CARE Microgrants: Round 1

Community Projects, hUManities Blog

“I hope this email finds you well” was once a quotidian greeting. It was quickly overlooked, a protocol to indicate courtesy before attending to the predictable, routine orders of the day– going to work, school, meetings and such. Now, “I hope this email finds you well” is often followed by “in these strange times” or some other phrase indicating the anxiety we collectively feel.

The CARE Microgrant project conducted in collaboration with QPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color–Winnipeg) came about as a means to address collective feelings of isolation, frustration, and loneliness our communities felt in the early stages of Covid lockdown. Routine, daily activities as we knew them shifted and very quickly the pandemic lead to the loss of jobs, livelihoods and connections with people. This project was executed to support, in a small way, the artistic expression of students and community members so that they could reflect upon, work through and contribute to this moment. As a public humanities endeavour, this project aimed to showcase the creative research activities of our communities that exist beyond the classroom and the campus. We provided swift financial support ($300.00) for small creative project proposals influenced by the humanities. Jury members consisted of representatives from QPOC and UMIH staff, board members, and undergraduate student interns.

We reached out to students and community members and asked them to contemplate the multiple layers of “care”: care for ourselves, caring about those around us and our environment, being careful and considerate. Through two rounds of funding in the spring and summer of 2020, we received stunning and heartfelt projects, diverse in medium and subject matter, that addressed themes relating to place, culture, mental health, love, and queerness. In solidarity with our community partners, we have highlighted QTBIPOC perspectives and stories that focus on exploring gender, race and Indigenous knowledge. A third round has been curated with MAWA taking the helm in the fall of 2020.

This project also fostered an avenue for research, collaboration and learning from and alongside other humanities and arts institutes. We owe gratitude to the Shelter projects at the Center for Humanities and the Arts (University of Colorado, Boulder) and the Wilson Centre for Humanities and Arts (University of Georgia), and Forecast Public Art (St. Paul, MN) for serving as points of reference and inspiration.

We hope indeed that these projects find you well and resonate with you wherever you are–sharing, connecting and virtually being with us from the scroll-through of a digital device.

Award Recipients Round 1 :

Linda Diffey

My project is a reflection of what it has meant to experience the impacts of self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic with my mother, a First Nations elder who lives with me.   Sheltering in place with her has provided an opportunity to learn about her experiences with quarantine as a child on the reserve, and to hear her reflections on health care as one of the first First Nations nurses trained in Manitoba.  At the same time, I am working on my doctoral thesis, which focuses on racism and health education.  I have recently taken up beadwork as a means of reconnecting to my culture, and also as a way of coping with the difficult content of my thesis and the challenges of dealing with the pandemic.  This project is a convergence between oral history, Indigenous resurgence, and the shared experience of my mother and I as we learned to deal with the many lost connections that have emerged as a result of COVID-19.  

For this project, I translated the stories, experiences, and lessons from the time spent with my mother in isolation into a beaded art piece.  The piece is informed by the Indigenous traditions of storytelling and grounded in an Indigenous worldview.  Just as the stories depicted represent both historic and contemporary experiences, the beaded work draws from both traditional and contemporary forms of beadwork in its design.

The form I chose for this piece is a kaleidocycle, comprised of six tetrahedra that are connected in a ring that can be twisted inwards and outwards to expose the different faces of the tetrahedra.  I used the different faces to depict the four stories/themes, and these are interconnected on the kaleidocycle to form a complete visual narrative.

Adriana Alarcon

Adriana Alarcón is an artist living on Treaty 1 territory. A first-generation immigrant from Guatemala of complex identities. Alarcón is Latinx, cis-gender, queer and living with a disability. As a Mestiza woman, she recognizes Maya K’ekchi’ and Spanish ancestry (though no direct claim to the Indigenous community). These identities guide her work that explores dialectics and examines coexisting contradictions in everyday life. Adriana incorporates cultural craft traditions and ancestral knowledge with contemporary narratives using fibre crafts, such as knitting, crochet, embroidery, beading and weaving. Alarcón has a bachelor’s degree from York University in Cultural Studies. She has combined her art practice with arts administration in Toronto and Winnipeg working at artist-run centres such as Space, CARFAC Ontario, Craft Action TO and MAWA. 

Azka Ahmed

Today, a short film by Azka Ahmed.
Azka (she/they) is a queer first-generation South-Asian interdisciplinary artist. Their practice explores concepts of healing, identity, and diaspora through evocative mediums such as film and spoken word. She has been published twice with the Poetry Institute of Canada and has represented Manitoba at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam. Azka has performed at Brandon Festival of the Arts, UMCRAFT’s Slamming the Patriarchy Poetry Slam and had their work on display at the University of Manitoba’s Gallery of Student Art. Azka is a strong believer in the importance of practising vulnerability and continuous compassion, she hopes that their work inspires others to form deeper, more meaningful connections with themselves and those around them.
Project description:
“Today” follows an individual trying to navigate their day amidst the constant media reminders of the present state of the world. This film touches on how performing small actions to care for oneself can help alleviate these feelings. “Today” explores mental health through feelings of stress, paranoia, and anxiety brought upon by the overwhelming day-to-day reality we are living in while touching on topics such as the impact of media consumption, self-care, mindfulness, and checking in with yourself and those around you. “Today” brings hope for a better tomorrow.

Bonique Dawiskiba

How old were you (when White Supremacy first touched you?)

White Supremacy greets me at the front door every Sunday,
inviting me in,
reminding me how big I am for a girl my age,
“but black girls are just bigger I guess,”
sighing, bringing me something to eat. (five)
White Supremacy touches my hair,
strange fingers twirl around my curls,
reminding me how much money women pay for hair like mine,
reminding me how grown up I look for a girl my age,
reminding me how “other girls don’t usually like stuff like this, but
it’s different, you’re black.” (seven)
White Supremacy is 4 years older than me, but wants me anyways;
takes me to steal slurpees and candy, then
takes me into the basement, turns the lights down low
and reminds me how seductive Power really is. (eight)

As a Black/mixed Lesbian Woman living in Treaty One territory
Winnipeg MB, I’ve used the visual art of collage, and a quotation from
Audre Lorde’s biomythography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, to explore
the harm and lasting imprint White Supremacy/Power inflicts.
As COVID 19 forced social isolation, it also forced a period of self-
The healing and care that bolsters and is borne of intensive
is powerful and becomes the healing and care that fuels confronting
the parts of us White Supremacy/Power has touched.
When did someone first touch your body, your mind, your heart, your
hopes and dreams, with the seductive lies and painful reality of White
When, as a BIPOC person, were you told you weren’t enough and less than
and harmed for that? When, and why, as a non BIPOC person, did you feel
enough power and right over harming BIPOC people and culture?  

Ominous Whisperer

The Shadows of Eurocentric Beauty Standards by Ominous Whisperer:

Where do I start in the unfairness of standards
of beauty so lost in unparalleled graveyards
Where ghosts are kings and their paleness pandered buried so deep in the desired guards
Society dreams for me to stay still
As the knife stabs me for the kill
I am dead inside but I still want love
Wherever will I go to find such difficult voyage
I’ve drowned from internal oceans lost from my dove
My features engulfed by the Dead Sea Carnage
I am way too salty for even the saltiest of seas
There in the murkiest of waters can you see my reflection And of the people fleeing from the wide-nosed bees Because the ghosts put me in my own little section Where I am as invisible as a brown bat by bark
And extremity blocks me from masculine right
I am to never leave my mark
To a point where I just want to bite
At these western beauty standards
My fiery burns like the devil’s might

But to my angel light I cry through darkness
As I have this gay dating app
Where I loved myself and knew my beauty
But swift currents changed the melody
Block after block as I revealed my fragile face Where the door would slam to an innocent kitten Where no one wanted my trace

I decided to try wearing someone else’s mitten
The stench enveloping and blinding like mace
Of the standard of beauty in the gay community White, fit, young, tall, and sharp Eurocentric features And to give him pain streaking justice,

Message after message after message after message,
after message,
after message, after message, after message, after message, after message, after message, after message.

My creative project is a poem I made as a Queer Person of Color myself. It showcases in poetic language the inequality I face as a minority in the gay community. It is about my personal experience as a gay Asian man looking for love in a community that sees white males as the ideal gay standard.

In my poem, it tells a story of the use of a specific gay dating app. I traded my phone with my gay white friend who is just average in attractiveness. Despite this, I noticed that he got 70 times more people wanting to talk with him.

I wanted to tell this story to acknowledge what Eurocentric beauty standards generate in “preferences” upon the LGBTQ+ community, especially the gay community. I want to show how it affected my mental health, and how I strive to overcome that and how I do my best to find love against the barriers and struggles QPOC have to go through.

Kai Sparrow

I have taken the theme of care under the lens of caring for our hearts, our inner child, our families and our communities, which to me extends to seeking justice. This body of work encompasses attributes needed to face ourselves, and others to seek the justice we deserve and to find ways to love ourselves in a harsh, unyielding atmosphere of racism and bigotry.

Feather Talia –

Feather Talia
Tightrope Cover
(original by Kelly Clarkson)

This song selection and drag video is an attempt to show my emotions for the people that I care so dearly for. Tightrope, by Kelly Clarkson, is a heartfelt ballad that reminds us to face our challenges, especially when we are so far away from one another. We are all facing challenges with Covid-19, as well as our own personal battles and it’s easy to forget to care for one another or ourselves. 

With this song and video pairing, I wanted to visualize how you can care for your peers, family, and friends, but also ask if someone can care too much? Can we all love each other forever? This is a question I find myself contemplating almost daily, and I wanted to explore that idea by pushing my boundaries of performance through song and video. 

Nicole Jowett

Connect. Disconnect.

By Nicole Jowett
With quote from adrienne maree brown

Near the beginning
You said this was a moment
“to slow and deepen my pace and relationships outside the paradigm of desire”

And so it was

Choosing friends over lovers connection over touch

A new vision of intimacy Emerges

It wasn’t always like this

Repression tying trauma tight within the body Numbness and disconnect
From too much time spent
Not embodying the truth

But I’ve known progress

Healing through understanding and connection Breaking open
Shaking loose
Those things we hold

We hold together

Bike ride chat
Phone chat
In a park chat
Down by the river chat

So many walks

Hangout in the backyard Takeout in the backyard Dance out in the backyard

So many walks

And on those days in the pit You were there on every level When I needed that falling apart To let go

So fuck detachment

We will root by rooting
We will care by caring
We will connect by connecting Our full selves

This poem looks at deep friendship as a way of caring and connecting in a time of uncertainty and isolation. It also considers the impact of queer repression and the development of open and intimate friendships as a way of healing from that trauma.

My thinking during the pandemic has been greatly informed by the work of social justice facilitator Adrienne Maree Brown, particularly her book Pleasure Activism. The book looks at art, creation, and pleasure (including deep friendship) as key but often sidelined ways to sustain social justice work, especially for communities who experience ongoing oppression. Her work is based on a lineage and gathering of ideas that emphasize the voices of queer women/non-binary folks of colour. As a white settler and a queer woman, I recognize there are elements of her work that resonate with me deeply and aspects that are not part of my lived experience. I am grateful to be able to engage with these ideas.

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