Anti-Black Racism Is Alive In Canada: Resources To Learn From

With the protests happening in America right now, us friendly Canadians may like to think that we are a more welcoming country unburdened by the problems of our neighbor. In school they taught us that we are the mosaic to the US’s melting pot— aren’t we setting a good example of inclusion and diversity? Don’t we have welcoming immigration policies? Aren’t we above what is happening in the United States? It’s a sentiment that I’ve seen being bandied about in recent days. The trending hashtag #meanwhileincanada popped up and at first was being used to contrast us to our neighbors south of the border with viral images and videos like that of a moose taking a dip in somebody’s swimming pool⁠— hah, good ol’ Canada eh?!

Fellow Canadians, talk to your Black neighbors and you may learn that this “friendly Canadian” label is nothing but a dangerously convenient facade. We cannot grow complacent because we think we’re “not racist in Canada”. There are many things I love about our country, but we have a long way to go and it is always our responsibility to educate ourselves the best we can about the realities in Canada so that we can actively work toward a better tomorrow.

Below I have collected some information on articles, books, and videos with anti-Black racism in Canada in mind. However, there is a further wealth of information available on how individual and systemic racism is very much alive in Canada in many forms. Such racism is rooted in our colonial past and impacts many people every day, including people of colour, immigrants, and our Indigenous peoples.

Note to reader: I am a white Canadian woman and I am not in any way an authority on racism in Canada. I hope that these resources may serve as a jumping-off point for personal learning and an introduction to some Black Canadian voices. These resources are not exhaustive; please feel free to share any resources that you feel should be added.


Articles

Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Justine Wallace for Behind the Numbers: Black Women in Canada

Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to tackle persistent and profound barriers to change and to challenge entrenched norms and stereotypes. Success will only be achieved if Black women are equal partners and leaders in this work.


Claire Loewen for CBC, 2020: As Premier Denies Systemic Racism, Black Quebecers Point to their Lived Experience

They put their knee on my neck, like they did to George Floyd.

Alexandre Lamontagne

Benjamin Shingler & Simon Nakonechny for CBC, 2020: Montreal Protestors Aim to Drive Home Message Racism is a Problem Here Too

For years we said there’s racial profiling in Montreal, and now it’s a message that everybody has to hear us.

Will Prosper

Eternity Martis for Chatelaine, 2020: 5 Black Women Talk About Their Lives In Canada– Past, Present and Future

In Canada, Black women are still discriminated against in the healthcare system, where we face alarmingly high rates of maternal death. We continue to be victims of police and state violence, and in the workplace, continue to be paid less than both white men and white women.  

Eternity Martis

Annette Henry for The Conversation, 2017: Dear White People, Wake Up: Canada is Racist

Those who do not experience racism may be unaware of how it functions in Canada — perniciously and insidiously.

Annette Henry

Carl James for The Conversation, 2019: The Crisis of Anti-Black Racism in Schools Persists Across Generations

Black students say they are “being treated differently than their non-Black peers in the classrooms and hallways of their schools.” They say there is still a lack of Black presence in schools. There are few Black teachers, the curriculum does not adequately address Black history and schools lack an equitable process to help students deal with anti-Black racism.

Carl James

Janaya Khan for Flare, 2017: Don’t Kid Yourself, White Nationalism is on the Rise in Canada Too

Canadians have a deep investment in seeing themselves as more enlightened than their counterparts to the south, as if racism and bigotry suddenly stop at the U.S./Canada border. 

Janaya Khan

Stacy Lee Kong for Flare, 2018: If It Feels Like Racism In Canada Is Getting Worse, That’s Because It Is”

Every time we hear about another example of blatant racism, we tend to be shocked, as if we’ve collectively agreed that sure, things happen here—but it’s nowhere near as bad as it is there. That’s B.S., obviously.

Stacy Lee Kong

Tayo Bero for The Guardian, 2019: Canada is Overdue For a Reckoning With Its Anti-Black Racism

Young black men across the country have spoken for years about being surveilled and criminalized simply for existing.

Tayo Bero

Andray Domise for Hazlitt, 2015: White Supremacy is Not a Black Problem

The message now is that white comfort is worth more than black lives. This has to change.

Andray Domise

Maija Kappler for Huffington Post, 2020: Racism in Canada is Ever Present, But We Have a Long History of Denial

It’s tempting for Canadians to fall back on the idea that we’re not as racist as Americans…

Maija Kappler

Byron Armstrong for Now Toronto, 2018: Dining While Black

Sometimes, I just want to order an artisanal handcrafted lobster roll without getting the feeling that it’s somehow unusual for me to do so. Or be able to sit in a dimly lit speakeasy while a gentleman in a bow tie and handlebar moustache concocts a $16 cocktail for me, without becoming more of the show than the actual show.

Now the controversy over Hong Shing restaurant comes along to remind us that it’s not just white-owned establishments practicing discrimination against us, but also other people of colour.

Byron Armstrong

Neil Price, Radheyan Simonpillai, and Chaka V. Grier for NowToronto, 2019: Black Futures Month: Five Torontonians want to make 2019 the year for change

I want Black children and youth to no longer feel ashamed of crumbling school buildings, or be afraid to drink the water, or experience unbearable physical and distractive cognitive challenges due to sweltering heat in their classrooms. The nearly $4 billion backlog in school repairs must be fixed. Schools must become fully accessible, infused with colour, arts and green space.

In my dream, roaming the mall for a new pair of jeans or for a knapsack is no longer hazardous for our kids’ health. Shopping while Black is a carefree experience. So is interviewing for a job while Black.

Jill Andrew

Robyn Maynard for The Star, 2020: It’s Long-Past Time to Talk About Policing of Black Women in Canada

It is clear that combating the violent policing of Black women remains an urgent necessity for all of us.

Robyn Maynard

Various Authors for The Star, 2020: Racism Exists in Canada: These are the Stories From People Who Have Lived It As Eyes Turn On The U.S. After George Floyd Death in Minneapolis

(Monday) morning, the day before I earn my Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto, I awoke to an online comment which stated “I would never let her treat me.”

Dr. Chika Oriuwa, MD

Vicky Mochama for The Star, 2018: Systemic Racism in Canada is Real, Folks

Questions about systemic racism are less about our personal interactions but rather about how the institutions that govern our lives have internalized and implemented racism. 

Vicky Mochama

Desmond Cole for Toronto Life, 2015: The Skin I’m In: I’ve Been Interrogated By Police More Than 50 Times– All Because I’m Black

There’s this idea that Toronto is becoming a post-racial city, a multicultural utopia where the colour of your skin has no bearing on your prospects. That kind of thinking is ridiculously naïve in a city and country where racism contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of criminalization and imprisonment.

Desmond Cole

Books

The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power

Desmond Cole, 2020


Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter In Canada

Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson & Syrus Marcus Ware (Editors), 2020


Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity, and Language

Carl James & Adrienne Shadd (Editors), 2001


In The Black: My Life

B. Denham Jolly, 2017


Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present

Robyn Maynard, 2017


Blank: Essays and Interviews

M. NourbeSe Philip, 2017


Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies

Rinaldo Walcott, 2016


Videos

Desmond Cole for CBC, 2017: Firsthand Episode 2: The Skin We’re In

Acclaimed journalist Desmond Cole explores what it is to be Black in 21st century Canada. Do Black Lives Matter here?


Roaring River Films, 2019: Our Dance of Revolution: The History of Toronto’s Black Queer Community

Our Dance of Revolution tells the story of how Black queer folks in Toronto faced every adversity, from invisibility to police brutality, and rose up to become a vibrant, triple-snap-fierce community. 


Yamikani Msosa for VAW Learning Network, 2018: Roots and Resistance: Sexual Violence and Anti-Black Racism

Roots and Resistance is a webinar that explores in depth conversations about the connections between sexual violence, state violence, and healing from collective and individual sexual abuse and trauma for Black survivors.

Pandemic Ponderings: It’s Okay To Float Along

I was previously working on a meandering post about all of the ridiculous items that W**h ads try to sell me (medical tools? cheese? drugs? impractical lingerie? blood worms?) until I realized that:

  1. My mom was getting similarly weird items advertised to her too— I guess I’m not a unique flower like I thought I was? (Or, if I am, I got it from my Momma!)
  2. I’m now pretty sure that is their strategy: get people sharing the wacky stuff to create a buzz to bring in more sales
  3. I don’t really want to promote a site that sells cheap knockoff junk of questionable quality
  4. It’s a fricken global pandemic right now and I just want to write something else.

Oh, one more little thing before I get into the post: my new domain is live! You can now access my blog at hidengoshauna.ca .

Neat, huh!?


So—pandemic time. How’s everyone doing?

Most of us are isolated in our homes just about 24/7 right now. It’s a strange time. I’ve seen a lot of posts urging people to make the best of this unforseen stretch of time to learn new skills, do the things they’ve been putting off, to not be idle and see this time as an opportunity.

To this I say great, if you can.

But not everybody can.

This message has been going around on social media: “If you don’t come out of this with a new skill, you never lacked time… you lacked discipline”. I call major bullshit on this one! This little bit of tough-love “wisdom” ignores the fact that people all live in vastly different situations with entirely different responsibilities, struggles, obstacles and means. To declare that this time should be an opportunity for skill development comes from a place of immense privilege and completely disregards the living experiences of others.

People are scared: for themselves, for loved ones, for the world at large. Some people are in isolation 24/7 with their abusers. Some people are facing racist attacks, unstable income, and falling into declining mental and physical health. Some people are looking after dependents who require round-the-clock care, and with their usual supports cut off suddenly.

Alaa Hijazi shared her insight as a trauma psychologist:

I feel lucky. I’m safe at home with my husband and dogs. I still have a job. My mental health is currently OK. My physical health is currently OK. I’m doing alright for now. I’m keeping busy and trying to make the best of my situation, but some times I have bad days and just float along as best as I can- and that’s okay.

I hope you are also doing alright, reader. Take care.

Why We Don’t Need “Straight Pride” Flags

Chipman, a small village in my home province of New Brunswick, is in the headlines today because officials approved the raising of a “straight pride” flag next to a main road.

“Chipman resident Glenn Bishop and 11 others met over the past few months to find ways to show support for straight people.” –Global News

Interesting, I didn’t know that people in New Brunswick were in need of support for …being straight?

The flag was swiftly taken down amidst backlash, and although the town claims that the flag was intended to show support for “all groups in the community” I fail to understand how that is possible, unless it was a decision made from ignorance.

Pride for what?

“Straight pride” flags are at best completely unnecessary and at worst incredibly offensive symbols of hatred towards LGBTQ+ people.

LGBTQ+ communities have pride parades and raise pride flags because they are coming together, not only as a positive celebration of who they are, but also to take a stand against the discrimination, prejudice, unequal rights, and violence that they are subjected to just for being themselves.

If your response to seeing a pride flag is to feel excluded and think “where’s my straight pride flag?” you are totally missing the point of the pride flag. Pride flags are used worldwide as a bold visual symbol that says “we’re not ashamed of who we are” in a world that still positions straight, cisgender people as the apparent default way to exist.

If, like the man behind the aforementioned flag,  you don’t get why “straight pride” flags are unnecessary and offensive, here are some reasons:

Straight, cisgendered people are not shamed for being straight.

Neither their sexuality nor their gender are perceived by the public as remarkable traits of their identity.

They aren’t screamed at in the street for holding their girlfriend’s hand.

They aren’t denied the opportunity to take their boyfriend to prom.

They aren’t approached at the bar and told “you’re a waste of a perfectly fine girl”.

Nor are they targeted, profiled, denied rights and privileges, attacked or murdered because of their sexuality or gender.

When “straight pride” flags are flown, they carry a toxic message: “I don’t care/believe that these things happen to you, I’m important too, look at MY flag!”.

“Straight pride”  flags are arrogant, as they were created in direct response to pride flags as a way to claim “it’s just equality!” while simultaneously overlooking the reason why we need pride flags in the first place- people (not straight people!) are being attacked solely because of who they love and who they are.

While the mayor of Chipman recently said that no formal apology was forthcoming,  I think that further shows that the people behind this flag, and those who claim not to understand why it is controversial, are in need of education on this matter.

Note: Making threats, hurling insults, and jumping on an internet hate train are NOT effective or ethical ways to educate people. Please don’t do that. Rather, consider sharing information and statistics about LGBTQ+ realities , contacting officials in Chipman, and showing support to your local LGBTQ+ group(s).

I hope that the village of Chipman will learn from this experience and grow together as a community. I agree with recommendations that were shared by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP), a sibling to Moncton’s River of Pride:

“NSRAP strongly encourages the town council and mayor of Chipman to seek training on diversity and inclusion and sensitivity training to attempt to understand the lives of their marginalized constituents. Additionally, a formal apology, beyond the previously released statement, should be made.”

 

 

 

 

 

Response to Illinois Family Institute: Don’t Drag us into a Cesspool of Ignorance

Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute recently posted an indignant tirade because of this statement from the American Library Association:

Interested in bringing Drag Queen Storytime to your library? ALSC Committee Members received tips for optimizing success from library pioneers who have already done it.  We also had the chance to meet a Drag Queen who talked about the value of offering this program, including fostering empathy, tolerance, creativity, imagination and fun.

Their article goes on in an increasingly hysteric harangue, all the while accusing librarians and “so-called-progressives” of being the REAL hysterical ones as if they are letting us in on a secret conspiracy.

Here I will try my best to respond to some of the pearl clutching (quoted below).

This feckless ALA statement raises questions: Should we foster in children empathy for those who choose to engage in transvestism?

Yes. Foster empathy in children, period.

 Should we tolerate adults who expose children to transvestism?

Yes. Why wouldn’t you want to teach your child tolerance of people who are different? Drag Queen Storytime programs usually feature funny books, colourful expression, maybe some glitter and a song or two- nothing dangerous or indecent.

 Should we encourage children to view men who masquerade as women as “fun”?

Nobody is forcing anything on you. If you don’t like the Drag Queen storytime, it’s easy. Don’t go! Everybody wins. Those who do think it’s fun get to enjoy an empathy building, creative, imaginative, fun program. Those who don’t want to don’t have to. There.😊 It’s a lot like how rather than requesting a book be removed or moved so your child doesn’t see it, you can steer your child away from it and leave it accessible for others. It really IS that easy!

Every year, the ALA sponsors the laughably named “Banned Books Week” (this year, Sept. 23-29, 2018) during which self-righteous, dissembling librarians foment “book-banning” paranoia.

I fail to see how Banned Books Week is in any way paranoid (I like my books accessible, thanks very much)- I’d like to suggest that you brush up on what the word “paranoia” means. Your entire article about drag queen storytime REEKS of paranoia, so maybe start your research there?

The ALA pursues its hysteria-fomenting goal chiefly by ridiculing parents who, for example, don’t want their five-year-olds seeing books about children or anthropomorphized animals being raised by parents in homoerotic relationships.

When the ALA steps in to defend a book or program that has been challenged, they aren’t directing shame or ridicule at anyone- they are reacting to an action of censorship.

You, the parent, are in charge of what your kid reads. Removing or moving a title because of its contents may take that privilege away from other parents.

Libraries use Collection Development Policies (CDP’s) to determine which books they will purchase with their limited budgets. CDP’s maintain that librarians should purchase only books that have been positively reviewed by two “professionally recognized” review journals. Guess what folks, the “professionally recognized” review journals are dominated by ideological “progressives.” Publishing companies too are dominated by ideological “progressives,” so getting books published that espouse conservative ideas (particularly on the topics of homosexuality and gender dysphoria) is nigh unto impossible.

The vast majority of books published continue to focus on cisgendered, heterosexual characters and heteronormative points of view. Take a look in your public library-I bet there is no shortage of Christian fiction, conservative non-fiction, religious self-help, heteronormative relationship advice books, “traditional” family picture books, etc.

…when it comes to resources that espouse conservative views on homosexuality and gender dysphoria. Are the anti-book-banning soldiers fighting to fill the gaping lacuna in their picture books and Young Adult (YA) literature collections on these topics?

We don’t have to. Like I mentioned, the shelves are already full of conservative content. 

Books featuring inclusive and diverse content aren’t attempting an assault on conservative views; furthermore, freedom of gender identity and sexual expression are recognized by the United Nations as an important part of being free and equal in dignity and rights. 

Here are some children’s book ideas that librarians could request to fill gaps in their collections…

This entire hypothetical list provided is built on ridiculously biased ideas of what non-hetero non-cisgendered people are like- there is an ill-informed assumption that queer people are more promiscuous, prone to instability, confused, neglectful, and otherwise problematic than heterosexual, cisgendered people.

To publish something like that would be to nourish harmful notions that have no basis in reality. While conservative publications can be found in any bookstore or library, I doubt that the majority of people who consider themselves conservative would support publishing something so ignorant- it would be a hard sell.

However, if you are so passionate about these theoretical books, why don’t YOU write them and see how it goes?

The article ends with this inspiring little nugget:

The ALA is plunging deep into the “drag” cesspool, pulling children down with them.

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck
and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
(Luke 17:2)

Cesspool. Hung around the neck. Really beautiful hatred-inspiring message you ended with there. :/

Yet another open letter to Joel Tucker…

I am shocked and very upset at the news that Joel Tucker, director of Washington County Libraries, has not only stood by his initial decision to censor Hurricane library staff from making LGBTQ+ displays or wearing LGBTQ+ pins, but is now also banning LGBTQ+ displays in ALL Washington County Libraries.

He claims he wants to keep the libraries welcoming and be a neutral ground, but it seems he doesn’t understand what either of those concepts mean.

When he first censored Hurricane staff, I wrote an open letter, which I never got a reply to.

In response to the saddening progression of events, here is my second open letter (as submitted through the Washington County Library System website’s contact page):

Mr Tucker,

As I have received no reply to my initial email or open letter, I write to you once again regarding your censorship of LGBTQ+ materials in Washington County Libraries.

I am an educator,LGBTQ+ ally, and MLIS candidate. When I wrote to you a few weeks ago I thought it likely that, once you fully understood the implications of your decision regarding the Hurricane library system, and listened to valid concerns from LGBTQ+ advocates, librarians, and other communities, you’d reconsider your harmful decision. Unfortunately I see that is not the case, and that you are effectively banning ALL Washington County Libraries from displaying LGBTQ+ materials.

This is a very sad day for your libraries and communities. You say you want to “remain neutral” and “don’t want to advocate for one position over another” but there are no positions involved here- just human lives. Your decision is not neutral in the slightest- it is an act that shames, isolates, and aims to erase LGBTQ+ people’s voices and rights by pretending they don’t exist.

LGBTQ+ people exist. Displays featuring LGBTQ+ content do not show any sort of position or stance- they only show real people who exist in the real world and are not going away.

When questioned you said that you do allow displays such as Black History Month because they are “not controversial”- some day LGBTQ+ displays won’t be controversial either. Do you want to be on the wrong side of history, censoring your community from access to important resources to appease the homophobic?

If LGBTQ+ content is controversial in your communities, that shows that there are people who would benefit greatly from accessing those materials- both in the LGBTQ+ community and otherwise. Banning LGBTQ+ displays severely reduces the amount of patrons who will come into contact with those materials, and so is a form of censorship.

Are complaints of controversy more important to attend to than the lives of LGBTQ+ people? Those who don’t want to see those books can walk away, put down the book. Those who need the book may never have the chance to access it because that display never went up.

Suicide rates are disproportionately high for LGBTQ+ people because of knee-jerk decisions like this one you are making- you are making these people feel like they are not fit to be out in society.

I am seriously disheartened with your current decisions and urge you to reconsider. Libraries are not a place for censorship. Hiding your materials in the stacks to avoid controversy should be the complete opposite of your mandate.
Your current vision of a “welcoming” library is not one I ever wish to visit- I hope you will think hard about the implications of your recent decisions and reconsider them.

Thanks again for your time,
-Shauna

Note: I am once again posting this as an open letter on my blog, hidengoshauna.wordpress.com

Animethon- My First Time :o

We just got back from Animethon, a 3 day anime convention in Edmonton. This is Animethon’s 25th anniversary, and it’s expanded so much over time that they had to move it to a new location this year: the Shaw Convention Centre.

I left work early on Friday afternoon (THANKS TO MY LOVELY MANAGER!!!) and hubby and I did the 5 hour drive to Edmonton. He was super tired when we checked into our hotel, so I did the 6 minute walk of awkward to the con solo in my InuYasha dress.

Why hello there, No Face.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into

When I arrived at the centre, I registered and immediately got in line for the Hatsune Miku vocaloid concert. I was an hour early and the lineup was already out the theater hall, into the hallway, and down the stairs. After about half an hour of standing alone on the stairs and sweating in my voluminous yukata-style Robe of Rat, I started feeling a little gross and tired. I was very happy when we started moving into the concert hall.

As soon as I entered the cavernous room I scurried up to the standing area (which wasn’t as full as I was expecting- most people chose seats) and I got out my light sticks. Seeing adorable Miku, whose rhythm games I adore, dancing, singing, and playing guitar in front of me accompanied by some really talented musicians was SUPER COOL. @metadatastudios put on a great show.

After the concert I chatted with a few cosplayers and attendees, and met up with a friend to attend the idolish7 panel where the presenters showed us some clips and shared some info about the characters – now I really want to get into idolish7, it looks hillarious and cute!

After the panel I headed back to the hotel because I was exhausted.

Disqualified from the Cosplay Contest ^-^’

On Saturday morning, Dustin and I headed out to the con together and explored the vendors and artists alley. I couldn’t stop squeeing at all of the adorable plushies everywhere, there are just so many ridiculously cute stuffies from Japan!

I fell in love with a character named @pugliepug and bought a bunch of Puglie merch. I also found a new designer that I really like, 1percenttalent and I got a super cool tank with eyes on it.

After spending All The Money, we checked out the gaming hall, and I tried out the visual novel Love Hues ( @love_hues_game )- the full version isn’t ready yet (I played the demo) but it has a very cute style, college setting, diverse characters, and is LGBTQIA+ friendly! On their twitter it says the full release is expected later this year. They gave me a free poster and pin just for playing and filling out a short survey about my game experience.

I spent more time exploring and chatting with people, getting my Tsukimi (Princess Jellyfish) cosplay ready for the cosplay contest which would start at 2, but in a very un-Shaunalike move, I missed the cosplay rehearsal! I can’t believe I didn’t check my emails more thoroughly, but I was disqualified T-T oh well, no biggie. I still had the Take The Stage prelims later that day to look forward to…

Tap Dancing On Carpet Sounds Like Nothing

Take the Stage is like a talent show, and I had hastily prepared a little tap dance to the opening song of Princess Jellyfish (Koko Dake no Hanashi by Chatmonchy). It included some really basic tap techniques and of course my giant Clara plushie was part of it- I planned to lift her gracefully into the air and twirl her around. It all sounded really lovely in my head.

Anyway, even though the finals were to take place on the main stage, the prelims ended up taking place in a teeny panel room with a carpeted floor. The old thought experiment came to mind: If a Shauna tapdances on the carpet and no-one hears it, does it make a sound? After watching some of the others perform (singing mainly) it was my turn.

I’m not the most impressive tap dancer in the best of circumstances (I’ve only been dancing for 2 years), and Dustin came and took a video of my performance but I haven’t seen it yet… not sure if I want to to be honest! XD

The carpet threw me off a bit, as well as nerves, and I ended up forgetting my choreography halfway through, improvising some random moves. Heck, I had fun though, and I don’t regret it. If I go next year I think I’d like to try singing!

I was kind of low-key hoping I wouldn’t make it to the finals (which take place on Sunday) because we wanted to head out early and do some shopping and eating before driving back home, and I was in luck(?) because I didn’t manage to make it to the finals, haha.

Honey, Do You Love Me? WHAT HAPPENS AT ANIMETHON STAYS AT ANIMETHON (Except for blog posts, apparently)

Dustin peaced out to the hotel and I headed to my next attraction- I had bought a ticket to the Butler Cafe. I joined a lineup of people waiting and was soon ushered into the Riverview Cafe room. I was alone- my friend wanted to come but the tickets were sold out unfortunately- and I was escorted to a table of strangers. Once everyone was seated it was apparent that we had one extra seat beside me left, so I gave Clara her own seat!

Each table had their own butler assigned with a bell to ring for service. Our butler had a fancy name I can’t remember and horns on his(?) head. He served us tea and choice of dessert (tiramisu or vanilla creme brulee). I opted for the creme brulee, which was very tasty but didn’t have a seared top to crack T-T it was more like a delicious sugary pudding or custard.

For a moment I was wondering if I had spent $16 for a scalding cup of tea and a dollop of pudding, but then the head butler went up onto a stage to introduce himself and the other butlers, and I realized that there was going to be some theatrics involved. Everyone at each table was given a slip of paper with a dare on it. They could issue these dares to the butlers as they pleased.

A wild hour ensued with butlers embarassing eachother, professing their love to eachother, performing kabe-don, singing on the stage, and other shenanigans.

While my butler was at our table fulfilling someone’s dare to draw her a picture, I asked if I could use my dare ticket: Your Butler must play “Honey, If You Love Me” with another Butler of your choosing.

“Honey, If You Love Me” is a game where one person gets in the face of the other and tries any trick they can to get them to smile while saying “Honey, if you love me, won’t you please, please smile?”. In my drama classes in high school, this usually involved silly voices and flirtatious gestures.

I chose Haru (the only name I remembered from the introductions). Our butler called him over and showed him my ticket, saying “She chose you”. Haru either misunderstood or chose to ignore the part where he was supposed to play the game with my table’s butler, and instead he came to face me.

“Oh, so you want to play with me?”

I stammered “wha- um, with me? Isn’t it- with the But- My Butler- I was not prepared for this…” I could hear the members of my table giggling behind me.

My butler decided it was more fun to watch Haru play with me instead, and allowed him to proceed. He got down on one knee in front of me where I was sitting in my chair, took my hand, and said “Honey, if you love me, won’t you please smile?” I summoned up the skills I had practiced in drama class more than 10 years ago and maintained a flat, resting bitch face, but then he leaned in and pressed his cheek against mine for just a second, and I looked away, blushing and smiling.

Yeah, he won. I was never good at that game…

When I went back to the hotel later that night I told my husband what happened and he teased me for “cheating on him with a butler” 😉

I Didn’t Make it To The Finals So I Guess I’ll Go To The Concerts

I got the email saying who got into the Take The Stage Finals, and I didn’t make it, which meant we’d be able to sleep in a bit and wouldn’t have to rush around the next day. As such, I decided to make the most of it and check out the concerts of the night. I headed once more to the concert hall still in full cosplay with my giant Clara plushie clutched in front of me.

Kanako Ito was first- she is a singer known for her work on visual novels, including Steins Gate, which I am a fan of! She was so cool on stage with her flowing dress, sunhat, and powerful voice.

Soon after, ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D came out and performed a full concert for us. They are so cool! I was especially taken with the bassist Ryota who was closest to where I was standing- headbanging and swinging his hair around wildly, aiming his bass at us like it was a machinegun. They really got the audience going, clapping, jumping- I got a good workout, and since I had Clara waved her tentacles in time with the music and raised her into the air while cheering after each song.

When the concerts were over I rushed back into the hall to get autographs. I bought a ROOKiEZ towel to be signed, and I used my basic Japanese to tell the band that the concert was really fun and that they spoke great English (because the lead singer had been apologizing for his lack of English, but he spoke very well!). They were very kind and thankful.

Kanako Ito signed my pass for me, and she was so sweet. I told her that I really enjoyed her singing, and she complimented my Japanese, then I complimented her English and she said 本当に!? HONTOU NI!? ありがと arigato! (REALLY!? Thank you!)

I staggered back to the hotel a sweaty mess, wig askew. I hastily changed into my nightgown (throwing my cosplay every which way), washed my face, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed sooooo ready to sleep.

It Ain’t A Trip To Edmonton Until I Get My Crepe

We checked out of our hotel and headed to West Edmonton Mall to do some quick shopping. Because we had spent most of the weekend eating complimentary hotel cheese and granola bars, I had one mission first and foremost: Get a crepe from Crepeworks. This has been my tradition at West Ed since I was a teen. I usually opt for the strawberry or blueberry options, but this time I chose a simple Custard Delight. Soooo gooood.

Satisfied after the custardy goodness, I did some speed walking, skirting and dodging the annoyingly slow and spread-out families and couples who were browsing at a snails pace and simultaneously blocking the walking path- in these situations I can’t help but quietly call to mind Ludacris’ “MOVE B*TCH, GET OUT THE WAYYYY, GET OUT THE WAY B*TCH GET OUT THE WAYyyyy”! I’d never say something like that out loud, but we don’t go to Edmonton that often, so when I have some shopping to do it’s SERIOUS BUSINESS, OK!?

I mainly did some shopping at Oomomo, the new Japanese store where most items are $3. They have these really great acrylics that I love for raising my figurines in their case, and for displaying items at craft shows.

After the mall we stopped at another of our usual spots- New Indian Village (formerly New Asian Village)- they have an amazing buffet spread with curries, naan, spring rolls, salads, chicken, all kinds of stuff. I also love their desserts, like gulab jamun, kheer, and jalebi.

Lastly, we visited the new Miniso for the first time. It’s super cool! Dustin loved the fun tech accessories they have, while I lost my mind over the super cute plushies and beverage containers.

We drove back home singing to rock ballads most of the way. It was a fun little weekend trip!

An Open Letter to Joel Tucker

( I have also emailed this letter to Mr. Tucker through the Washington County Library System )

Hello Mr. Tucker,

I am a library worker and future librarian, and I am writing to ask you to please reconsider your censorship of LGBTQ+ displays and buttons in Washington County libraries.

I understand that Southern Utah is a place where LGBTQ+ materials cause controversy.
However, that is all the MORE reason why it is important to have these materials visibly available.

Having displays on a theme or topic facilitates learning and discussion. Having a display on something doesn’t mean you “promote” that sort of book- but even if it did, the only thing you’d be “promoting” in this case is the acceptance, inclusion, respect, and understanding of LGBTQ people and communities. It shouldn’t be a “point of view” that LGBTQ people should be respected and treated as people rather than as controversial topics that should be hidden away in the stacks away from public view.

The mission statement for Washington County Libraries explicitly states that censorship is not tolerated and that you provide open, non-judgmental access to materials, but asking staff to take down a display is a form of censorship as it is a conscious act that will reduce the number of patrons who come into contact with those materials.

I respectfully ask that you please reflect on your policies and procedures and consider reaching out to LGBTQ+ groups for information and support in building a more welcoming and inclusive library system.

Sex-Ed For All! A List of Suggested Titles

As a follow up to my previous post about the unfortunate recent repeal of the new sexual education curriculum in Ontario, I’ve put together a list of some suggested titles that teachers, librarians, parents and guardians might want to consider having on hand to help fill the gaps in the old 1998 curriculum (such as consent, personal and online safety, properly naming body parts, respecting differences, sexual orientation, gender identity, and healthy relationships, to name a few).

*Note: I have not read all of these cover to cover- these are resources I’ve found in my library and online. These titles will surely all have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of the diversity, content, detail, and perspectives they provide.

 

For younger readers:

Those are MY Private Parts by Diane Hansen and Charlotte Hansen

Who Has What? by Robie H. Harris and Nadine Bernard Wescott

Amazing You! Getting smart about your private parts by Dr. Gail Saltz and Lynne Cravath

Changing You! by Dr. Gail Saltz and Lynne Avril Cravath

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth

My body belongs to me by Jill Starishevsky and Angela Padron

Growing Up Inside and Out by Kira Vermond and Carl Chin

 

For Older Readers

S.E.X.- The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties by Heather Corrina

Sex: an Uncensored Introduction by Nikol Hasler

Does This Happen to Everyone? A Budding Adult’s Guide to Puberty by Jan von Holleben and Antje Helms

 

Doing it Right: Making Smart, Safe, and Satisfying Choices about Sex by Bronwen Pardes

 

Girl: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Karen Rayne, PhD

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Body Drama by Nancy Amanda Redd

The Little Black Book for Girlz: a Book on Healthy Sexuality by St. Stephen’s Community House

The Little Black Book for Guys: Guys Talk About Sex by St. Stephen’s Community House

What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis, Joseph Wilkins, and Thalia Wallis

 

Care about your kids? Canada, Let’s Talk About Sex-Ed

In 2015, the year I graduated with my Bachelor of Education, a new sex-ed curriculum was introduced. It is a heavily updated version, the result of a lengthy consultation process involving child development experts, educators, police, and thousands of parents. It provides health information for students that is scientific and unbiased. It is inclusive and consent based.

Some infuriating news is emerging from Ontario right now as Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced that the new Ford government has made good on campaign promises to set sex-ed back 20 years to a curriculum that is so far removed from the realities of 2018 as to be an absolute embarrassment.

HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME

Fellow Canadians, remember 1998? The year of our insane ice storm that encased cars in ice, devastated power lines, ripped trees from their roots, and formed icicles as tall as your house?

Yeah, you know, 1998, when

  • Windows 98 was released by Microsoft
  • Titanic and A Bug’s Life hit the theatres
  • Pokemon Red and Blue were released in North America
  • Furby was the most anticipated Christmas gift

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Yes, that’s when the former health curriculum was made- a time before wifi and camera phones. It was a time when cyber-bullying and sexting weren’t even on our radar, and neither were visible, meaningful discussions about consent.

I’ve seen protesters, opponents of the 2015 sex ed curriculum, holding posters saying “Say NO to irresponsible sex ed”. You know what was irresponsible? Using the 1998 curriculum for so long when it was so far behind the times.

I get it, talking about sex makes some people uncomfortable. Guess what folks, that’s WHY we need comprehensive and factual sex ed in our schools. Real sex-ed saves lives.

If you think it’s solely the responsibility of parents to discuss sex, do you trust that all OTHER parents are teaching THEIR kids about respect, consent, sexting, cyber-bullying, and sexual violence? If you read the news regularly, you know this isn’t the case, and kids suffer for it. Sometimes they die because of it.

Kids are going to learn about sex before they are adults, and not just from their schools or parents. Most grade 8 students have seen their fair share of hardcore pornography.  This is reality. Is this how we want our kids to learn about sex?

We need to acknowledge the importance of all kids receiving a proper health and sex education that will prepare them for the world.

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TOO MUCH TOO SOON?

There are tons of myths floating around about the new curriculum that make it sound like some pretty “explicit” stuff will be taught to young elementary school kids, but it’s simply not true. For example, consent is examined at a young age as a concept (as in “you can say no if someone asks you do to something that makes you uncomfortable”) but it is not framed in the context of sex for that age group.

For that matter, don’t believe the myth that engaging critically and matter-of-factly about sex is going to make your kids want to start trying things with themselves or others (the opposite is true). 

Kids are going to learn bits and pieces from all over the place- a solid sex ed curriculum in public schools ensures that they get accurate FACTS. Education is the best form of protection there is.

SO, WHAT IS IN THE CURRICULUM?

The 2015 curriculum is equipped for fostering safety and empowerment in students by introducing the following concepts at developmentally appropriate times from K-12:

  • Learning about the proper names of body parts, which child-abuse educators urged would empower kids to speak up about violence and abuse
  • Personal and online safety, including cyber-bulling and sexting
  • Respecting differences, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (recognizing that respecting these differences is enshrined in Canadian law )
  • Healthy relationships, respect, identity, sexuality

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For those who disagree with the updated curriculum, you have the option of pulling your kid from health classes if you like. That is your choice. Heck, you can even withdraw your kids from public school completely and homeschool them. Unfortunately, instead the “Progressive” Conservatives are regressing the curriculum for the entire student body.

Now teachers are left in the uncomfortable position of having to alter their plans toward a curriculum that is clearly not in the best interests of the students.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Some teachers are firmly refusing to revert back to the old 1998 curriculum, and in doing so are taking a stand against this ignorant knee-jerk decision. One inspiring sexuality educator in Toronto, Nadine Thornhill, is creating a video project to ensure the 2015 curriculum is still accessible to anyone who wants to access it.

Just as some educators refused to address parts of the new curriculum when it was implemented in 2016, so too other educators will now surely elaborate on topics in the classroom as they see fit regardless of the current regression to the 1998 curriculum.

I hope that school and public libraries will also increase the visibility and accessibility of titles that address consent, comprehensive sexual education, gender identity, gender expression, LGBTQ+, and online safety.

Soon I will post a blog post with recommendations of book titles on these topics.

 

 

Response to “What’s in the children’s section of YOUR library?”

The Library Think Tank group on FB recently posted a link to a video from a woman (some sort of lifestyle vlogger, I think) who has some pretty strong views on library materials and programs.

I won’t post her video here, but it is called “What’s in the children’s section of YOUR library?”

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The woman lives in the US, but I saw some Canadians responding in her comment section too. As a Canadian who has a Bachelor of Education, who has been working in a public library for over 7 years, and who will beginning my Master of Library and Information Studies program in the fall, I’d like to respond with my thoughts on some of the comments made in this woman’s passionate rant video.

 

“For a long time I took my kids to the library every week. I want my kids to read. I want them to develop a love of reading”

That’s wonderful. I wish more families would visit the library regularly.

 

“I brought my kid here because I thought we were going to read something like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel but that’s not what’s happening here. (They’re) trying to indoctrinate your kids”

“they read a story about a little boy who thought he was a girl…”

“the least you can do is tell parents hey, this story is pushing an agenda.”

It is unfortunate that you thought the story-time was not acceptable for your kids, but many other parents value diverse stories and want their kids to learn about families, children, and people who are different from them. Reading about people who are different than you is one of the best ways to develop empathy.

The only agenda being pushed here is a reflection of realitybased on the life experiences of many kids and people in this world. Whether you are comfortable with it or not, the library is for everyone, not just you. 

 

 “Drag queens are public libraries newest storytellers… when did it become the responsibility of the library to bring cross-dressers in to read stories to our children? I’d really love to know… this is not why we bring our kids to the library. We bring them… so they can improve their reading skills”

“Stop bringing drag queens into our library!”

As long as we live in a world where marginalized people are discriminated against, bullied, harassed, assaulted and denied equal rights in society, libraries have a responsibility to give these people voices and to make every effort to enlighten the general public that people who are different than you are not some faceless “other” to fear.

LGBTQ+ people face bullying, hate crimes, discrimination, and violence- even execution- just for being themselves.

We cannot hope to face discrimination, bullying and violence against LGBTQ+ people without making efforts to change the culture that promotes these actions in the first place. 

If you aren’t comfortable attending a Drag Queen Story Time, it’s simple- don’t go. Walk away. It’s your choice. Don’t try to take away the choice from others.

 

 “THIS IS NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP. THIS IS ABOUT Y’ALL PUSHING STUFF ONTO OUR CHILDREN. COULD YOU JUST STOP ALREADY?”

“These are books with profanities, about sexual violence, suicide, transgenderism, homosexuality… suicide… hey, we love you library, but could you just not bring this stuff up to my kids?”

“I don’t care if you carry this stuff in your library, but the least you can do is make a section for it so that parents know what their children are reading”

“put it under gay and lesbian studies. Put it under transgenderism”

What you are advocating here IS a form of censorship.

Censorship doesn’t just mean outright banning of books, withdrawing them from the library system. Restricting certain titles and making an effort to hide them away or make them less accessible is an act of censorship. 

The library doesn’t push content on you. They provide a wide variety of materials- libraries have something for everyone. Our collections are ever-growing to reflect the diversity of our communities and our world, and to highlight a variety of perspectives on any given subject.

Libraries strive to give access to information. Again, if you want to censor what your child has access to, that’s on YOU as the parent. 

LGBTQ+ people are more than their chosen labels, or the labels we assign them. They are people with hopes, dreams, hobbies, and interests just like you. It is important that they have representation in stories because, as mentioned above, they face bullying, harassment and violence just because their identity isn’t understood. If the only people reading books with LGBTQ+ characters are those who are specifically seeking out LGBTQ+ reads, then the general public is missing out on a chance to read about someone different than themselves, and to develop empathy and acceptance. 

Furthermore, if we censored every title that someone didn’t like, there would be nothing left in the library! Censorship isn’t the answer.

Yes, some books contain content that is violent, profane, explicit, upsetting. Life also contains these things, unfortunately, no matter how safe we try to be. How can we learn about and discuss these topics if we can’t even read about them?

If you want to censor what your family sees, reads, and takes part in, that’s your choice as a parent, but that’s on YOU, not the library.

You want to bring your kids in to improve their reading skills, but that’s only one purpose of a library. Libraries are also places of programming, community, and tons more.

Please don’t boycott your library because it provides titles or programming that you do not appreciate. Talk to your library staff and librarians- I’m sure they can help you access many things that you WILL enjoy without restricting the access of others to content OTHERS might enjoy.