In 2020, while many were reeling from the pandemic of COVID-19, we saw something that many of us always knew existed but didn’t always see. Uprisings sweep across the nation addressing anti-Black racism, police violence, colonialism, and Indigenous sovereignty. Previously, some may have thought of these issues as mutually exclusive, separated by race and communities, yet youth across Turtle Island showed us otherwise. They showed us that Black and Indigenous solidarity is alive and thriving even during our hardest times.
From Black History Month events taking place at the B.C. Legislative protests in Victoria to Black Lives Matter rallies happening on reserves, CRE watched as time and time again, racialized communities stood up and supported each other through not only a crisis of health but also crises of health and sovereignty. We recognized that the work of reconciliation reached beyond just that of reconciling with the settler-colonial state. That the act of reconciliation more often than not, needs to be done between racialized communities as well. So in this conversation, where did that leave us as an organization? It left us with an opportunity to create a space that could further foster these conversations.
We turned to our staff who lived in the intersection of these identities, and through collaboration with others, created the Black and Indigenous Solidarity Program. Geared toward Black and Indigenous youth across Turtle Island, the program looked to use art to highlight the kinship and connection between these two communities. Through this program, they would be given the tools and resources to create art that explored this relationship. And in turn, we would all create an art show to highlight what had been learned or discovered within our communities.
The Stories They Don’t Tell allows you to witness the journey these youth artists have gone on. Through film, painting, photography, and tattooing, the Black Indigenous Solidarity youth participants allow you to explore a conversation that has been happening on these lands for centuries. CRE hopes that through this art show, you will begin the conversation with us and others.
Because this is just the beginning.
Artist Profile: Dahlila Charlie
My Name is Dahlila Charlie my pronouns are she/her, and I am a Coast Salish artist from Victoria, BC. I grew up surrounded by artistic and creative people which has inspired me to become an artist myself.
The type of artwork I like to create I draw from stories, myths, and cultural teachings that incorporate Coast Salish form line with nature and realism in acrylic paint medium. Painting has always been a passion of mine I started out learning how to paint in high school and became involved in murals in Victoria, and have continued learning from mentors and self-taught techniques.
Through my artwork, I can connect to my roots as an Indigenous woman and use it as a way to share my thoughts and ideas to
evolve an artist.
I had a hard time brainstorming ideas when I thought about this project. Because I am still
researching and learning about Black Indigenous Solidarity and then I had an epiphany about doing a Pheonix because a Pheonix “is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again,” I also feel like it symbolizes strength and that even though Black Indigenous people have suffered from genocide, and oppression, and enslavement we still
survived and are strong and resilient people.
Doing a project like this one has forced me to open up and push myself in my artwork because I do consider myself an emerging artist, still learning and participating in programs like the Black Indigenous Solidarity program. I am used to creating personal art, rather than art with political themes, so participating in a program like this has helped me realize that I have a voice, and my voice matters.
Artist Profile: Desiree Givens
Desiree Givens (she/her/hers) is a videographer from the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet) First Nation. Her ancestry is African-American on her father’s side and Nuu-chah-nulth on her mother’s side. She grew up in Washington state and is currently residing in Victoria, BC on the traditional and unceded territories of the Lək̓ʷəŋən Peoples, including the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations.
Desiree works full-time as a Community Planner and believes that film is a strong tool for building community and storytelling. While in university, she learned the basics of film production and gained experience working collaboratively with different production teams to create short films that highlighted the experiences and stories of Indigenous communities.
Desiree’s project was inspired by her desire to increase the representation of Black-Indigenous people within film. She has consistently struggled with her identity throughout her life, sometimes feeling as though she does not belong within either Black or Indigenous communities. The lack of representation of Black-Indigenous people in the media has amplified feelings of exclusion and isolation. However, Desiree recently discovered a Black-Indigenous community through TikTok, and was excited to learn that there are many other folks across Turtle Island experiencing similar struggles. In December 2020, she put out a call to this community, as well as her personal network, to identify individuals who might be interested in sharing their story as part of a short film. This project explores these stories and seeks to shed light on the unique barriers faced by Black-Indigenous people in North America, and considers an opportunity for Black and Indigenous communities to come together in solidarity against oppressive systems that have historically sought to divide them.
Artist Profile: Shar
My name is Shar and I am a traditional hand-poke tattoo artist. I am a first-generation resident of Turtle Island, of African descent, by way of the trans-Atlantic slave trade through Jamaica. Art has always been a very significant medium of expression in my family: painting, music, baking, sewing, knitting… and for a long time, I felt like my artistic skills had escaped me. I had received many tattoos before I first picked up the needle, and started my journey out of necessity – I was living in a small town where the only tattoo shop was owned by white men.
Exploring the history of tattooing as a form of body modification helped me dive deeper into my practice, as I realized that hand-poked tattoos are not just something college kids do in a dusty basement. In my practice, I strive to provide BIPOC clients with a safe and welcoming ritual experience of creating a work of art that represents who they are, while capturing the nuances of their diverse cultural backgrounds. I have been able to research ancient body modification styles from cultures around the world and work to develop a design that is representative of a person’s heritage.
All of my work is done by hand (machine-free), with sterilized and individually-packaged needle clusters. The process of hand-poking tattoos takes much longer than modern machine work, and creates an intimate environment, as I have time to connect with the recipient. People may choose to bring items for smoke cleansing, ancestral offerings, or other things of significance.
This series, Black Ink on Dark Skin, focuses on West-African inspired pieces for children of the Diaspora. A nod to our decorated ancestors. Homage to the intricate designs of the past. A reminder of where we come from and the strength that we possess to keep moving forward.
Special thanks to CRE for providing this opportunity, and to Tee (@iamnatteetattoos) for supporting me with mentorship and resources through this process.
Artist Profile: Elsa Mondésir Villefort
Watch on Instagram here
Elsa Mondésir Villefort (she/her/elle) @fabielsah
“Je suis née et j’ai grandi sur le territoire non cédé communément appelé Montréal. Je suis originaire d’Haïti, mes parents sont venus dans les années 80s d’Haïti pour s’installer au Quebec. “
“I was born and raised on the unceded territory commonly referred to as Montreal. I’m originally from Haiti, my parents came in the 80s from Haiti to settle in Quebec.
For my participation in this project Black Indigenous Youth Creative Solidarity [ ], I am very happy to participate because I think I am ready. The time is now to learn more about Indigenous issues.
I want to address the issue of immigration. When immigrant people arrive on unceded territory, what does that mean? What does it mean to arrive on a territory that doesn’t belong to us? “
Read English here
Elsa holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a specialization in Political Science. She is involved with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO as a member of the Expert Group Against Racism in Education and the Youth Advisory Group, as well as a governor of the 1804 Hooked on School Retention Fund.
In recent years, she has also specialized in working with many marginalized groups, both here and internationally, working on public education in human rights and the promotion of international solidarity among youth. Elsa currently develops and facilitates training and accompanies organizations as well as groups of young people under 35 years of age throughout Quebec who wish to take action and bring about lasting change in their communities. Radio show animation, podcast production and photo essays are the means she currently chooses to express herself and make her voice heard, because she refuses to remain silent.
Détentrice d’un baccalauréat en études internationales spécialisé en science politique, Elsa s’implique auprès de la Commission canadienne pour l’UNESCO à titre de membre du Groupe d’expert.e contre le racisme en éducation et du Groupe consultatif jeunesse en plus d’être gouverneure au Fonds 1804 pour la persévérance scolaire.
Dans les dernières années, elle s’est également spécialisée dans l’intervention auprès de nombreux groupes marginalisés, autant ici qu’à l’international en travaillant au niveau de l’éducation du public en matière de droits humains ainsi qu’à la promotion de la solidarité internationale chez les jeunes. Elsa développe et anime présentement des formations en plus d’accompagner des organisations ainsi que des groupes de jeunes de moins de 35 ans à travers le Québec qui souhaitent se mettre en action et amener des changements durables dans leurs communautés. L’animation d’émissions de radio, la production de podcast et la réalisation d’essais photographiques sont les moyens qu’elle choisit présentement pour s’exprimer et faire entendre sa voix, car elle refuse de se taire.
Pourquoi cette œuvre est incomplète : Les photos de Taïsha ainsi que l’enregistrement de son entrevue ont été faits via Zoom. La distance et l’instabilité de la connexion internet illustrent les obstacles et le travail encore nécessaire pour connecter les narratifs noirs et autochtones. En tant qu’artiste, j’ai beaucoup à apprendre et à explorer. Cette œuvre est une première étape, une introduction. En tant que personne s’identifiant comme une femme noire, il était facile pour moi d’avoir une proximité avec Marina, de la rencontrer et de la prendre en photo. Le travail est encore à faire, les photos floues doivent devenir plus nettes, le grain se transformer en clarté. Le chemin vers la déconstruction peut être long, mais je ne pense pas qu’il faille se laisser limiter par 528km.
Taïsha est une jeune de la Nation Anicinabek du Lac Simon qui vit présentement à Val d’or. Marina est une jeune réfugiée climatique née en Haïti qui vit présentement à Tiohtià:ke, aussi connu sous le nom de Montréal. Elles ont accepté de nous partager leurs réflexions sur les questions entourant les réalités noires et autochtones. Les entrevues ayant été conduites séparément, Taïsha et Marina ne se sont jamais rencontrées et n’ont
jamais entendu ces enregistrements. 528 km les sépare et leurs parcours est loin d’être similaire. Pourtant, ces courts extraits démontrent que, malgré la distance, leurs récits trouvent un moyen de se rencontrer.
Read English here
Taïsha’s photos and the recording of her interview were taken via Zoom. The distance and instability of the internet connection illustrate the obstacles and the work still needed to connect Black and Indigenous narratives. As an artist, I have much to learn and explore. This work is a first step, an introduction. As a person identifying herself as a Black woman, it was easy for me to get close to Marina, to meet her, and to take her picture. The work is still to be done, the blurred photos need to become sharper, the grain to turn into clarity. The road to deconstruction may be long, but I don’t think we should be limited by 528km. Taïsha is a youth from the Anicinabek Nation of Lac Simon who currently lives in Val D’or. Marina is a young Haitian-born climate refugee currently living in Tiohtià:ke, also known as Montreal. They have agreed to share their reflections on the issues surrounding Black and indigenous realities. As the interviews were conducted separately, Taïsha and Marina never met and have never met each other. never heard these recordings. 528 km separates them and their course is far from being similar. Yet, these short excerpts show that, despite the distance, their stories find a way to meet each other.
Gratitude to Mentors and Speakers
Many thanks to the mentors and speakers of the Black Indigenous Solidarity Initiative!
- Adeline Bird
- Kelly Duquette
- Thomarya Fergus
- Nenookaasi Ogichidaa
- Brianna Roye
- Kosisochukwu Nnebe
- Victoria Redsun
- Thane Robyn
- Camille Turner
The illustrations featured in the header and on the promotional materials for this project were commissioned from kaya joan.