Holding space for community stories through arts and culture journalism
C/O Anne Nygard
As the year comes to an end, it’s important to take the time to reflect on the past few months. This serves not only as an opportunity to measure and celebrate our successes but also to recognize our shortcomings. It allows us to hold ourselves accountable to the goals and promises we set out in the beginning.
As a section, there are two tenets that have guided our reporting this year: community connections and Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour perspectives.
We have strived to place particular emphasis on the student community, especially during these strange and trying times. The fall semester saw the return of the Humans of McMaster column and in the winter semester, we have been able to report on how events such Mac Dance annual showcase and faculty musicals have been able to proceed in the pandemic.
We also have been thrilled to feature a number of student-led businesses and initiatives. These include but are not limited to Ashantae Handcrafted, Alethea Clark and her mother’s health and beauty business; the Potential Excellence podcast produced by second-year students Brian Osei-Boateng and Tevin Wellington; Desu Beauty, fourth-year Abi Oladesu’s makeup business; The Wig Hall, second-year Inès Ndzana’s wig company and ISAIAH III, fourth-year student Aaron Parry’s clothing brand celebrating African-Canadian identity and culture.
While many of these businesses were born out of student’s newfound time during the pandemic, they also reflect their unique interests and passions.
“Everyone has their own outlets of dealing with [burnout] and [ways] of finding healing and time to actually rest so that you can reenter the world. Art has always been mine for that. I think developing a business that reflects my creative interest and my community interest is kind of a daily reminder to actually do art to be creative and to look after myself,” said Parry.
Although the traditional Supercrawl celebrations were cancelled, we were still able to cover how the event affected students and also offer insight into how students have been affected as members of the larger Hamilton community during the pandemic.
There are few articles this year that have not alluded to the pandemic. It’s hung over all of us. It is difficult to forget about as we are constantly confronted with reminders of it, including the monotony of learning and working from home and the shift from print to online publication.
It was important to us to help capture how the events of 2020, including the pandemic-affected students and particularly their ability to form community. This desire spurred the creation of the new Sil Time Capsule series as we sought to share the experiences of students in the larger, international community as well.
“2020 has been an eventful and unprecedented year and as a student newspaper, we have a responsibility to acknowledge these events, inform our peers and raise awareness about them. We also have a responsibility to address the ways in which they have affected and influenced not only the wider world but also our own community. This Time Capsule series is one way by which we are working to do justice to the events and issues of this year and their influence on the communities big and small of which we are a part,” explained both Adrian Salopek and myself in the introductory article on the Time Capsule series.
We also attempted to raise awareness about opportunities for students to connect with the McMaster and Hamilton communities even if they were not in the city proper, such as through pen pal initiatives, the Hamilton Public Library and series like virtual nightclub Bedroom Dancing. These initiatives are examples of the way the community has stepped up to support each other and bring some joy to each other during these difficult days.
“I hope that [the attendees] can feel invigorated to move a little more in their own way . . . [and] connect with the community. That’s my ultimate goal,” explained Rachel Mae, also known as DJ Donna Lovejoy, who co-hosted Bedroom Dancing.
We have strived to hold space for the stories and voices of the BIPOC community at McMaster and Hamilton, which have often been underrepresented in the Silhouette’s coverage.
Representation matters and as a section, it’s been extremely important to us to report on stories that reflect the diversity of our community. We've been delighted to feature businesses and organizations like Mixed in Hamilton, Take Up Space, Beads in the Trap, Shop Boho, BlkOwnedHamont and Filipinas of HamONT. However, in the future, we could strive to feature more Indigenous stories in our arts and culture coverage.
In our annual Sex and the Steel City special issue, we endeavoured to bring these two tenets of community and BIPOC perspectives together to do justice to the diversity of cultures and communities on campus and in Hamilton.
“I think COVID-19 has made this issue all the more urgent. This pandemic has upended relationships, cancelled sex lives and wreaked havoc on our collective health. But it has also highlighted the importance of these things. We crave connection perhaps more than we ever have. So in this year’s Sex and the Steel City, we have sought to tell stories of connection. Not just stories of romantic relationships, but also stories of the relationships with our family members, our friends and ourselves. I hope you know that you’re part of a community that loves and looks forward to this issue, be it your first Sex and the Steel City or your millionth,” wrote Arts & Culture Editor Rya Buckley in her opening letter for this year’s Sex and the Steel City issue.
We also attempted to revive the Sil’s Black Futures issue and while it was not quite as successful as we had hoped it would be, we were grateful to be able to offer a platform for Hamilton’s first Black Film Festival, the new Black and IPOC-focused clubs making a difference on campus and what McMaster alum Michael Abraham has been up to. Just as these individuals and their initiatives hold space for the Black community, it was important to us to hold space for their stories.
“The reason why I am part of these clubs is because I want to do whatever I can to best support the Black community. Because oftentimes a major issue is just lack of information. People aren’t aware of these opportunities. In being in these roles, we’re able to share different opportunities with the people who are part of our club . . . and just keeping them tapped in because that’s really important. Overall, [I am] just looking for ways to support the community in whatever capacity that I can. That’s why I’m involved in these clubs,” said Anu Popoola, a second-year student involved in the Black Student Mentorship Program and Black Aspiring Physicians McMaster.
The last few weeks in particular we have placed renewed emphasis on sharing BIPOC stories, especially those close to the hearts of section staff. We are grateful to have featured initiatives such as speqtrum’s Food Talks series, Goodbodyfeel’s fueling reclamation initiative and Red Betty Theatre’s Decolonize Your Ears. We’ve also had the privilege to interview businesses such as Thirty Wolves Designs and Verte Beauty.
“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,” explained Robin Lacambra, founder and owner of Goodbodyfeel.
While Lacambra was speaking about her studio’s fueling reclamation initiative, the same can be said of all institutions and industries. Being a reporter is a privilege and it’s one we endeavoured to wield wisely as we’ve strived to support our community through this trying year, while also holding space for BIPOC stories and voices in our section.
There is always room for improvement though and hopefully, in the future, the section continues to allow these tenets to guide their work.