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New Our City of Colours directors confident about group’s future

Annual general meeting sees new board elected

The new chair of Our City of Colours, Simon Lam, cites engagement with members, development and execution of new projects, and connection with more BC community groups as key priorities for the organization. Credit: Natasha Barsotti

About 40 people turned out for the March 26 annual general meeting of Our City of Colours (OCC), which elected a new executive and slate of directors, following the sudden resignation of chair Mo Kazerooni.

Members elected Simon Lam as the organization’s new chair and Jorge Alvarez as treasurer, while Carven Li is serving his second year as secretary.

The organization is currently without a vice-chair, as the only nominee, Gloria Miranda, failed to earn enough votes to secure the position that will be filled at a later date.

Prior to the election, newly elected director-at-large Behshid Foadi read the board’s response to a March 11 letter of resignation Kazerooni emailed to the organization’s membership, in which he says he felt bullied by some Our City of Colours members over his personal, political and religious beliefs.

“The board of Our City of Colours would like to acknowledge the resignation of its former chair and thank him for his contributions to the organization. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours,” the board statement says.

“The previous year has been a learning experience for us all, and we extend our thanks to our devoted and engaged membership. With your continued support, and the support from our community, we are looking forward to ushering in a new chapter of Our City of Colours,” the statement concludes.

AGM attendees briefly discussed Kazerooni’s resignation, submitted nine months after the passage of a motion of non-confidence in his leadership. Some members expressed shock over Kazerooni’s allegations of conflict with current and former board members and their public airing.

Jen Sung, who is in her second term as director-at-large, told the meeting that tensions had been ongoing internally for about a year and led to the resignation of a number of board directors that left the organization “scrambling.”

Speaking to Xtra after the meeting, member Hossein Kia expressed confidence in the group of people who have stepped up to lead the organization.

“I just don’t want any sort of history to get in the way of the organizational commitment to social justice. As somebody who was very informally involved with the organization right at the outset, that was really the passion that was driving all of this forth, so I’d really like to have that preserved,” Kia says.

As for priorities, Kia cites the original mandate of the organization — to promote LGBT visibility in non-white and other minority communities and to dispel the notion that every LGBT person is white — as still relevant.

Moving forward, Lam, the new chair, lists as key priorities more engagement with members, the development and execution of new projects, and connecting with more community groups to try to spread the organization’s message to cities across BC.

“We hear so many stories about people who are too scared to come out, who are too scared to have no support. They don’t know who to go to, so we’re there to try to support people, to try to educate others about LGBTQ initiatives, and also to just raise awareness that we exist,” he says. “We had the posters two years ago, so I will like to see something different, something new to raise awareness.”

In the wake of the tensions within the organization over the past year, Lam says he’s “very confident” in the viability of the group, noting the enthusiasm of those who sought leadership roles at the AGM.

“There were more candidates than spots [available] on the board; I think that’s an indication of how motivated people are to do work, to actually come out and start new things,” he says. “There are people who weren’t with OCC before, but they heard about us, and they really want to get involved just from hearing our vision.”

Foadi shares Lam’s confidence in the group’s future.

“It was a great crowd of people; there were a lot of engaged people. Everybody who wanted to be involved came out,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to what the organization’s going to do from this point on.”

Foadi would like the organization to become a point of contact for people whose first language may not be English and who need resources in different languages to be able to communicate their experiences.

“It’s very, very valuable,” Kia says of Our City of Colours, noting that its origins are grassroots-based, as opposed to a top-down process.

“The way that it started was a group of friends got together and thought that this would be something worthwhile to pursue, and that’s what I think makes a voice really genuine, or at least, I would hope.”

Our City of Colours’ new board:

Simon Lam (chair)

Jorge Alvarez (treasurer)

Carven Li (secretary)

Behshid Foadi (director-at-large)

Jen Sung (director-at-large)

David Le (director-at-large)

Hayfa Abichahine (director-at-large)

Glen Arthur (director-at-large)

Daniella Filoteo (director-at-large)

Tara Chee (director-at-large)

Darren Ho (director-at-large)

Zdravko Cimbaljevic (director-at-large)

Mikey Arzadon (director-at-large)

Sam Holden (director-at-large)