With awareness and compassion growing for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women issue, local musician Raine Beth Hamilton has rallied together people from the artist community who want to act.
I spoke with Raine Beth Hamilton (RBH) about how and why this issue has motivated her to gather artists together for a fundraiser later this week.
JS: Raine (Beth), you have been involved in coordinating fundraising events with local musicians for the Sundance of Elder Wanbdi Wakita. It’s so wonderful to witness the generosity in the circle of musicians you know. How did the idea for this Standing in Unity concert come into being?
RBH: The idea for Standing in Unity came into being because I was feeling pretty riled up and pretty called to action after Tina Fontaine’s death. I was just kind of thinking what kind of supportive role can I play in moving this issue forward and increasing the visibility of the issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. An obvious choice again was to hold a concert and just rally the artist community. It’s just something that I have to give so when I can give it in a supportive way, I’m always happy to.
JS: How do you get that ball rolling?
RBH: First I just booked the space at the Graffiti Gallery and we had a date. Then I could just go ahead and approach other musicians and artists who I thought might be into the cause. Everyone was so receptive and so enthusiastic about participating. It was great. There’s five bands and ten artists.
JS: Your Facebook notice for this event in support of MMIW says “Come enjoy some music, bid on some art, all shared in the spirit of kindness and unity. Let us all lovingly show “all of us – all kinds of us – we care.” Wow. That brings tears to my eyes. That’s the next essential step isn’t it?
We do live in a divided city. When I was involved in the mayoral campaigning, I just kept hearing that. There is a divide between the north and the south. I am also aware that there has been a lot of rallying within the Indigenous community. This event seems to be taking it one step further. You as an artist are really reaching out to your connections. Can you comment on that point – the all of us – all kinds of us – point?
RBH: I feel that this event – the purpose is to reach out with open arms, just really lovingly, to just all people, for the inclusion of all people. I think that Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women is not just an indigenous issue. If people find themselves caring for the safety of all women, children and families, it is not just an issue for Indigenous people to grapple with. It is an issue for all of Canada.
JS: My email account is being flooded by notifications to all the photos of people holding up the sign, “We care MMIW”. How did that momentum get going?
RBH: I see that the purpose of the event as being – I want it to be really inviting to show solidarity and I just wanted to think of a way that people could easily and comfortably and really effectively communicate and show solidarity in a way that we could kind of collect all in one space and in a way that is easily shared. Social media was just a really good choice to invite people to be doing that. The response has been very good. A huge diversity of Canadians are participating in the We Care Campaign.
JS: You call it a We Care Campaign? Is that broader than the event?
RBH: We started in connection to the event. We hope that it will catch on throughout Canada. It’s best to put the photo on the event page for the concert. Anyone with a Facebook account can just do that. I’ve also been putting it on twitter and hashtagging, #Standing in Unity/We Care.
JS: As musicians and artists, you are fundraising for this cause, but have you actually engaged in informal discussions about possible solutions to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women issue – as artists, or as Winnipeggers or as human beings?
RBH: That is for sure a next step for all of Canada to engage on. I don’t know if I have a great answer for you on that one, Joan.
JS: I’m just wondering. We’re taking it all in. I just saw John Ralston Saul recently. He’s an author who recognizes Indigenous people are empowered and are standing front and centre and informing the general public. I am just wondering what people are saying outside of that, like, as allies. I was wondering if you are picking up that kind of vibe from the artist community.
RBH: What I’m noticing in my community of people who I’ve reached out to so far is just great compassion that people are feeling. There is a real acknowledgement that there is a problem, a social problem. That’s a starting part. Leah Gazan will have a great answer for you for that one.
Like Raine Beth Hamilton, Leah Gazan, activist and educator, states emphatically the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women issue is a Canadian problem. She says the Harper government racializes the issue even though Tina Fontaine’s perpetrator is not an Indigenous man.
When asked what are the solutions, Ms. Gazan says policy needs to change. Five official agencies allowed Tina Fontaine to slip through the gaps.
She says compassion and awareness are on the rise, so if inquiries are done, they need to be done from a community level instead of being government led.
We need twenty four hour drop-in centres, she says, and sufficient housing for youth coming into Winnipeg from northern communities.
I asked why this concert is important. When Raine Hamilton approached her, Ms. Gazan could see Canadians are recognizing this issue won’t just go away. We need to do something.
STANDING IN UNITY
Concert and Auction
In support of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Sun. Nov. 23, 2014, Graffiti Gallery, 7-11 p.m.
Tickets at the door, or in advance at: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/standing-in-unity-tickets-14206970431
LINE UP: Sweet Alibi * Raine Hamilton * Boogey The Beat * Slow Spirit * The Mariachi Ghost * Heartbeat City
SPEAKER: Bernadette Smith
ARTISTS OF THE SILENT AUCTION: KC Adams * Sarah Thiessen * Josée Montreuil * Carolyne Kroeker * Hillarie Tasche * Nicole Shimonek * Cathie Ugrin * Alexandra Tumanov