The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity hasn’t forgotten the insult done to trans women of colour when a mural honouring them was vandalized in Ottawa last year.
Artist Kalkidan Assefa painted the mural in August 2015 at Bank and Somerset Streets as part of Queer Pride, a festival run by various local community organizations. The following month, it was defaced with white paint, reading “racist bullshit” and “you’ve been warned.”
The mural has since found a permanent home at the McNabb Community Centre, but the impact of what happened still resonates with many members of the community — and the CCGSD hopes to draw attention to it with its annual Day of Pink Gala.
“It was a real shock,” says CCGSD community director Jeremy Dias. “On a personal level — as a person of colour — it was really heartbreaking to see that sort of violence in the community.”
Drawing crowds of folk in pink clothing (or accessories), The Day of Pink Gala is one of the ways the CCGSD celebrates the Day of Pink, the centre’s annual campaign against bullying and discrimination. Now in its 11th year running, the gala will put a spotlight on the challenges and plights faced by queer and trans people of colour, including the defacement of Assefa’s mural.
“With our office being very diverse in nature, I think a lot of us felt it really deeply,” he says. “It was very emotionally and intellectually draining, and the discourse of anger was something we engaged in and we stood in solidarity with folk. I guess what we wanted to do [with this year’s Day of Pink Gala] is to counteract that. What’s the opposite of anger? Joy, a celebration — it’s honouring.”
The event will feature performances by local artists who identify as either queer or trans and of colour. The musicians and poets will take the stage with their tunes and lyrics, and the visual artists will create pieces out on the floor for everyone to see.
Ashley Grenstone, David White Deer Charette, Debby, Don Kwan, Elsa Mirzaei, Mikki Bradshaw, Rob Friday and Rosy will be participating. The CCGSD website includes more information about their works and their bios.
The gala’s reception is followed by an awards ceremony where various people who have fought against bullying and discrimination are given the youth role model of the year award. This year’s winners are Stonewall riot participant Nance Lomax; queer historian and photographer Suzanne Poli; writer, educator and artist Kim Katrin Milan; and queer activist and comedian Kalyani Pandya.