Ba­bely Shades talks heal­ing and ac­count­abil­ity

Ottawa col­lec­tive cre­ates sup­port for artists of colour

The McGill Daily - - Culture -

Ba­bely Shades is a self­de­scribed “col­lec­tive of artists and ac­tivists of colour and marginal­ized gen­ders from the Ottawa area.” The truth is, Ba­bely Shades is do­ing some of the most rad­i­cal work at the cul­tural level that this na­tion’s ul­tra- con­ser­va­tive cap­i­tal has ever seen. They’re break­ing bar­ri­ers left and right, giv­ing queer peo­ple of colour (POC) and marginal­ized folks the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press them­selves freely in artis­tic spa­ces that have his­tor­i­cally ex­cluded them.

I chat­ted with two mem­bers of the col­lec­tive, Cor­rina Chow and Kelsey Amanda, who to­gether gave an in- depth look at what Ba­bely Shades is all about.

The Mcgill Daily (MD): Can you tell me more about what you do? What artis­tic or other types of ar­eas are you most ac­tive in?

Cor­rina Chow (CC): I would say what brought us all to­gether is feel­ing that we didn’t nec­es­sar­ily be­long in the Ottawa arts scene just be­cause we never saw bands or other artists of colour that we could kind of re­late to. [...] We have a ton of peo­ple who have formed their own bands [...] and then oth­ers who are vis­ual artists and a lot of mu­si­cians [ and] po­ets.

Kelsey Amanda ( KA):

Il­lus­tra­tors, writ­ers. [ It’s] pretty much a big con­glom­er­ate for us to all kind of sup­port each other and be able to feel vis­i­ble.

CC: On top of that we do a lot of book­ings, events where the venue would be in a safe space – where racism, trans­misog­yny and ableism wouldn’t be tol­er­ated. [...] It’s been dif­fi­cult to find venues that [can] ac­com­mo­date that in Ottawa, but we found a cou­ple, par­tic­u­larly Pressed Cafe.

KA: We’ve also even cre­ated some DIY venues that we use that are pretty much houses where they are re­ally open to hav­ing shows and hold­ing up our man­date.

MD: And would you say the Ba­bely Shades zine spreads the same mes­sage?

KA: I would say that our zine is kind of more per­sonal in the sense that we’re cre­at­ing it for our­selves. I feel like it’s a very heal­ing thing. We’re not out there to teach as much as to kind of re­claim our­selves.

CC: Yeah, the zine re­ally lets peo­ple know that we’re peo­ple too, like we do the same stuff that every­one else does.

KA: We’re cre­ators and we want to have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate, the same fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and the same space.

MD: The num­ber of mem­bers in the col­lec­tive is now over a hun­dred. You even gath­ered at­ten­tion from the Ottawa Ci­ti­zen and Vice. Did you ever think you would get this big and how do you feel about this at­ten­tion?

CC:

When I first joined we didn’t re­ally think that it would re­ceive this much at­ten­tion be­cause I guess we’re not re­ally ac­cus­tomed to achiev­ing that much at­ten­tion in the first place. [...] It’s great in the sense that peo­ple ac­tu­ally rec­og­nize that these is­sues ex­ist, but at the same time you’re kind of putting your­selves out there as a tar­get.

KA: I re­ally just thought it was go­ing to be a small group of friends just sup­port­ing each other. But [...] the work and the activism and things that just came to be be­cause of that sup­port and that net­work has blown my mind.

CC: Yeah, [like] be­ing in­vited to the Black His­tory Month re­cep­tion…

KA: Oh yeah, Par­lia­ment Hill! Yeah, we met Trudeau!

MD: Is there a par­tic­u­lar time or event with Ba­bely Shades that you are most proud of?

CC: There’s a two day event at Pressed [Cafe] called #Diyspring.

KA: It’s ba­si­cally a col­lec­tive of some of the artists that are al­ready in Ba­bely Shades and peo­ple of colour that we know [...] putting on this two day fes­ti­val to cel­e­brate artists do­ing it them­selves; and ob­vi­ously specif­i­cally queer peo­ple of colour. So that’s a re­ally ex­cit­ing thing that we’re do­ing, [...] we’re pre­sent­ing artists from the U.S. and all over. Shoegaze le­gends!

CC: They’re quite es­tab­lished and they’re also peo­ple of colour, and it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to have them come to Ottawa and play with Everett, which is [the founder of Ba­bely Shades’ Elsa Mirzaei’s] band.

MD: In terms of the bad times that have been a lit­tle more rough for your group. You started a pe­ti­tion against The Queers who claim to en­gage in the “recla­ma­tion of queer iden­tity” while ac­tu­ally be­ing a white, het­ero, cis­gen­dered group, and faced back­clash from their fans in re­turn. How did you cope with that neg­a­tive, even threat­en­ing, in­ci­dence of cy­ber bul­ly­ing?

KA: Yeah, this is a re­ally sen­si­tive topic. I think over­all we re­ally stuck to each other and re­ally reached out to peo­ple who [had pre­vi­ously] reached out to us. [...] We were lit­er­ally tar­geted and we were threat­ened. [...] I think in the end it’s just be­ing there for each other and know­ing that peo­ple are only com­ing against us be­cause we’re do­ing some­thing that is go­ing to dis­place them in their com­fort.

CC: This was pos­i­tive in the sense that [those] peo­ple on Face­book that kind of just float around and you never re­ally in­ter­act with them [...] mes­sag[e] you in sol­i­dar­ity, be­ing like, “Hey, I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate [the work] you’re do­ing. This isn’t nec­es­sar­ily my space but even if any of my friends say or do any­thing that could dam­age this com­mu­nity, I’ll be sure to call them out [...] and bring at­ten­tion to your group.” And yeah [they could be the same] peo­ple who would [...] take away space or oc­cupy space in a com­mu­nity that doesn’t be­long to them.

MD: So the peo­ple who were of­fer­ing their sup­port then turned out to be the ones who were spread­ing the hate?

CC: Yes and no. There are some peo­ple who you could gen­uinely call al­lies but then there are peo­ple who de­clare them­selves as al­lies but then take up all the space. [...] It’s cer­tainly white fem­i­nism. It’s try­ing to equate some­thing that white women ex­pe­ri­ence [...] to some­thing women of colour would ex­pe­ri­ence or trans women of colour even.

KA: They just don’t get the in­ter­sec­tional aspects of it and that’s dam­ag­ing in it­self.

MD: If peo­ple did their re­search, this wouldn’t even be an is­sue.

CC: Yeah that was an­other thing that was elicited dur­ing the [ in­ci­dent with The Queers]. These peo­ple want you to spoon­feed ev­ery­thing di­rectly to them when this isn’t my job, I’m not paid to do it, and it’s ac­tu­ally quite ex­haust­ing.

KA: Peo­ple who are marginal­ized and op­pressed don’t owe you an ed­u­ca­tion.

MD: Would you say most peo­ple in Ottawa are like this or are more open and ac­cept­ing to the cause?

KA: It’s weird be­cause that’s not even the first in­ci­dent. [...] Ini­tially, we took a stance against The Queers in such a pas­sive, on­line pe­ti­tion way and it just [ended] up blow­ing up. I think the re­ac­tion to it can kind of [ point to how] peo­ple are still not that ready and will­ing to make the foun­da­tional changes.

MD: Why do you think it’s im­por­tant to have col­lec­tives like Ba­bely Shades ac­tive at the lo­cal level es­pe­cially?

CC: I think it’s mak­ing these things ac­ces­si­ble to marginal­ized peo­ple.

KA: At least at a lo­cal level, it’s nice to kind of hold peo­ple ac­count­able and if they don’t want to be ac­count­able for their ac­tions or what­ever they’re do­ing, [we will in­flu­ence them to change that].

CC: If [the change] is hap­pen­ing at a lo­cal level, then maybe it can spread along.

This in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.

Our zine is more per­sonal in the sense that we’re cre­at­ing it for our­selves. I feel like it’s a very heal­ing thing. Peo­ple who are marginal­ized and op­pressed don’t owe you an ed­u­ca­tion.

Rahma Wiry­omartono | The Mcgill Daily

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