Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative is making teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants
Representation matters. It’s an absolutely essential part of reclaiming and decolonizing spaces for the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community. Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative, Fueling Reclamation, is bolstering the fight for representation, by making their teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants. By doing this, they are helping to decolonize the wellness industry.
Robin Lacambra had already been working in the movement and wellness industry for many years when she moved to Hamilton. As she began to practice in studios in her new city, she recognized the lack of representation of the BIPOC community in studios not only in Hamilton but also in Toronto where she grew up.
“It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political. So it was in trying to find a movement community here in Hamilton that I woke up to a need of mine, which is to have a space that felt safe for me to be in my full expression as a queer woman of colour,” explained Lacambra.
This realization prompted Lacambra to create the space that she needed. She started teaching pop-ups in 2018 and then that same year ran her first teacher training. Many of the graduates from the course went on to be the teaching staff for Goodbodyfeel when it officially opened in 2019.
While Goodbodyfeel is a Pilates, yoga and mindfulness studio, at its core it’s a place of inclusion, healing, empowerment and representation.
“[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion,” said Lacambra.
This philosophy is at the heart of Goodbodyfeel and everything they do, from the classes they offer to the individuals they employ.
“We really centre values of equity and representation, equity and accessibility. I don't ignore the hard realities of systemic oppression and the studio works to challenge systems of oppression, both in the way that we run our business and the way that we share our offerings to the broader public, in the folks that I employ . . . and we do our offerings, don't shy away from creating exclusive spaces for safer spaces. So we have classes that are exclusively for folks of colour, we have classes that are exclusively for queer, trans and non-binary folks, we have classes that are exclusively for folks in bigger bodies. And so yeah, we believe in creating these inclusive spaces for healing,” said Lacambra.
Goodbodyfeel’s teaching staff is mostly made up of BIPOC women, with 10 of 14 teachers being BIPOC and of these 10, seven are Black. Lacambra continues to offer a teacher training program at Goodbodyfeel and also offers scholarships for BIPOC individuals in an effort to make the training more financially accessible.
In February, Goodbodyfeel launched a crowdfunding campaign, Fueling Reclamation, to offer the teacher training program free of charge this year to the 15 individuals who applied for BIPOC scholarships and to help finance a BIPOC specific edition of the teacher training in 2022.
“For me, it is the way to radically shift representation of leaders in wellness. Many wellness practices are from brown and black cultures of origin and why isn’t our mainstream leadership reflective of that . . . It started off as just scholarships or subsidies that I could afford to give and seeing that the folks who would apply for the scholarship and subsidies were growing every year. I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?” explained Lacambra.
This campaign is an example of an easy, concrete way the larger Hamilton community can support the BIPOC community and contribute to decolonization.
“It's overdue. This kind of investment into BIPOC leadership is overdue [and] it's easy reparations for the folks who are like, “Oh, I'm so overwhelmed. How I can contribute to anti-racist work?” Here you go, here's a really easy way to do it. Just help fund it, help spread the word, help empower our future changemakers. If we're fully fueling BIPOC leadership, we are fueling an equitable future,” emphasized Lacambra.
By Ember, Contributor
Recently, there’s been a lot of push for individual initiatives to combat climate change. This can be considered admirable and noble – but they hardly scratch the surface of the problem. These initiatives tend to overlook industries as the largest contributors to climate change, the Global North’s role in plastic pollution and they place misdirected blame on disabled people.
In a scientific paper that outlines that the Pacific Ocean is rapidly accumulating plastic, Laurent Lebreton et al. states the following findings.
“Over three-quarters of the [Great Pacific Garbage Patch] mass was carried by debris larger than five cm and at least 46 per cent was comprised of fishing nets. Microplastics accounted for eight per cent of the total mass but 94 per cent of the estimated 1.8 (1.1–3.6) trillion pieces floating in the area,” they say.
Almost half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s mass is abandoned gear from industry fishing. Another 20 per cent of the mass is thought to be remnants from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In comparison, Seth Borenstein, a journalist, noted the extremely small proportion of plastic waste made up of plastic straws.
“Straws on average weigh so little – about one sixty-seventh of an ounce or .42 grams – that all those billions of straws add up to only about 2,000 tons of the nearly nine million tons of plastic waste that yearly hits the waters,” Borenstein said.
Banning plastic straws seems pretty asinine when you consider a few different factors. It’s interesting how alternatives like the new Starbucks lids were created to replace the use of plastic straws, but they have been found to contain an equivalent amount or more plastic than what a plastic straw contains. Christian Britschgi, an associate editor at Reason, described the miniscule impact of the Starbucks nitro lids.
“Right now, Starbucks patrons are topping most of their cold drinks with either 3.23 grams or 3.55 grams of plastic product, depending on whether they pair their lid with a small or large straw. The new nitro lids meanwhile weigh either 3.55 or 4.11 grams, depending again on lid size,” said Britschgi.
Point blank, this “solution” is performative – it is a cheap tactic spearheaded by a corporation to make the common folk feel like they’re making a difference in regards to climate change when it really amounts to nothing.
Then why not use paper straws or reusable straws? Well, because these options are awful. Often times, banning plastic straws does not take into account how alternative straw materials can be detrimental to disabled people.
“Biodegradable [straw] options often fall apart too quickly or are easy for people with limited jaw control to bite through. Silicone straws are often not flexible – one of the most important features for people with mobility challenges. Reusable straws need to be washed, which not all people with disabilities can do easily. And metal straws, which conduct heat and cold in addition to being hard and inflexible, can pose a safety risk,” said Godoy.
Another thing to keep in mind is that biodegradable straws can also be made of soy – a common allergen – and because it isn’t food, corporations aren’t required to disclose ingredients on the packaging.
Putting the responsibility on disabled people to survive in public without plastic straws because you don’t believe stores should offer straws is venomous.
It’s not that disabled people don’t care about the environment – we absolutely do. But instead of demonizing us for existing, shouldn’t able-bodied people help create an accessible, environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws?
Currently, I am a student studying earth and environmental science, and I’m aiming to get a minor in sustainability. I am also disabled and I realize that climate change is larger than any one of us.
However, it’s important to note that often disabled people are the ones being accused of holding the environmental movement back, while corporations are conveniently cropped out of the frame. The big picture of climate change and environmental collapse is large enough for all of us to fit inside – so please don’t forget that industries play a large part, too.
By: Andrew Mrozowski
Stop. Take a second and look up from this article. You’ll most likely see everyone around you on some form of technology, be it on their phones, tablets or computers. We now live in a world where we are so heavily dependent on technology. According to Yvonne Lu, people should be more conscious about how technology affects their identity.
Originally starting off her undergraduate career in commerce, Lu realized her passion laid in a different faculty. Lu began working in marketing and communications but felt like something was missing. She decided to take on a double major between multimedia and theatre and film.
Now in her final year at McMaster, Lu decided to combine her two disciplines into one overall thesis, taking the form of an interactive multimedia installation and a physical performance called interFACE, as part of the School of the Arts Honours Performance Series.
The concept for interFACE came to Lu over this past summer when she was employed by a music video company to be their social media coordinator. Although typically not very active on social media in her own life, Lu found herself getting jealous from the various platforms that she managed as there was an overall feeling that everyone was doing better than her.
“Although there definitely were positive and negative experiences, always being on social media and seeing that people younger than me were doing cooler things than I was, working with huge producers, big companies and getting more responsibility than I was… a lot of the times I felt jealous. It’s why I felt I was a step back, I understood why others were successful and a lot of it was trying to catch up with people,” explained Lu.
interFACE examines how young women interact with technology and how this oversaturation impacts their identity as they grow up. Stemming from a vignette of experiences, the multi-disciplinary art experience allows attendees to delve into the development of identity to look at similarities and differences between how we portray ourselves online versus in person.
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“The question to consider is whether or not social media and digital technology enables us to do more things, or if it consumes us and we are at the whim of the mass media,” explained Lu.
This form of installation is experimental as it features two parts. Viewers will first embark through an audio-visual capsule, which is an audio-sensory experience that saturates the audience in a world that Lu and her team have designed to convey the importance of why we should pay more attention to our own identities. Next viewers will be seated to enjoy the physical portion which expands on what they have observed in the audio-visual capsule.
“This is not something that you would see in traditional theatre. It’s not a narrative or linear piece. We are creating a visceral experience for both our collaborators and audience. We want them to feel that they are in the belly of the beast,” said Lu.
For the thesis student, what the audience takes away from the experience is the primary objective of this piece.
“There isn’t a specific message I want people to walk away with. It’s live theatre and it’s all about interpretation. For us, that’s kind of what I want audiences to walk away with. Questions of what they felt. It’s an emotional journey rather than a narrative,” said Lu.
Show times for interFACE will run on March 28 at 12:30 and 8 p.m. and on March 29 and March 30 at 12:30 and 7 p.m. at the Black Box Theatre in L.R. Wilson Hall. Admission is free.
Robin Lamarr has been the only person of colour in a movement class. With this personal experience and her own desire to make mindful movement accessible, the movement educator and community activist had been thinking about how she could address the lack of representation in the movement community.
When she obtained a physical space for the studio she founded, Goodbodyfeel, she saw it as a good time to introduce a designated space for people of colour. The result was the first Movement Melanin Expression workshop on Feb. 24. The two-hour, three-part workshop was designed for individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of colour.
“The intention is to create a space where folks who usually feel like they don't belong can feel belonging. And then, because it's an exclusive space, we can be open, raw, vulnerable and honest about what… we're feeling and why… [W]e can be super open about it without having to… defend ourselves against someone who might have white fragility for example,” said Lamarr.
The workshop was the result of a partnership with Hamilton-based visual alchemist and movement teacher-in-trainer, Stylo Starr. Starr joined the Goodbodyfeel Teacher Training last year when she met Lamarr and is almost finished her 200 hours of training.
Lamarr and Starr have collaborated on a similarly structured workshop before. Last summer, they ran a satellite workshop at the Art Gallery of Hamilton wherein Lamarr led a movement sequence followed by Starr leading a walking meditation involving collage material.
Similarly, Movement Melanin Expression began with Lamarr leading participants through her famed R&B Pilates movement sequence. The sequence starts slow and warms up the individual parts of the body before ending with an intense squat sequence wherein participants scream in order to release all their emotions.
After moving, a circle discussion took place. The discussion was intended to address how people of colour can take up space and reverse the lack of representation in the movement and wellness industry. Most importantly, the conversation was meant to be open and unrestrained. Starr hopes that the conversation acted as a catalyst for participants to discuss how they’re feeling with the people in their lives.
The workshop ended with Starr’s collage workshop. As she did with the series at the art gallery, Starr led participants through a walking meditation, allowing them to find pieces that spoke to them and create something there. The creative portion of the workshop allowed participants to express and liberate themselves.
“I've seen firsthand how movement has helped my creation. It's just a way of accessing a part of your mindfulness that maybe sitting still might not do for many people… I think it's really important to mesh these worlds because it's often implied that they're so different but they're actually very similar. In creating sequences for classes, it's a collage of different movements and they might not always look the same,” Starr explaining.
Approaching creativity through the medium of collage is one of the many ways in which this workshop made itself accessible. Unlike other forms of art, collage is not very intimidating for the non-artist and allowed individuals to express themselves with lesser concern about artistic skill.
Like several other Goodbodyfeel classes, this workshop had a sliding scale in place to reduce the financial barrier for participants. The studio also has clean clothes for participants to use and provides mats and props. By removing these obstacles for participants, the studio is hoping that no one is priced out of accessing mindful movement.
“I've been practicing some form of mindful movement since 2000 and… it's been a really big part of my healing journey. And so since moving to Hamilton and starting this community, my aim is to have as many people as possible benefit and have access to the transformative effects of mindful movement.
Why does the movement community need to even address race and representation? Well, because it's incredibly beneficial to mental health and well-being and everybody deserves access to it,” Lamarr said.
At the end of the day, the most important part of Movement Melanin Expression was the formation of community through movement. Starr and Lamarr intend to continue the class so that people of colour can continue to take up space in the movement industry and discuss more ways to break down the barriers.
On Jan. 30, the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, an advertising campaign created by Bell Canada, took the country by storm. In an effort to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental health in Canada, Bell donated money to mental health funds for every social interaction with campaigns hashtag.
While the world tweeted, snapped and Instagram-ed away, The McMaster Women’s Athletic Leadership Committee took it one step further and hosted their first-ever Bell Let’s Talk event.
The event consisted of McMaster student-athletes sharing their personal stories in an open and safe environment that was open to the entire McMaster community. Five student-athletes, Sabrina Schindel, Allison Sippel, Aurora Zuraw, Nicolas Belliveau and Louis Sharland, took the floor and led discussions on depression, eating disorders, language and anxiety and men’s mental health.
The event was a success with a great turn out that included open discussion and much-needed conversations on mental health and how it affects athletes, in addition to the right steps that need to be taken to combat different stigmas.
“At first, I was expecting it to be a small event with just members of WALC, but to have my teammates, friends and people I didn’t even know come out to support was so amazing and inspiring,” said Sippel, the initiator for the event.
The idea for the event came up after Sippel, a cross-country runner, wanted to be able to create an open space for people to be able to talk about their battles with mental health.
“I feel like if we are able to create a space where people are open to talking, there would be less of a stigma around it,” said Sippel.
She first wrote down her story after she got out of the hospital after suffering from an eating disorder. After reading it to her close friends and family members, she never really shared it with the public. But when the idea of creating an event for Bell Let’s Talk came up, the idea of the panel sharing personal stories came to mind.
Working with Claire Arsenault, McMaster’s Athlete Services Coordinator and WALC, the panel that would originally be a conversation for members of the committee grew to more.
“I was happy that male athletes joined in and it was really inspirational that the group of us could be able to share our stories,” said Sippel.
🗣️ #OneTeamForMentalHealth 🗣️
Ask someone how they are doing.
— Ontario University Athletics (@OUAsport) January 31, 2019
Each speaker shared their story then opened up the floor for discussion, answering questions in regard to their experiences, advice for others and much more.
During the panel, Sippel shared her story about how her eating disorder led her to be hospitalized when she was 14 years old. After losing too much weight and no longer being allowed to run, her journey to bounce back was not easy.
“This illness had turned mind against body and person against person because nurses were trained to trust no one,” Sippel explained about her time in the hospital.
Eventually, Sippel showed signs of improvement and was allowed to leave the hospital and return to her everyday life. Fast-forward to today, and she is now running on the Mac cross-country team while trying her best to stay on top of her condition.
“It’s a lifetime of fighting against my mind so I never had to go back,” Sippel said.
For Sippel, having the student-athletes lead this conversation was important for a number of reasons.
“I feel like a lot of times, it is frowned upon to express our feelings. If we start the conversation, there is no better way to set an example for our fellow students,” said Sippel. “Hopefully five students sharing their stories can spiral into something bigger and start a movement.”
Schindel, another one of the five student-athletes who shared their stories, is a lacrosse player who suffered from depression. Through the ups and downs of dealing with her battle, she eventually discovered that staying busy and active is what kept helped her out the most. This meant that when her lacrosse season was over, she would have to find something to keep her occupied so she did not fall down that dark hole again.
“Realizing that no one is beyond help and getting in front of my depression before it could do the same damage it used to,” Schindel explained as the steps she takes to keep herself from falling again.
Schindel’s story, though devastating, is more common amongst young people than one may think. This is why it is so important that these conversations are happening. Having the bravery to start the conversation, and sharing tips and resources with their fellow students is a great way for Marauders to do their part in helping end the stigma surrounding mental health.
It has been said that life is a dance. No one knows that better than celebrated Canadian dance artist Peggy Baker whose dance installation Move captures the duality of caregiving. The free installation will be performed on Feb. 2 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton as part of McMaster University’s Socrates Project.
The dance installation takes place in a 28 by 28-foot square surrounded by a frame. It is 70-minutes long and is organized into four cycles. The cyclic nature of the piece and the fact that it rotates throughout means audience members can take it in from multiple angles.
The performers are not necessarily dancers by trade but members of the community who love dance. There are 16 of them dancing in pairs that reverse roles with each cycle. They were selected in November 2018 during a two-hour workshop and audition.
The story of Move began 10 years ago when Baker first presented the dance as part of Toronto contemporary art event Nuit Blanche. At that time, the dance was 20 minutes long and done on the hour every hour for 12 hours with 12 pairs of professional dancers. When Baker put on Move for the second time at the Art Gallery of Ontario a couple years later, she decided to extend the length of the piece and do it with fewer dancers.
It was while doing the dance at the Art Gallery of Ontario that Baker thought about using community members as the dancers. She has since put on several performances of Move with non-professional dancers, staging the entire performance in five three-hour rehearsals.
Baker’s own experience with caregiving formed a part of the inspiration for the installation. She was the primary caregiver to her late husband, who had primary progressive multiple sclerosis. She found that caregiving involves a beautiful rapport between the one receiving and the one giving care.
Baker was also inspired by art and dance itself. While teaching in Philadelphia, she was struck by the beauty of partnership when she had dancers pair up and help another during some difficult movement sequences. Also while in Philadelphia, she saw an exhibition of paintings by American painter George Tooker and was inspired by the images of people embracing one another.
The dancers changing roles throughout the piece represents the inevitability of being on both sides of caregiving. The choreography for the piece overall is formal and highly organized, mimicking the ritualized elements of human lives. The choice to have four cycles mimics the cyclic structure of the seasons and the fact that there are four cardinal directions.
“[I]t’s something universal. We all receive that kind of intimate physical care and physical nurturing as infants and children. We may all find ourselves in a position where we where we are called upon to give care to a parent or a partner or a child. And we may all eventually need to receive care,” explained Baker.
The electro-acoustic soundtrack, composed by musician and composer Debashis Sinha, is also organized into four cycles. It is subtle and atmospheric, not quite music but a sonic landscape for the audience and dancers to reside in.
Baker encourages audience members to walk around the square performance space, close their eyes or turn their back to view the art in the gallery. The space allows viewers to feel comfortable arriving after it begins or even leaving before it ends.
“I like it to be in a public place. I like it to be in a place that already is claimed by the community as being a place in their town or city like this is… an art gallery, a foyer of a theater, a market… [I]t needs to locate itself in the heart of the community… [I]t's about community building basically,” Baker said.
At the end of the piece, the dancers pour water for one another and drink it. One of the dancers in the group, a ceramic artist, suggested that the group each makes the vessel that they drink out of. At the end of one of their rehearsals, she guided her fellow dancers through making their own bowl.
The creativity and passion brought on by these community dancers give this installation of Move a unique tint. However, the beauty of Move is the universality of the theme and the way in which it can move anyone.
In the lobby of L.R. Wilson Hall, human figures constructed of wood carving and found objects are fastened to a series of nine panels. At the bottom of the panels are phrases chronicling the thoughts that the artist, Persimmon Blackbridge, had while making the work. The figures come together to question the way in which society frames disability as a fracturing of life rather than an expected part of it.
Blackbridge’s Constructed Identities exhibit will be set up in L.R. Wilson Hall from Jan. 16 to Mar. 15. The exhibit is part of McMaster University’s Socrates Project and put on in partnership with Toronto disability arts gallery Tangled Art + Disability, for which Constructed Identities was the opening exhibit in 2015.
On Jan. 16, Blackbridge came to McMaster via video chat to have a conversation with Eliza Chandler. Chandler is an assistant professor at Ryerson University, founding Artistic Director of Tangled Art + Disability and a practicing disability artist and curator.
Blackbridge chronicled her disability art practice, which began in 1977. The Canadian sculptor, writer, curator, performer and editor told the story of her life and its entanglement with her art practice. She cites art as something that has helped her in dark spaces and in her daily life.
“I've been an artist for 48 years. I've had a psych diagnosis for 31 years. I've had a learning disability for 68 years. Had kidney disease for 15 years. Some of these things work better together than others,” said Blackbridge in the opening of her talk.
Blackbridge recalled starting art school not long after experiencing her first breakdown. She counts herself as fortunate to have found a community of artists and activists in art school who understood her experiences.
Blackbridge’s history of making disability and mad art has put her on the forefront of these movements, which are only now being publicly funded and programmed. She likes the idea of having this exhibit shown in a university because she sees universities as spaces where disability is beginning to be discussed in new ways.
The pieces in Constructed Identities bear similarity to figures she created for a preceding series that explored her diagnosis. It was in that series that she began cutting off the tops of the figures’ heads and she has continued doing that in this work.
“[I]t really represented how some of us have [multiple] diagnoses and every shrink you see gives you a new diagnosis and expects you to act in a different way depending on that… [I]t's [also]… a way of representing invisible disability… [S]ometimes we don't get to speak with all of our identities together, sometimes we get fragmented into different, different pieces,” explained Blackbridge.
The first phrase in Constructed Identities is “what she taught me.” “She” refers to Tempest Grace Gale, a singer, artist and Blackbridge’s friend who was murdered in 2009. Gale combined doll parts and collected junk in her art practice, items which Blackbridge inherited after her death. The series begins with a reference to her because she influenced all the pieces in the exhibit.
There are others in Blackbridge’s life who influenced the work. SD Holman insisted Blackbridge carve more in this series than she did in her previous one. The wings in panel 4 are a tribute to the death of Blackbridge’s friend, Catherine Holman, who passed away in a plane crash. The words, “soft stroke” refer to the small strokes that Blackbridge’s partner, Della McCready, has as a result of her mysterious brain disease. McCready also helped to install the exhibit.
Some of the figures in the exhibition were made since it first showed in 2015, all entitled “his bones.” These pieces are made with bones that once belonged to Geoffrey McMurchy, a disability artist and activist who died suddenly in 2015. McMurchy was a founder of Vancouver non-profit Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture, which supports and promotes artists with disabilities.
“He and I shared a junk aesthetic and often traded… in bits of trash to inspire each other's art work. I was sent beautiful bones he’d collected over the years and that formed the basis of these new pieces. His work, his style, his energy and his hot sly humour helped so many of us along the way,” Blackbridge said.
Blackbridge is not done with Constructed Identities. She still has McMurchy’s bones that she is working with. His death was also the catalyst she needed to create more seated figures, as she realizes that the floating figures could be perceived as standing.
Constructed Identities has been on tour across Ontario since it opened up at the Tangled Arts + Disability gallery in Toronto. Next year it will be going to Vancouver where Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture Society will showcase the exhibit as it continues to inspire audiences to think deeper about disability.