Rewind to September 2020. I open my email with the subject line, ‘On behalf of Salzburg Global Seminar and the Canada Council for the Arts, we are asking you to participate in the 6th Annual Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators’. I read the subject line five times over in disbelief. Honestly, it crossed my mind that this could be a trick because it felt too good to be true, but I accepted the offer right away. Global Youth Innovator? Let’s do this!
Everyone on the panel for the October 2020 forum were between the ages of 25 and 35 from all over the world. Salzburg Global Forum strives to have a diverse group each year that is balanced in terms of gender, discipline, and geographic representation. Participants are chosen through a competitive application and nomination process. I was in disbelief that I was chosen to take part in this amazing opportunity and give MY perspective of growing up Indigenous and facing the aftermath of attempted genocide on Our People. This was my chance to bring the voice of my People to a global platform and speak about our truths. Below is a photo of all the people chosen from Canada: I was one of two First Nations chosen, along with my YCI sister Emma from Tobique First Nation, New Brunswick representing the East Coast while I represented the West Coast.
I was truly overwhelmed and in awe by the global reach of this forum. We had people from Baltimore, USA; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cape Town, South Africa; Detroit, USA; Manila, Philippines; Nairobi, Kenya; New Orleans, USA; Salzburg, Austria; Tokyo, Japan; and much more.
Each morning for two weeks, I woke up at 4:30am to be online for 5am to join the rest of the worlds time zones, while still being at the Last Door Recovery Centre. I was so thankful for coffee on those early morning calls. We were all able to connect over Zoom (an online video chat system). I was nervous as heck! I would sip my coffee and sip again for a little more courage, and I finally hit enter to log on. My nerves were not necessary as I was greeted with smiles from all over the world. As time progressed, we were able to be a part of a mix of presentations, discussions, workshops and group activities for two weeks. It was an amazing interactive program with really cool break-out sessions held by facilitators.
The team that made this all possible were all very talented at keeping people interactive, enthusiastic and contributing to the discussions. We got to speak about arts, culture, racism in our communities, colonialism, war, COVID-19, our personal loves/likes and feelings. The forum had a wide spectrum of topics that each of us could relate to and give input from our unique perspective.
I had various opportunities to speak on the platform in small groups or even in the large group. I was able to share my story of leaving the Engineering realm to become an artist, some of my art projects and most importantly, I got a chance to speak about the attempted genocide on Our People and the effects it still has on us today. I shared what it was like, and still is like growing up Indigenous in today’s world. I got to paint a picture for people with my voice and show people the truth of what our reality is like here in Canada. I touched on the reality that some of our reserves still don’t have access to clean drinking water, the racism we face from cities and people, the addiction struggles of Our People, the unfair treatment from our own government when we try to protect our lands/water and the devastating effects of residential school our parents suffered. It has always been my dream to bring the voice of my People to a global platform; and it happened. We are still here, and we are thriving. Our People are, and always will be, resilient.
I was even featured in the local Maple Ridge News for being selected on making changes in our world using my art work and reaching a global platform.
Another great thing to come from this opportunity, is that I was able to foster connections and make friends over those global Zoom workshops. I become part of a family of individuals that collectively want to make the world a better place. I found a new home; somewhere I felt connection and belonging. At the end of the conference, there was a talent show. I used this time to share the story of one of my projects “Guardian Spirits” and showcase the type of work I do and love. I shared a short video of the artwork I had created and the trials it took to get to the finished product, including levels of racism. I shared my story with the intent to inspire people worldwide to stand behind their work and trust in themselves. I encourage people to rattle cages and stand up for what they believe in, in order to unleash their talents that deserve to be displayed, heard, and seen. The world is deprived of true creativity and passion, and it is up to us to unleash our crafts to the world. It is our actions and voices to be the movement for the future. Whether you specialize in art, dance, theatre, poetry, or even singing, share it. Share it proudly. Share your passions with the world, because today, the world needs it more than ever.
I was so elated, and still am, that I was able to be part of the Salzburg Global Youth Cultural Innovators Forum. When the forum came to a close, I was pretty sad. I had mixed feelings of happiness knowing we all were changed while already missing my new family.
I also spoke of my experience being in recovery (I celebrated my six months clean and sober on the forum), about being two-spirited/bisexual, deciding to chase my passions rather be in the engineering industry and my Indigenous perspective. I knew I wanted to continue to have these discussions but didn’t know how to do that. I had high hopes for the next years forum to come.
Fast forward to January 2020. I got another email….
This time from the Salzburg Global Forum organizer. It was a request to set aside some time for a discussion about a future opportunity. My heart beat so fast thinking of all possibilities.
We met over Zoom the following Tuesday and I was so happy to see her face again. We caught up and I told her how my art world had been blowing up. I was now eight months clean and sober at the Last Door Centre and how truly happy I was. She then said that they were so touched and moved by the way I spoke and delivered my story during the forum, that they would like to offer me a chance to be a facilitator for the global forum moving forward! I now will have a chance to lead the individuals selected to represent their countries and young global leaders and share my voice to further inspire and move their passions to the forefront of our world. I will have a chance to go to Salzburg Austria this year (COVID-19 dependant) and also Cape Town, Africa next year – where the conference is scheduled to be held. I said I’ll think about it……
Just kidding! I accepted the offer! I am now officially a Global Leader for Innovators and a Facilitator for what I hold close to my heart: the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators. My heart is so full. Stay tuned for many adventures to come!
And thank you for taking the time and reading.
Love you all.