Even during a global pandemic when gathering and organizing has been next to impossible, the Peterborough chapter of the Black Lives Matter organization — Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong (BLM Nogo) — has been busy organizing, community building and, most recently, providing opportunities for both Black and Indigenous artists.
BLM Nogo has launched an open call for proposals, seeking both visual and performance submissions from Black and Indigenous artists in celebration of Black History Month. Proposals will be accepted until Monday, February 15th.
The organization will award honorariums for accepted proposals to compensate participating artists for their time. The total amount awarded to each artist will be determined based on the number of applications the organization receives.
While the artistic submissions will be showcased as a part of Black History Blowout, an online celebration of Black History Month taking place at the end of February, the board of directors of BLM Nogo made the decision to open the call for proposals to Indigenous artists as well as Black artists.
“There’s a longstanding history of Black and Indigenous folk being mistreated in very similar ways,” explains Said Jiddawy, local artist, activist, and BLM Nogo board member.
“Even though our struggles aren’t exactly the same, they’re very similar. We know that we live in the same world of oppression. That’s why we wanted to include both minority groups.”
Prerecorded performance submissions — ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes — by Black and Indigenous singers, dancers, musicians, performers of any discipline (theatre, drag, circus, and more), poets, storytellers, and filmmakers will be accepted.
The submissions will be featured on Saturday, February 27th at the live online event Black History Blowout, presented by BLM Nogo with funding from the Trent Centre for Women and Trans People.
Visual submissions of multi-disciplinary works from artisans, painters, photographers, sculptures, writers. and more will be included in “BHM ArtZine 2021”, a digital magazine that will be available for purchase by donation, with printed versions gifted to each contributing artist.
“I wanted to put together a little magazine to showcase Black artists,” Jiddawy says. “To have something to say ‘Hey, we’re here. We exist. This is the kind of art that we do.’ It’s so exciting.”
The open call for proposals provides a wonderful opportunity for Black and Indigenous artists to connect with their audiences and to have their work showcased. This opportunity is particularly valuable for emerging artists looking to build their CVs (an abbreviation for Curriculum Vitae, an artist’s resume).
The open call and the digital event also provide a safe, online opportunity for gathering and community building to occur, which BLM Nogo’s board has been working hard to facilitate since the immensely successful, COVID-safe march in June 2020 the organization led in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong in response to the police brutality that led to the deaths of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet last year.
“It’s hard because there’s so many things that we wanted to do and it makes it more difficult as we can’t meet in person,” says Shaela Abbott-McLeod, activist, Trent Arthur journalist, podcaster, and BLM Nogo board member.
“It’s really difficult to do things with COVID, but we’re doing the best that we can,” she adds. “We’ve hosted direct digital action events, where we educated the community on important topics and helped them to email and call their elected officials. We’ve hosted movie screenings with Q&As with the directors afterwards. We’ve also hosted talks and interviews with prominent black figures.”
“The pandemic is really limiting what we can do, but it also works well because we are able to do a bunch of these online events and reach people who are farther away and wouldn’t otherwise be able to join. We’re also just trying to find these fun ways we can get people engaged and involved.”
“Black voices and black people have typically been understood through their suffering,” says Shaela’s sister Alicia Abbott-McLeod, also an activist, podcaster, and BLM Nogo board member. “It is so essential for us to also be uplifting Black voices without the suffering. The fact that this event is happening without the tragedy is, I think, something really important to touch on.”
In addition to their activism with BLM Nogojiwanong and full-time studies at Trent and York Universities, respectively, Shaela and Alicia Abbott-McLeod host a podcast in collaboration with BLM Nogo and Arthur, Trent University’s student-run newspaper.
The podcast, “Black Girls Chatter”, discusses topics ranging from personal stories to Black history and education. It’s available most major podcast platforms and can be streamed online at anchor.fm/black-girls-chatter.
“We approach our conversations it in a way that’s more informal so it’s easier for everybody to grasp,” Alicia says. “We take what we’re learning in school or what we’re teaching ourselves and, using our own personal experiences, bring that forward to our listeners to help better educate the community.”
If you are or know of a Black or Indigenous artist whose artistic work would be perfect for Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong’s open call for proposals, visit blmnogo.com/post/bhm-artist-callout to learn more about how to submit.
The virtual Black History Blowout event takes place on Zoom from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 27th. Tickets are $10 for allies and a discounted $5 for the guests of honour and Black and Indigenous folks, but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Tickets are available now at www.eventbrite.ca/e/137999388887.
During the event, BLM Nogo will also be announcing the recipient of the second annual Charlie Earle Micro Grant, awarded to a Black woman or Non-Binary artist. The grant is named in honour of Charlene “Charlie” Earle, a local Black musician and artist who passed away suddenly in July 2019 when she was only 33 years old.
To support the important work BLM Nogo does for our community, you can send a donation via e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.