Unpacking Boxes is back for its third year, and in recognition of the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, it aims to open minds.
Boxes is a collection of artists and community activists using the theme “Where are you from?” It is from the title that co-organizer Kristina de Guzman understands the question’s polarization.
“It is really about exploring the multiple layers of any individual and group,” de Guzman says. “And understanding the complexities rather than sticking to this idea of extreme polarization.”
Rather than gravitating to the left or right, the goal is to continue forging ahead without giving in to dismay.
“I think working with others who believe in the same thing you do and are just as enthusiastic to do it, even when it gets challenging, is the biggest motivation,” de Guzman explains. “That, along with the aftermath of seeing the impact on someone who has been included—that normally may not have been included to participate in the dialogue—whether its through their words or art.”
This year’s lineup contains speaker Ingrid Flores from the Latin American Community Engagement Network (LACEN), local belly dancer of Egyptian heritage, Marie Habib and multidisciplinary artist of Peruvian, Chinese and Japanese descent, The Vice Verser—who performs spoken word and hip-hop. As well, local emcee Lady Eloquence will be performing.
Cyclist turned activist Bashir Mohamed (who still cycles) will speak about a recent experience with racism, to create discussion around cycling infrastructure in the city.
During a filmed altercation, several motorists yelled racial slurs and insults at him as he was stopped on his bike at a red light.
It is within this sense of diverse community that de Guzman hopes people realize they are not alone. There is support from many, and while it is not only important to stand up to racism, the approach one takes in doing so is just as consequential.
She points to a growing ‘us versus them’ sentiment that de Guzman feels is natural to veer toward. From her perspective, it can become dangerous as she sees there is no way out of that battleground, especially if the end goal is to promote peace and understanding.
“It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity and victimization, particularly when it comes to talking about experiences of racism and discrimination,” she says. “But Unpacking Boxes has also very much been a platform to hear from others who have found ways to move forward and not promote the very negative aspects of what they’ve experienced.”
Sun., Mar. 19 (7 pm)
Naked Cyber Cafe, $10