book room. Massey books is a bookstore and community space operating in Chinatown since March of 2018. Beginning as an online bookshop in 2015, Massey has quickly grown to a gorgeous brick and mortar shop, complete with a performance space art gallery and 1500 square feet of ready to buy book. An Indigenous owned and operated business and member of the Sto:lo business association, Massey books take seriously the role of literature and reading and community betterment connection, understanding and frequently hosts book launches, readings, art openings, and more. Massey’s. Dedication to community expands outside the bookstore through its work with a number of community based non-for-profit and social justice organizations, including the writer’s exchange, battered woman support services, respecting Aboriginal values and environmental needs. Raven and voices indigenous woman on the front lines. As a retail shop located in the downtown East side, they are sensitive to providing a welcoming and low barrier space for local community and are also seeking to deepen their connections in the neighborhood through partnerships with the downtown East side arts organizations and festivals. kinanâskomitin (Thank you in Cree) from Patricia Massey at Massey books.
So, thank you to Patricia for allowing us to share her words here on our podcast today. Please do go and check out Massey books any day of the week. It’s one of my favorite bookstores, actually. It’s my favorite bookstore in the city. I think it’s pretty cool that it’s the first indigenous owned bookstore to open up in the area. Yeah. And come out to our next reading event at Massey books actually though our next reading is happening at growing room, which is a great transition into my next topic of conversation.
So growing room is room magazine’s annual literary, an arts festival, a celebration of diverse Canadian writers and artists, which takes place every March on the traditional unseated. And ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil Wau’tuth, and Squamish peoples; also known as Vancouver, British Columbia colonially. The festival started in 2017 by room collective member Ariel Spence and was continued in 2018 and 2019 with Chelene Knight and is now directed by the current managing editor Jessica Johns, who is an indigenous brilliance collective member. The festival is made possible through all of the love, labor and vision of the room, staff and volunteers and the community of which the organization hopes to represent and reflect.
Room magazine is committed to deepening our learning about inclusion and accessibility both within the systemic structures of the festival and the creative curation. Growing Room is a celebration, a protest, a reflection, a revisioning, a gathering, a question and a dream. Before attending growing room, Check out our community guidelines and zero tolerance policies. We want Growing Room to be a safe space for everyone and strive to do so with continual staff and volunteer, anti-oppression training and community engagement. Moreover, we want Growing Room to be a space where historically and institutionally marginalized people are able to fully participate free from harassment and violence. So, check out the community guidelines and zero tolerance policies on roommagazine.com and consider registering for some panels and readings, the workshops. Registration is all open now and we wanted to release this podcast before March 11th so that we could give you all some time to register for growing room. I’m going to go ahead and read out a few event descriptions for you all to encourage you, get you hyped on the festival. Opening night is one, say March 11th at 6:00 PM until 11:00 PM at the Fox cabaret. We’re having the movement, which is our opening night party. It will be hosted by jaye simpson and Jillian Christmas.
So Sunday, March 15th from 1:00 PM till 9:00 PM pay what you can or recommended $12.50 per event or $30 for an all day pass. But again, it’s pay what you can. Celebrate indigenous brilliances’ two-year anniversary with events that showcase exceptional creative storytelling from readings to drag numbers to sound performances. Indigenous brilliance is a collective approach to realizing resurgence. Come together with the shared desire to raise the voices of indigenous woman to spirit and indigent queer storytellers. The first event will take place from 1:00 PM till 3:00 PM it’s titled Luminaries: the way forward.
Our legends are real. Our songs are alive. Recognizing the work of our ancestors. We continue to reawaken sleeping stories and languages with new breath. These artists, Gwen Benaway, Cassandra Blanchard, Helen Knott and Francine Cunningham are shining examples of the radiance of indigenous futurism hosted by Emily Dundas Oak and Molly Cross Blanchard. This event will feature ASL English interpretation. The second event of the day will our first film screening by indigenous Brilliance, which is really exciting. The film we’ll be showing is The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open from 4:00 PM till 6:30 PM ish. I will read you the event description.
Two indigenous woman from vastly different backgrounds find their worlds colliding as one of them. Rosie is fleeing a violent domestic attack. What begins as an urgent and terrifying escape tentatively expands as the woman. We’ve a fragile bond in their short time together while navigating the complexities of motherhood and the ongoing legacy of colonialism. This film will be followed by a discussion between Jade Baxter and Justin Ducharme. Two Vancouver based filmmakers who together with the audience will reflect in conversation on the presence of this film within our communities and cinematic history and practice. Note, this film is closed captioned. And lastly, the third part of our full day event is titled Afterglow: tongue in cheek from 7:30 PM till 9:30 PM again at the Beaumont studios.
The body is a story. Each rattle of the hip is a de colonial love song. The movement of sound and body is proof that indigenous artistry is reaching towards the stars through contemporary song dance, drag and performance. To end the day of indigenous brilliance, Jody Mariko Okabe, Okabe, Edzi’u, Délani Valin, Kalilah Rampanen and Liz Howard show us the reaches of storytelling. Hosted by Sparrow Terbasket and Sparkle Plenty. Also, genuine apology. If I said anyone’s name wrong, I know my name gets pronounced wrong very frequently because I have a long last name which seems to trip people up. Anyway, I get it and apologize in advance if I did not say your name correctly. As we come to a close here, I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge that Indigenous Brilliance as a collective stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en, Unist’ot’en, Tyendinaga the Mohawk, the Gixan, and all indigenous youth to spirit, BIPOC, and allies on the front lines standing up against Trudeau’s government, the Canadian government. The coastal gas link projects goes directly against the Wet’suwet’en hereditary traditional chiefs decisions and values to protect the land for the next seven generations. And on behalf of indigenous brilliance I would just like to encourage you all to go out and do your research, stay educated, stay updated, support people on the front lines, people on the land, however you can, whether that’s through monetary donations, whether that’s through showing up physically, spreading word, educating yourself. Do anything you can to stand on the right side of history to protect the, into, to protect the land and to protect indigenous people.
Thank you again to everyone who has tuned in and stayed around to witness the creation story and journey of articulating our experience as the Indigenous Brilliance Collective. jaye and I are really excited to keep producing content and putting out shorter podcast episodes Bi-monthly. Please hold us accountable. We look forward to seeing how this process unfold and again are so grateful to all of you who have witnessed this journey together with us on the airways through this podcast. kinanâskomitin, ay-ay, Huy chexw and thank you.
Nehiyaw Iskwew dream and laugh louder than anyone else. Auntie says dreams are messages, and to treat them like cracked sidewalks. Like bone bare trees. Like playing crib with your Aunties before supper. Be careful. Let it be beautiful and pay attention. She also says nehiyaw find themselves in ceremony. And I wonder if my ancestors would mind that my ceremony is FaceTiming my Nieces and Nephew every Sunday. It is testing their photos and showing up. It is repeating phrases in nehiyawewin as I clean my kitchen sink. It is wanting to have two wives and one husband. And filling them all with so much love they feel it in the webs of their feet. All I want is to make this a future they would recognize. Make my face a face kokum would hold in her soft hands and say, hello, been waiting to see you my whole life.