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People who do Good Stuff: Jen Sungshine

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The youth LGBTQ advocate who preaches love and celebrates diversity

SPREADING LOVE AS AN ACTIVIST can be a tricky balance to achieve, especially for those who do in-depth social justice work in a world rife with pain. Addressing injustice through education is emotionally demanding work and can be disheartening. But co-founder of Love Intersections, Jen Sungshine, practices love with intention. Her work focuses on raising public awareness to address racism in the queer community—something she does through conversation, empathy, and patience.

Sungshine and co-conspirator David Ng started Love Intersections as a blog after witnessing racist misconceptions in Vancouver’s queer community. In 2014, the Vancouver School Board was at work crafting its transgender inclusion policy. When a group of Chinese-Canadian parents opposed the policy, many in the white LGBTQ community responded by expressing ideas such as “people of colour are more homophobic.” Sungshine, who’s queer and Taiwanese, realized something needed to shift.

“We really needed to change that stereotype,” she says, “and we really needed to change that narrative.” She decided to put her artistic skills to work and create a visibility campaign. The result was a series of 15 posters displaying queers of various races, backgrounds, genders, and orientations, printed in the languages of those involved, plus English. The large posters were put up mainly in bus shelters across Vancouver in 2015.
And now, this year, Sungshine and Love Intersections will be doing even more. A recently completed online crowdfunder raised over $5,900—enough money to expand the project. Sungshine will help create two more themed campaigns with posters and videos, along with colleagues and volunteers from Love Intersections and partner organization Our City of Colours, another Vancouver group that addresses issues facing LGBTQ people from a variety of linguistic and cultural communities.

She plans on adding between 15–30 new posters to the mix. The plan is to take the project to schools and community centres, and also outside of Vancouver, raising visibility for queer and trans Indigenous people and people of colour (QTIPOC) throughout B.C. and beyond. “We would love to just invite the community to give us ideas on what the next two things can be,” says Sungshine.

Besides serving on Our City of Colour’s board, Sungshine makes art, works as a contract facilitator for Vancouver’s Out in Schools running anti-homophobia and -transphobia workshops in schools, and does communications and outreach with the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. In all of this, her focus remains committed to learning and teaching, and being an example of someone who “calls in” instead of “calling out.” This means that Sungshine prioritizes connection over criticism, and relationship-building over critical politics. But it doesn’t mean she isn’t fiercely passionate about what she does. And she stresses many approaches are valid and needed.

As a facilitator who works mainly with people from very different backgrounds, she regularly faces the challenge of how to talk about social justice issues like gender, race, and sexuality in a language that will make sense to a variety of people. Most often, she says, it’s simply about meeting people where they are, which may seem like a no-brainer, but can be challenging in the sticky and emotionally fraught territories of discussing oppression, particularly one’s own.

“One of my worst nightmares when I facilitate a workshop is to do so with a group of activists who are all on the same page,” she says. “Once you get folks who are different, there’s tension. And for me as a facilitator, tension is gold.” Out of that tension emerges possibility—and out of conflict, comes possible change in people’s perspectives, she adds.

“Seeing the world through a lens of love has really allowed me to connect with people I never would have connected with without it. I think it’s very easy to be very negative, or to be critical.” Sungshine believes by putting care and empathy into the world, she gets to see others shine—and to be inspired and inspire in turn. Her work is healing her as a person of colour, as a woman, as a queer woman, and as a femme. “It’s people who are the driving force of the work. Social agents of change—they’re like superheroes or something.”

Check out loveintersections.com to see posters and videos from the project and learn more.

 

First published in the Jan/Feb issue of This Magazine

https://this.org/2016/01/08/the-people-do-good-stuff-issue-jen-sungshine/

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 13, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Questionable Sex Ed: What’s being taught in Manitoba’s schools

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http://outwords.ca/2014/issue-december-january-2014-15/questionable-sex-ed/

Promoting abstinence in sex education is what Candace Maxymowich, a Winnipeg public school board trustee candidate, did during her campaign, before she lost by a wide margin in October’s election. But her discussion on infusing the value of Christian-style abstinence into education begs the question: what are kids learning in sex ed in Winnipeg’s schools, and are they learning anything about same-sex and trans issues?

Among all of Winnipeg’s school divisions—some more progressive when it comes to sex ed than others—curriculum is mandated by the province. The physical education and health curriculum are the sections that apply to sex ed. The province’s website details a framework on how schools are to deal with “potentially sensitive content,” of which sex ed is a part.

Requiring a planning process that includes parental involvement, school divisions make independent decisions about sex ed, including content, how it is taught, how it’s graded and what resources are used to teach it. Not teaching it at all is an option, as the framework gives school divisions the power to decide how much depth and breadth to give the topic. There is also an opt-out for parents who’d like their children to learn the subject by another means if they disagree with what the school’s doing.

Winnipeg’s schools are many, and range from Dakota Collegiate, which is hosting an upcoming national gay-straight alliance conference in May, to others that have faced controversies over Bill 18 and over transgender students.

When it comes to sex education, what is being taught varies widely as well.

“It’s division-to-division on what kind of language they use,” says Roselle Paulsen, program director at Winnipeg’s Sexuality Education Resource Centre (SERC). She was consulted on the health curriculum when it was created and published in 2000. “There are different approaches to how people interpret the student learning outcomes. So if you see a word like ‘diversity,’ or those kinds of things, people are going to interpret them differently.”

Paulsen points to a couple of examples in the curriculum. The first, a learning outcome for Grade 7, tells teachers to “identify effects of social influences on sexuality and gender roles.” Topics like violence against women, media ads, gender equity and culture are generally covered under this topic, Paulsen says. But “Somebody who wants to take more latitude could say that when we talk about gender roles we could delve much more deeply into things like gender identity and social morays.”

It’s up to the interpretation of the school divisions. Another example is in grade five where the curriculum talks about celebrating all kinds of families—again open to interpretation. By Grade 9, sexual orientation is named explicitly. Since it’s included, Paulsen says there should be no reason for schools not to talk about same-sex issues within the context of sex ed, although some don’t. “The frustration with this sort of document, is on the one hand, sexuality education within the health curriculum is mandated. On the other hand, the department says, but each division in the province can determine, based on their own community needs, the depth and breadth of what they provide. That’s the problem.”

Vycki Atallah has also seen a wide variation between what is taught in sex ed. As co-ordinator of Klinic Community Health Centre’s Teen Talk program, she’s invited into schools to give sex ed talks when schools want more. “It can really look a lot different in different schools and communities. For some schools and communities, we’re really welcome, and come in, and some classes get multiple workshops from us; and other schools and school divisions simply don’t book us; don’t extend an invitation for us to come into their school.”

Teen Talk approaches sex ed in line with the provincial curriculum, but from an anti-oppressive standpoint, which includes education about healthy relationships, and the range of genders and sexuality. Their workshops make it clear that all types of couples are valued on an equal level and that body parts can belong to people of any gender, says Atallah.

She says Seven Oaks School Division and Winnipeg One are among the most progressive on these fronts she’s worked with.

Anastasia Chipelski, who works with service providers who talk to teens about sex in her capacity as health educator at Nine Circles Community Health Centre, says she doesn’t think the majority of teens are learning their sex education in schools anyway. The teens her clients are in contact with are way ahead of any adults who are teaching them about sex. “Who knows where the teens are learning it from?” she says. “They’re not learning it in schools.” One guess she has is they’re getting information from well-informed peers.

Perhaps one piece of the puzzle is that the curriculum schools are teaching needs updating, says Paulsen. “Everybody agrees that it [does],” she says. “Things have changed a lot.”

“We have a spectrum of how people identify and their attractions, and all of those kinds of things.
If we’re going to be inclusive and comprehensive and provide a safe space for all students, then it is time to be realistic and pragmatic, and let’s not pretend that this isn’t an issue.”

Published in OutWords Magazine, Dec 2014


–Larkin Schmiedl is a freelance writer living and working in Vancouver, B.C. He loves to write about social and environmental justice.

Food-involved folks gather and make things happen at the Kamloops Food Policy Council

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Kamloops Food Bank. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

They were gathered around a long table up a long flight of stairs on the second floor of the Kamloops Food Bank building.  The Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) is a group of keen food-involved folks from a wide range of organizations and backrounds, with common visions to promote the strength of the local food system.

Each of the KFPC’s members comes from a particular place, and in that place, they are each making food localization a concrete reality, in all different ways.

The KFPC is where they come to collaborate, check in and connect.

Ed Walker is starting a revolution among chefs in Kamloops.  He is the chair of the school of culinary arts at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), and is also the founder of the Thompson-Shuswap Chef Farmer Collaborative.

The collaborative was started to link local chefs with local farmers–and as the best chefs know, the most delicious, quality ingredients come fresh, local and well-grown.  Walker said he wants to make it easier for local food to get into local restaurants.

The Chef Farmer Collaborative was started in just 2010, and has grown exponentially.  It is a non-profit, and to date boasts over 70 members, both farmers and chefs.

The Collaborative is modelled after the Island Chefs Collaborative started by David Mincey and based in Victoria, B.C.

At the Thompson-Shuswap Collaborative’s annual general meeting (AGM) coming up Feb. 12, it will be announcing its newest program–a non-profit loan system that will be available to offer no-interest loans to folks interested in starting up projects or with good ideas for increasing the productivity of an existing one.  The loans will be available to businesses, whereas the already-existing grants are available to non-profits.

The AGM takes place at the Culinary Arts building on TRU’s campus at 10 a.m.

Walker said he hopes to ultimately see chapters of chef-farmer collaboratives all over Canada.

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On the Culinary Arts building’s roof, there are animals.  Hive animals.  Walker’s colleague, another faculty member in the culinary arts program, is beekeeping up there.  He took a course and learned how to do it, and set up the apiary sometime last year.  More on this in upcoming blog entries, so stay tuned.

Culinary Arts is also trying to get a garden in front of its building, to grow produce for use in cooking.

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The Kamloops Food Policy Council’s AGM is also coming up; March 1 at 6 p.m. at the Henry Grube Centre, their AGM will be a potluck and meeting, and will be themed “Public Produce.”

Elaine Sedgman, a member of the group, will be speaking about edible landscapes in schools.  She said she hopes school gardens can become a more common feature in Kamloops.  She said Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project garden in Berkeley, California is one of her inspirations.

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In terms of edible landscaping here in Kamloops, there is a push to have more streetscape plants be edibles.

The Public Produce Garden here in town, built and first planted this past summer, is also going to be moving to the North Shore in summer 2012.

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One very interesting new local project is the Kamloops Community Food System of 1948 mapping project.  Check out their website.  The group is presently reaching out to schoolteachers in hopes that their maps and resources can be used in classrooms when complete.

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Another new local project that’s just gotten funding is Thompson-Shuswap Food Connections.  This group is looking to link institutional buyers such as the hospital, the University and the prison with local farmers.

Stage two of the project is planned to be a look at local processing facilities.

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Kamloops Seedy Saturday is an annual seed-swapping and workshop event that is happening Feb. 25 this year.  More details to come on this.

Seedy Saturday is a Canada-wide event taking place in many communities.  The idea is for gardeners to get together to share different seed varieties, especially but not limited to those bred and grown locally.

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There is a new community garden in Kamloops called the Wilson House garden.

The organizers of the garden recently received a TD Canada Trust “Friends of the Environment” grant to finish construction (which mostly meant buying the soil to put in the already-built garden).

All other community garden plots in Kamloops are booked for the 2012 summer season.  There are a few left available at Wilson House.

Here is a map with contact numbers for the community garden plots in Kamloops.

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Thanks for reading, and please come back for more information weekly.

Larkin

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