Our Bodies, Our Stories: an Interview with Kama La Mackerel

“Your story is valid. Your voice is valid. Your truth is valid.”

Project 10 is an organization that works to promote the personal, social, sexual, and mental well-being of LGBTQT2I and questioning youth and adults 14-25. Our Bodies, Our Stories is an ongoing workshop series for QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) youth in Montreal, put on by Project 10. This upcoming Saturday, February 17th the participants of Our Bodies, Our Stories will be sharing their work at a performance showcase and fundraiser being held at Theatre Saint Catherine.

Media Content Editor Jessica Kinnari, was able to ask Kama La Mackerel, the Project Coordinator and Artistic Director of Project 10, a few questions about the upcoming performance, and what Our Bodies, Our Stories is all about.

Jessica Kinnari: How long have you been working together to produce this upcoming showcase?

Kama La Mackerel: There are two groups in the program: one group that started in the Fall of 2017 and one group that started in the summer of 2017. This showcase features participants who joined the program in July 2017. Over the past few months, we have explored composition, creative writing, character development, performance, delivery etc. both in groups and in solo work. This showcase will feature 8 youth who will be presenting solo work that they have developed over the course of the past few months.

Kinnari: What kind of art and performance can the audience look forward to? Are there any kind of themes for the evening?

La Mackerel: There will be a mix of spoken word, story-telling, movement and music. I believe the unifying theme of the evening will be around the self: the coming into the self, the growing in the self; and that self will be explored through nostalgia, loss, ancestral quests, healing and unapologetic expressions of QTBIPOC voices.

Kinnari: What can QTBIPOC youth expect from this workshop? What are some of the activities you do to help explore different art mediums?

La Mackerel: There are many aspects of growth, healing and connection that are embedded in the core values of this program. The youth can expect to first be in a safe space where they can bear their hearts and bear witness to other QTBIPOC youth with whom they share identities. They can expect to break isolation, to cultivate relationships on a regular and long-term basis with a group of peers. They can expect to learn how to find their voice and how to articulate their voice through artistic practices. They can expect connections with elders in the community, and site visits to see shows, performances and exhibitions that are QT/BIPOC-centered. They can also expect to learn about “hard skills” such as finances, administration, project management, facilitation etc., which are trainings we also give in the program. And they can expect a lot of artistic explorations through creative writing, performance, story-telling, visual arts etc.

Kinnari: You usually cook meals for the weekly meetings. What is important to you about providing food and eating together?

La Mackerel: I believe that food— the making, the sharing— is sacred: it feeds the body, literally, and it feeds the spirit as well. I believe that a lot of healing and relationship-building happens over food: it is important for me to provide a warm meal to these youth as they come to the workshop every week. It is a question of accessibility, but also a way of expressing care. And it is a way for the youth to sit together and eat together and build trust over a meal, on a weekly basis.

Kinnari: What advice do you give to QTBIPOC youth who are feeling more reserved about sharing their art?

La Mackerel: Your story is valid. Your voice is valid. Your truth is valid

Kinnari: What factors stop QTBIPOC youth from accessing workshops like Our Bodies, Our Stories? How has this project overcome those barriers?

La Mackerel: First of all, the opportunities for QTBIPOC youth in and around Montreal to access arts training is close to inexistent. Where such an opportunity may arise, it is very often inaccessible to QTBIPOC youth because of financial barriers, or because the entire program is designed without taking the lived experiences of these youth into account, making the space unsafe for them because of racism or queerphobia.

Our Bodies, Our Stories was created to specifically address the lack of opportunities for QTBIPOC youth in and around Montreal to access these trainings. The program is free, and we offer STM tickets and a warm meal at each workshop so as to make the program as accessible as possible. And the program is specifically designed with QTBIPOC participants in mind.

If you want to support Our Bodies, Our Stories and are interested in attending the showcase, more information can be found here on their website or on the Facebook event page.