More than just a makeover

Meet-The-Sassy-Five

These five will have you feeling fabulous — and all the other feels — by the end of every single episode.

For so many of you out there who have already watched Queer Eye, I’m sure you knew what today’s #WSW was all about simply from the title. For those have not yet seen the show, my message today is simple: Go watch it!

Each episode has the very talented “Fab Five” transform the wardrobe, hair, room, cuisine and confidence, of a different individual in Georgia, USA. However, as today’s title indicates, it is not simply a physical makeover (like the original Queer Eye), but a deep dive into their life, and relevant topics, of today. The brilliant producers of this show have hand-select stories that touch on pertinent, but sometimes sensitive, topics in 2018’s American/global society, and then these Fab Five go in and navigate each issue so genuinely, emotionally, and openly. If you ask anyone who has watched the show, they will likely tell you that they have cried (tears of joy) through most episodes. As Esquire’s article put it:

In the second season of the Netflix series, the Fab Five find the goodness that already exists in their makeover subjects. – Esquire

And for all the sh*t going on in society today, it is exactly the goodness we need right now. So, again: Go watch this show. And thank you, Fab Five!

 

Hope in Canada for LGBTQ Refugees

What would you do if your life was at risk for being you?

As you will see in the map below, if you are LGBTQ in many countries around the world, this is your reality. Your life is at risk – not only from society, but also at the hands of government. As mentioned in the post yesterday, we still have long way to go in Canada on issues facing the LGBTQ community, but at least homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and same sex marriage has been legally recognized since 2005. (See the full Canadian timeline here.)

Thanks to these laws in Canada, and our immigration system, Canada becomes a beacon of hope for many LGBTQ needing to flee persecution in their countries — just for being themselves. If you know of someone in another country in this situation, there is the possibility to privately sponsor them to Canada through the Group of Five program. If you don’t know anyone in this particular situation, but want to donate to help those in this situation, I found two organizations who does just that — Rainbow Railroad and Capital Rainbow Refuge.

The reason I sought out this organization is that, in my work explaining immigration to international students, a few have actually shared with me that since coming to Canada, they have been able to “be themselves” (be out, hold hands with their partner, etc) here, so they want to stay. While they are already students here, so have an easier pathway to immigration, it got me looking into options for those who are in one of the many countries with such repressive laws. So, I was very happy to find Rainbow Railroad and Capital Rainbow Refuge. Thank you for doing this important work!

lgbtmap
Source: Independent, 2016. And more details on Wikipedia.

 

Don’t Be Afraid

Today’s spotlight for #WorldSavingWeek is on my friend, Scott Jones.

Scott

After being stabbed in Nova Scotia five years ago, Scott was left paralyzed from the waist down. While the courts did not rule it a hate crime, Scott knows that he was attacked because he is gay. Anyone who knows Scott will already know why he is very deserving of this post, and of all the national and international praise he has received. The amazing work he has done ever since.

Not only did he start a campaign to eliminate homophobia and transphobia by sharing the message: Don’t be afraid, and start a choir for social change; he has also been so incredibly open about his journey since the attack. And by being willing to talk about his story in a new documentary titled “Love, Scott“, he is helping to shine a light on the underreporting hate crimes in Canada.

Last night, I got into a very long – heated and human – discussion with someone who is openly homophobic. It reminded me that, while the LGBTQ movement has come so far in society, it is far from over. It reminded me that, while it was difficult, disappointing, and infuriating to have that conversation, I opted into it. As allies, it is on us to continue having those conversations, because we have the privilege of not being the target of the fear/hate in those conversations. Scott, his continued message of hope, and the lives of all the people I know – and don’t – were the inspiration for keeping me in that discussion, and will keep me in it indefinitely.

As this whole month is dedicated to celebrating #pride, I’ve decided that the rest of this week’s #WSW posts are going to be focused on individuals and groups saving the world from its unfit and out of date homophobic sentiments.

36114332_10100182121385723_3065700905165783040_n

Indigenous Artists giving us life

To celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day today, I want to highlight four indigenous artists giving me life. I have been following these four over the past few years, not only because they are awesome at their craft, but because I have the privilege of knowing them IRL — and they are awesome people. So talented in their respective fields, each one draws you in to learn more about Indigenous culture, community, and Canada’s brutal past – and present – with the original custodians of this land. Check them out:

Emma Hassencahl – Visual Artist

Rebecca Thomas – Poet

Classic Roots – DJ / Fancy Dancer

David Robertson – Author

Untitled design
Top L-R: Emma, Rebecca. Bottom L-R: Roots, David

 

 

Supporting Asylum-Seekers & Refugees

In honour of World Refugee Day and in response to this week’s news in the US, I want to highlight a few of the organizations in North America taking action on the issues facing asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants on our continent. Not only when it’s in the media, but everyday:

The ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union gained my respect when it jumped into action the moment Trump announced the shocking #MuslimBan Executive Order in early 2017. [Forgot all about that one, because so much sh*t has happened since? Get a recap of all the international laws he was breaking with that move.] When these unprecedented scenarios are being displayed all over the media, it is important for all of us to speak up, but it is also SO important to have organizations who fully understand the law around it. Follow what they are doing in the current crisis and continue to do in supporting immigrants’ rights. Thank you, ACLU!

R.A.I.C.E.S.

RAICES is a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees in Texas. And I am assuming that, before this week, very few people knew about this organization — myself included. However, in the past week, apparently a lot of people have, and raised nearly $15 million. In fact, they have apparently had so much traffic to their website that it is currently down. Because of that, I got more info from Guidestar (and to see they are legit). If you want to spread those donations around, check out the long list of all of the other organizations in Texas providing legal advice, shelter, interpreters, etc to help reunite these migrant families. Thank you, RAICES and other orgs in Texas!

CCR

Bringing it home to Canada, we’ve got the Canadian Council for Refugees. Created in 1978, it has come to be “recognized as a key advocate for refugee and immigrant rights in Canada, educating the public and putting issues onto the national agenda”. While studying immigration in Toronto and doing settlement work in Victoria, I had the privilege of attend a Working Group, then Consultation, and was so impressed. From the executive, staff, youth network, to folks in attendance, there was every walk of life represented, therefore voices of lived experiences, practitioners, and academics were heard side-by-side. I donate to CCR monthly because I believe the policy, advocacy and legal work they do is so important. Thank you, CCR!

 

proud2protectenbutton

 

 

#WorldSavingWednesday

This has been one of those weeks when the world seems pretty hopeless.

Actually, the past 18 months have been pretty bleak for anyone who cares about human rights, multiculturalism, or democracy as we’ve come to know it in North America. It’s been depressing to turn on the news for fear of what’s next. And if you have tuned in, it hasn’t seemed like it’s been getting any better over time, but worse. This week alone, Trump’s administration announced it wants to establish a Space Force, that it is leaving the UN’s Human Rights Council, and until this afternoon, tried to deny that any atrocities are happening at the its Southern Border.

As someone who has been very involved in the world of immigration in the past five years, I was planning on posting today anyway, because it is World Refugee Day. However, with the continuous flow of heartbreaking news over the past few days, it had me feeling hopeless and helpless. And while it is important to feel saddened and outraged by these news stories — to know your human empathy muscle is still working! — the hopeless and helpless sentiments are not as useful. So, to counteract the doom and gloom, and start moving in the right direction, I felt like I needed to find and highlight those individuals or organizations who are taking actions. Thus the [super cheesy, but to-the-point] #WorldSavingWednesday (or #WSW) was born!

The concept: Every Wednesday, I will be highlighting individuals or organizations who are tackling big world problems with real world actions. And I hope others do the same!

Because the fact of the matter is, we need some inspiration these days to let us know that this world is going to be OK. And we don’t just need one hero, we need lots. So let’s lift them up. I will have slightly more detailed posts on this (resurrected 5yr old) blog, and Facebook posts, and then those quick #WSW reminders on my Instagram and Twitter (the Wild West of social media that I have rarely ventured to).

To the cynics out there: Yes, this is technically some #armchairactivism going on here. But hey, if 46 million people can post about #mcm (#ManCrushMonday) and 61 million can post about #wcw (#WomanCrushWednesday)… why not add another thought on Wednesday with #WSW to be reminded of all the good work being done out there? My hope is that it could inspire more folks to get involved — whether by volunteering, donating, advocating, or at least educating themselves.

And to kick things off, I’m actually going to start with #WorldSavingWeek (get it — still #WSW) and post some inspiration these next seven days. So, stay tuned!

 

12243393_871519751913_1279440260712799193_n

Happy Anniversary — A Peace Boat version of “This is the New Year”

In celebration of ONE YEAR since departing for my voyage around the world with Peace Boat, I thought I would share this video I made as part of a fun way to remember my trip…

I was only using my iPhone for ‘equipment’, so it was impossible to play the song and film simultaneously; I had to play a clip of the song for my friends (or myself), then record, as we hoped it lined up accordingly. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. So, as you will see, it is not perfect, but it was sure fun to record!!

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it 😀

And happy one year anniversary to all of my Peace Boat friends!!!

Half-way Around the World [in Riga]

Image

Well, here it is — day 52, the mid-way point of my round-the-world voyage with Peace Boat.

As predicted, I have definitely lagged behind in the blog updates, but as I’m sure you could have guessed, it is because life on board, and in port, has been pretty non-stop. But I have just found a very cool little cafe in Riga where I would like to update you on at least a few of the places I’ve been. So, here we go…

Image

Surprise! You’re going to Saudi Arabia!!!

About a week ago, we were told in a meeting that we had to make an unexpected re-fueling stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and there would be a chance that we may be able to get off in port! A few days later, we were informed that not only would we be able to get off, but we were going to be officially welcomed by the Saudi government with a day filled with festivities!

What we experienced on April 25th was absolutely incredible. It was a day filled with music, dancing, feasting on dates, Arabian coffee, grilled camel and baklava, a cultural exchange in the desert and unbelievable kindness!!

It was seriously one of the best days of my life.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

ImageImage

Image

Image