RUMINATIONS – Operation: Celebrate Black History Month…

Welcome to the Lakeshore Arts Staff Blog – Ruminations! Due to many, many, (MANY) lively and candid random office discussions that run the gamut from political to pop culture and everything in between, we’ve decided to share our thoughts with you, our online audience. Each month a different staff member will have the spotlight to share their world views, what makes them tick, what’s significant to them, etc….and of course we want to hear what YOU think, so don’t hesitate to comment and provide your feedback. It’s all a part of Lakeshore Arts’ commitment to a healthy workplace: ensuring our staff has a safe space to air their thoughts and encourage open communication and discussion.


Operation: Celebrate Black History Month while Navigating my Place at a “New Table”

Written by Natassia Morris, Operations Manager

Cultural pride and heritage have always played a big, BIG part of my life. Growing up in the arts, my practice has always come from a place of identifying and sharing my Black Caribbean cultural heritage. Easy to do in my “past life” as a dance artist and instructor at one of Canada’s first professional contemporary Black dance companies.

Me - circa 2007 - performing with Ballet Creole at Fleck Dance Theatre

Me – circa 2007 – performing with Ballet Creole at Fleck Dance Theatre

My challenge in the past few months, as I watched the world around me transform socially and politically, was figuring out a way to continue to celebrate and acknowledge something so deeply significant to me in my new position at Lakeshore Arts. Feb 1st crept up on me, and still I had nothing in place. It left me feeling conflicted, unresponsive, and desperate. Surely there was SOMETHING I could do to celebrate BHM in my community. Right?

Luckily I work with an amazing team who recognized my need and desire to do SOMETHING, so when the idea finally came they were all for it. Celebrating Black artistic achievement as it related to Lakeshore Arts, via our online platforms. I reached out to several of our artist members, facilitators, and even a past participant; five of which allowed me to feature them in this initiative. Over the month I had the great honour of profiling these five talented individuals who celebrate their Blackness, as I do, through their artistic practice. Sharing their contribution to Lakeshore Arts and the arts sector as a whole, with our entire online community. They are leaders, change makers, mentors, educators, and visionaries: an OCAD student, a canvas painter, a spoken word artist, a dancer, and a print media artist/pyrographer.

L. to R.: Khadijah Morley, Yaw Tony, Paulina O'Kieffe, Judi Lopez, & Shirley Mpagi

L. to R.: Khadijah Morley, Yaw Tony, Paulina O’Kieffe, Judi Lopez, & Shirley Mpagi

Today, as I completed the final profile for the month, I felt a sense of pride that I was able to at least accomplish this much. As I struggle to find a voice for the intersectionality that is my life: as a Black woman, a Black mother, a Black artist; I allow myself this small satisfaction of providing a voice for these incredible artists [celebrating our small victories is so important as arts workers; why don’t we do it more?…..but that’s a topic for another blog post], and I look forward to envisioning new and creative ways to celebrate this month with my co-workers in the years to come. To the team at Lakeshore Arts, thanks for supporting this out-of-the-blue initiative, you all make it so easy to love this job!

Please check out our featured artist members/facilitators on our NEWS page and visit their websites to find out more about their incredible work!