Episode 147: Bangishimo
Bangishimo, an IndigiQueer Anishinaabe artist originally from Couchiching First Nation located on Treaty #3 territory, is a community organizer, educator, and advocate.
Sara and Marshall sit down with Bangishimo to talk about photography and storytelling, being one of the co-founders of O:se Kenhionhata:tie, also known as Land Back Camp, and creating space for communities to come together -- allowing for Black, Indigenous, Racialized and Queer voices to be heard.
Sara: Welcome to Bonn Park, I'm Sara Geidlinger
Marshall: And I'm Marshall Ward
Bangishimo: My name is Bangishimo, I’m a two-spirit artist originally from Couchiching First Nations, also known as Northern Ontario, and I've been living in Kitchener-Waterloo now, going on my 9th year this year, and I'm a local activist, advocate, artist, photographer I wear many hats. Thanks for having me.
Sara: The first time that I saw your name, your art, I was walking the trails behind my house here in Clair Hills, the Geo-Time Trail.
Bangishimo: The Geo-Time is right here. That's where this neighborhood looks familiar.
Sara: So we're walking our usual route and we get out to where the stormwater management ponds are, and I'm like, there's art here, there's art here, to my family.
Sara: And we get to where there's sort of a fork in the asphalt paved area by the ponds, and your photography is exhibited there.
Sara: And I had no idea that this was coming.
Sara: It was a glorious surprise.
Sara: We spent a lot of time looking and reading because there were descriptions with the art as well.
Sara: And I actually found out recently that you struggled with some vandalism with the art when I was doing some research before this.
Sara: So I didn't see any of that.
Sara: But I was just so moved.
Sara: I was like, Wow.
Sara: Somebody made an effort to not only create art, promote art, but put it out here in nature for us to enjoy it where it's meant to be enjoyed.
Bangishimo: I found it very moving, this art installation on the land.
Bangishimo: Oh, man, that was a year in the making.
Bangishimo: Josh Bean, who was working for the City of Waterloo at the time with events, he and I have been friends for years, and he reached out to me the one day, I think it was during Canada 150, and said, like, we don't want to the safe Waterloo wants to put the money.
Bangishimo: Like, we're not hosting Canada Day this year because they were no longer hosting it at UW.
Sara: Columbia Lake.
Bangishimo: And they were like, we want to use this funding towards something else, us to promote the message through Indigenous.
Bangishimo: Art because obviously the history of coding was on with indigenous peoples.
Bangishimo: So we had this conversation about what that piece would look like, about amplifying voices of community members, or having a conversation about what this land really is.
Bangishimo: Like, who does it belong to?
Bangishimo: Do people know?
Bangishimo: Are people talking about the history of this land and who are the rightful owners of it?
Bangishimo: So this was like a year long conversation.
Bangishimo: We wanted to do it this one year, and then it got delayed and then till the following summer, which was great because it gave me time to work on it.
Bangishimo: And then I came up with this idea.
Bangishimo: I'm like, why don't I just have people sit on the land?
Bangishimo: So there's like this double entendre, I guess, to the name of the exhibit on the land, but then also asking people what it means to them to be on this land.
Bangishimo: What does it mean to you to live on this indigenous territory?
Bangishimo: And I interviewed people audio, and then I added those audio files to my website and then also transcribed all these interviews.
Bangishimo: So with each picture, there's a QR code, and you can scan the QR code and it takes you to my website.
Bangishimo: We can actually listen to the interview.
Bangishimo: People have shared some beautiful stories of their experience that one person shares about being an immigrant, being displaced from India to South Africa and then from South Africa to Canada.
Bangishimo: And now how she's come to understand that even though she's been displaced a number of times, she's now living on someone else's territory, and how that experience has been for her as a South Asian person.
Bangishimo: And I was just like it was very beautiful.
Bangishimo: She was the first person I shot, actually, for the series, and now I'm up to eight pictures so far, and I was going to kind of cap it at eight, but now people are more interested in it.
Bangishimo: So I might add more.
Sara: I think that series lends itself to growth because that's not the type of thing that's encapsulated journey.
Bangishimo: Right, yeah.
Sara: Like you just said, it's turning into more people sharing, and it gets deeper and deeper.
Sara: The one thing I'll say about those photos is they're incredibly warm and rich, which makes me, when I'm just looking now, I was out in the sunshine, walking in nature when I saw them, which is the intent of the exhibit.
Sara: But even just looking at the photos, when you go back and look online, you feel that outdoor sunlight warmth.
Sara: It really comes across in the photographs.
Bangishimo: And they're all shot in, like, different seasons in different parts of the city.
Bangishimo: And I wanted to shoot where I asked the people in the picture, what is an area of the city that you're compelled to that you're pulled to, that you feel connected to?
Bangishimo: So those are all pieces of land that they have some sort of connection with.
Bangishimo: Which was really interesting.
Bangishimo: And it started with four pictures, and every time it goes up, I've been adding two new pictures to the installation, and now I'm up to eight.
Bangishimo: And yeah, and then obviously, there's, like, the vandalism and people you know, there's just, like, a lot of racism in Kw, and people don't like hearing the voices of black, indigenous, racialized folks.
Bangishimo: And obviously, I have a name for myself in the community, and there's a lot of people that don't like the work that I do as well.
Bangishimo: So, yeah, that has been vandalized three times, and the mayor and the city councilors condemned the violence that was taking place, and yeah, it was all over the news at one point.
Bangishimo: Yeah, but to be honest, I've been telling people, I'm like, whoever did it, they're just giving me free exposure, to be honest.
Bangishimo: So thank you to the Vandals, because now more people know about it and we're interested in actually seeing the pictures.
Sara: Because that's being reported on.
Sara: I did see you were quoted saying something like, well, it's supposed to evoke emotion, and I guess that happened.
Bangishimo: Yeah, right.
Bangishimo: And I said that a number of times.
Bangishimo: I'm like, Yeah, it's supposed to evoke emotions, and it's supposed to bring up your feelings and hearing these stories and seeing the pictures, and it did, and it made some people upset.
Bangishimo: And that's what art does.
Marshall: That's quite a gift to receive some of the positive perspectives that have been shared.
Marshall: When somebody puts public art out there, it's kind of like you plant it and you put it down, and then you walk away from it, and it has a life in that spot, and people, possibly animals, engage with it, but you never see it.
Marshall: It has its own life, and it can be a long life, too, depending on the installation.
Marshall: So that must have been amazing to have people come and share the way they responded to it emotionally.
Bangishimo: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Bangishimo: I've received and you know what?
Bangishimo: In the positive comments that I received definitely outweigh the negative.
Bangishimo: Like, I received so many positive comments through social media and email by people, just strangers in the community who just email me and say, hey, you know what?
Bangishimo: I walked by your installation.
Bangishimo: I walk by it every day, and I take a few minutes in the morning to actually listen to one of the stories, and I look forward to the next morning to listen to another story.
Bangishimo: And just like, even parents, too, even said, Yeah, thank you so much for sharing these stories.
Bangishimo: It's really important that our youth hear them as well.
Bangishimo: So I'm like, Oh, that makes me feel warm inside.
Bangishimo: It's nice to know that it is impacting lives and that people are getting something out of these stories that are being shared.
Sara: I love that sometimes, as artists, it can be hard to focus on the positives sometimes the negative rings with you a little bit, especially if you're dealing with any artistic imposter syndrome, which me and Marshall do.
Sara: Me and Marshall talk about that a lot, just like, am I worthy of this space?
Sara: Do I actually have something to say?
Bangishimo: I still get that.
Bangishimo: I'm in a mentorship program right now.
Bangishimo: This year Photo Journal is a mentorship program that I just started.
Bangishimo: So I'm working with, alongside 15 other mentees, these amazing photographers from across Canada.
Bangishimo: And I was in a meeting with them last night, and we're sharing each other's work, and their pictures are just, like, amazing.
Bangishimo: And I feel like, do I deserve to sit here?
Bangishimo: But then I tell myself I'm like, Yeah, I do, because I put in the work.
Bangishimo: And yes, when it comes to the.
Marshall: Vandalism of sculptures, I usually think a couple of things.
Marshall: One is, I think, well, the person in every case is long dead, so they're not hurting because it was vandalized.
Marshall: But secondly, it makes me feel lucky to be to live in a place where people can express themselves in different ways, you know, in nonverbal ways.
Marshall: Yeah, I think there's an upside to that kind of analyst, too.
Bangishimo: We're talking about the statue, right?
Sara: Are you Marshall?
Sara: Are you talking about the statues in Victoria Park?
Bangishimo: You had previous statues.
Bangishimo: Even that's a hot topic right now, too, the statue.
Bangishimo: I mean, somebody poured paint on it.
Bangishimo: And then another group that I follow on Twitter had declared it an art piece, which is really cool because somebody poured paint on it, and they're like, well, and actually reading a lot of the comments on social media, on news articles, people are like, It's an art piece now.
Bangishimo: Like, somebody took the time to put paint on it, so leave it.
Bangishimo: Yeah, because the city keeps removing it.
Bangishimo: But yeah, it's a form of art.
Marshall: As you touched on these.
Marshall: Public art is meant to provoke conversation.
Marshall: And that's actually a testament to that particular piece, because I don't know when that was put up, but decades later.
Sara: People are still talking about it.
Sara: But it was from the perspective of the artist who had created some of these things and just saying, same thing that Marshall always says.
Sara: It creates a new space that's no longer yours.
Sara: You've given it over.
Sara: And what happens from there is not up to you.
Sara: You've created something at the time, but what it is now is not on you.
Sara: It's part of the time that we're currently oh, absolutely.
Bangishimo: I've seen other artists who have had their work covered up with other people that work or graffiti as well.
Bangishimo: And I have known a number of them who've said, yeah, don't remove it.
Bangishimo: Don't remove the tags, or whatever, because that person is now adding their art to my art.
Bangishimo: And I was like, that's a great way of looking at it.
Bangishimo: And even like with my pictures in here at Geo-Time Trails, when they're up, every time they've been vandalized, I haven't replaced them.
Bangishimo: And now every time they go up, you can actually see the scratches and the knicks and some of them are bent, and you can actually see where they've been bent in half.
Bangishimo: And people ask me that, they're like, how come you just don't replace the pictures?
Bangishimo: And I'm like, Why would I do that?
Bangishimo: I think it creates more of a conversation and that's character, and it actually shows like, it increases like it brings more of the narrative forward of, like, vandalism that was being done in two racialized black indigenous folks.
Bangishimo: The violence has taken place every single day in this region right towards us.
Bangishimo: So that just speaks volumes, having all those nicks and scratches in the pictures.
Sara: I love this.
Sara: It's like if you were to replace them, you're racing their history.
Marshall: And it's interaction.
Marshall: And the last thing we want as artists is indifference.
Sara: You want something.
Bangishimo: So I've spent a lot of time bending and trying to straighten up those pictures.
Marshall: There are pieces in town that don't get touched.
Marshall: One is Timothy Schmaltz’s War Memorial.
Marshall: I don't think it has ever had a piece of gum stuck on it.
Sara: Is this the one on University Avenue, and it goes into an infinity sort of thing?
Marshall: And then there's winds that are kind of impervious to being touched, like Ron Baird's kinetic wind sculptures at The Boardwalk.
Bangishimo: You know, what else is there?
Marshall: Hey, tell us about your T-shirt.
Marshall: It says Protect the Tract.
Bangishimo: This is a group that we worked with last summer with the camp in Laurel Creek Conservation Area.
Bangishimo: So we had the space, and this group was canoeing the grand to bring awareness to issues impacting the grand and the damage that was being done to the river and the water sources.
Bangishimo: They were actually canoeing and actually collecting water as they can do with the grand.
Bangishimo: And they were making a stop through this area and asked if they could camp with us for a few days.
Bangishimo: And some of them were part of 1492 Line back camp that happened in Six Nations and yeah, and then some of them were members of the queer community as well.
Bangishimo: Queer trans community.
Bangishimo: And they asked if they could stay with us for a few days.
Bangishimo: And we said sure.
Bangishimo: So it was a really great relationship building, and it was really great just having our own space last summer where we could actually just invite numerous groups to come be a part of our space.
Sara: Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Sara: I want to be very aware of look at me being careful and white and straight over here.
Bangishimo: I know you're saying…
Sara: I do want to be aware of the fact that it's not your job to educate me in Marshall City here.
Sara: I want to be aware of the fact that your activism and your land back and everything that you fight for can be exhausting and it's work, and it's not a favor, quote, unquote, that you're doing to us to explain everything to us.
Sara: But do you want to explore that because it came up organically and talked to us about land back, talk to us about the camp?
Bangishimo: Yes, absolutely.
Bangishimo: I love talking about it because there's still a lot of people who actually don't even know what it is or have heard of it and don't actually know what it is or ignore because.
Sara: They don't have to worry.
Bangishimo: Yeah, right.
Bangishimo: Or just choose to ignore it.
Bangishimo: In 2020, Amy, myself and Tara, who is one of the original co founders, and Amy's child's guy, we were just coming out of the first lockdown, and we couldn't gather in public spaces.
Bangishimo: We could only be outside.
Bangishimo: We were going into the summer time, and people just wanted to be outside.
Bangishimo: Because we were, like, locked up indoors all winter.
Bangishimo: And there was a lot of violence taking place in the black community, a lot of murders taking place, like, nationwide in the States, and there's just especially indigenous people as well, too.
Bangishimo: And we wanted to create a space where the community could just come together and hang out.
Bangishimo: So I created this chat, and we were like, let's set up a teepee in the park for a couple of days.
Bangishimo: And then we set up a couple of times.
Bangishimo: It was supposed to be three days in the park.
Bangishimo: And then we had this idea we're like, well, we can always go set up in front of Kitchener City Hall after three days if we want.
Bangishimo: We didn't really have, like, any motives or intentions.
Bangishimo: We just wanted to go hang out in a space.
Bangishimo: And within the first two days, all these youth, these young people just started flocking, I guess the word is, to the camp and saying, like, hey, we want to be a part of your space.
Bangishimo: And we're like, okay, this is cool.
Bangishimo: Within the first three days, we ended up having a full camp of, like, 15 tents.
Bangishimo: And we're sitting around one evening, Amy and Tara and I, myself and the three of us were like, yeah, you know what?
Bangishimo: Everybody here is either queer or trans or non binary or gender neutral or somewhere in there.
Bangishimo: And we're just like, wow, we actually have this queer indigenous space with a lot of queer allies all of a sudden in the middle of the park.
Bangishimo: So we realized we were like, this queer camp for young people.
Bangishimo: And then we realized that it was bigger than three days in the park, and we came up with the three of us sat down and came up with these four demands that we wanted from the city, because even to the state, like, three years later, we're going into our third summer.
Bangishimo: We're still fighting for space.
Bangishimo: We still don't see ourselves in services for us in the local organizations.
Bangishimo: We can't access them for so many reasons.
Bangishimo: So Amy and I have been advocating that we have our own building, which is something we've been working on this past year.
Bangishimo: So, yeah, I mean, we still don't have a permanent space on the land.
Bangishimo: Every summer, Amy and I have to look for a new space for us to gather, and it just speaks to the constant displacement of indigenous peoples on their own land.
Bangishimo: But our camp that started with the four of us now has over 30 people, which is amazing.
Bangishimo: All vol ages of all nationalities on all different nations.
Bangishimo: Like, we have some folks who are Migma, some folks who are Kree, Mati, Anishinabe, Mohawk.
Bangishimo: We just have such a diverse group of people and all belonging to the queer community and looking for just somewhere to belong, right, because they don't see themselves in other spaces or there's no services available for them, which is unfortunate.
Bangishimo: So that's something that Amy and I are still advocating for today.
Marshall: Don't you find that aside from a political leader supporting something like Pride Festival or parade, beyond that, they're not risk takers.
Marshall: They don't like to speak up, you know what I mean?
Marshall: And do anything that's good in what they perceive to be unfavorable to them.
Bangishimo: People want to just shake hands and not rock the boat.
Sara: Am I correct that you turned Karen Redman away when she showed up for a photo op?
Bangishimo: Oh, that article, yeah, that was in our first year of the camp, actually, just within the first few weeks.
Bangishimo: The mayor's came down and met with Amy and Tear within the first couple of weeks, and then Karen came by unannounced.
Bangishimo: No reason.
Bangishimo: Yeah, just a quick last minute email from their assistant saying, Hey, we're coming to the camp.
Bangishimo: We're like, Why?
Bangishimo: For a reason.
Bangishimo: Unless you're giving us something or you're offering us something, then you really have no business here.
Bangishimo: And we said that to her.
Bangishimo: And even with the City councilors, the City of Kitchener staff, I mean, when they met with us for the first time to actually start discussing the four demands that we had, Amy asked them right out.
Bangishimo: The first question Amy asked them was like, do you know whose land you're on?
Bangishimo: Do you know whose territory this is?
Bangishimo: Do you know the history of it?
Bangishimo: And none of them can answer that question.
Bangishimo: And he was like, Okay, so if you're going to work with us, you need to know who you're working with.
Bangishimo: So you need to go home and do your homework because we're not meeting with you today.
Bangishimo: So they left.
Bangishimo: We did not meet with them.
Bangishimo: They actually went and did their homework.
Bangishimo: When they came back, they actually knew a bit more.
Bangishimo: And Denise McGoldrick, who is from the City, who has been one of our closest allies because of that moment, came back and said, hey, we're sorry, I will do better.
Bangishimo: And she has done better.
Bangishimo: And Denise has been great to work with the city since.
Bangishimo: And, yeah, we really enjoy working with her.
Bangishimo: But that's just an example of like, one person who actually has proven that they are doing the work, that they're doing their homework.
Bangishimo: I encourage everybody to do that because it happens a lot to us, right?
Bangishimo: There's so much tokenism that happens where people think they're being an ally, but it ends up becoming a form of tokenism because they're doing it because there's a reason behind what they're doing it for.
Bangishimo: And it's like you don't need to take pictures, you don't need to post it on social media.
Bangishimo: If you want to help us, just help us.
Bangishimo: That's what Allyship is.
Bangishimo: You don't need to take the mic.
Bangishimo: You don't need to take the spotlight.
Bangishimo: Just support us and help get our message across.
Bangishimo: That's what true allyship is.
Bangishimo: And those have been the people who have been with us from day one with the camp.
Bangishimo: We have a number of allies who've been with us from day one, and they are our family today.
Bangishimo: They are the biggest support.
Bangishimo: When we need something written or a grant or a response letter or just anything, like, they're the ones that we can go to who will support us and have been there.
Bangishimo: When the violence has gone down at our camps, it has been there to just stand up for us.
Bangishimo: I always tell people I'm like, ally's ship is standing up for us when we're not in the room.
Bangishimo: If you hear something being said about us, speak up for us even when we're not there.
Bangishimo: That's all a ship.
Marshall: He said something earlier.
Marshall: That pretty powerful visual.
Marshall: You had talked about conversation where we could only take the teepees and take into City Hall, right.
Marshall: The idea of setting up a teepee on concrete.
Marshall: There's a lot of interesting things happening there.
Marshall: One is either city hall is displaced or the teepee is displaced because the concrete doesn't lend itself to the comfort of what you have in a teepee.
Marshall: And secondly, that land would have at one time but being very suitable for a teepee and no longer is.
Marshall: Can you talk about that?
Marshall: That's a very powerful kind of idea, a teepee up in front of City Hall.
Bangishimo: And that even just speaks to like, being an urban indigenous person and trying to find places in a concrete slab, trying to find places where we can reconnect, right.
Bangishimo: Where do we go for that?
Bangishimo: Like, where can we go.
Bangishimo: Setting up in City Hall would have been a strong message to the community.
Bangishimo: We would have done it anyway.
Bangishimo: Who knows, we might do it in the future.
Bangishimo: But even that, too, we've just started now to work with the cities.
Bangishimo: We have some meetings with them coming up.
Bangishimo: They just recently approved the budget to create permanent indigenous spaces in a number of parks, which is really cool.
Bangishimo: I don't think that's been publicly made yet, but yeah, they're doing consultation.
Bangishimo: They're moving into consultation now to ask the rest of the community what they would like to see in these spaces.
Bangishimo: We have a makeshift fire space in Victoria Park, so we still have a fire every two weeks for the campers.
Bangishimo: We're the only group in Kw that's allowed to have an open fire in the park, victoria park.
Bangishimo: We're the only group that's allowed to have an open fire in Waterloo Park because of the work that we've done, which is really great.
Bangishimo: But now they're going to build us now they have a budget and they're actually going to build us an actual permanent fire space, which is really great.
Sara: That wouldn't have happened a handful of years ago, right, without the work that you're put in.
Bangishimo: Even though the camp is not physically there in Victoria Park, it's interesting because when you go there, a lot of people don't occupy that space anymore.
Bangishimo: Because so many people have told me and Amy that they still feel like the presence of the camp there.
Bangishimo: And it's interesting because this area that used to be once occupied by people in the park, a lot of people don't occupy anymore even though we're not there, because there's like there's still this energy there that the camp is still there.
Sara: Now, I don't know enough about this subject, but do you want to talk at all about the transformation of the bus terminal?
Sara: I was reading an article about the Hudson Bay six story building in Winnipeg.
Bangishimo: Yeah, I am being given back.
Sara: And then I started thinking, well, who's going to pay for that?
Sara: That's an expensive amount of infrastructure.
Sara: And then I thought, okay, there's a forgivable loan, but there's this $10 million portion that's not forgivable.
Sara: There's a lot of stuff like, we can't just give a large piece of land with a building over and just have fun.
Sara: You need to be responsible for plumbing and electrical and all of these things that need to happen in safety code, just things like that that need to go down.
Sara: And I don't think I really know enough about the subject, but what is that story with the bus terminal on Charles Street and what is happening there?
Bangishimo: Well, going into our third well, we were in our second year, actually, last year at Laurel Creek, when we were still having the conversations about even though we're on the land and we're an urban indigenous group trying to find space on the land, we still don't have a building of our own.
Bangishimo: And that's how land back in started was because of, like, the lack of space for us to gather.
Bangishimo: We're one of the few groups in southwestern Ontario that doesn't have, like, a friendship center or an indigenous community center.
Bangishimo: We have organizations, but those organizations have very small spaces as well.
Bangishimo: So you can actually have community gathering in their spaces.
Bangishimo: They hold maybe, like, ten people comfortably, and that's it.
Bangishimo: So we saw the Charles Street terminal sitting there.
Bangishimo: It was used for COVID testing.
Bangishimo: And we were like, you know what?
Bangishimo: That would be great if we could utilize that space and have it become something for the community and not another development, like, not another condo, because we have enough rate.
Bangishimo: So we started having conversations about, like, what can we do to get that building, to get that piece of land and have it become an indigenous space, but also a community space, a space for the community.
Bangishimo: Downtown Kitchener Central.
Bangishimo: It's not an ion stop.
Bangishimo: Bus stops right across from Kitchener City Hall, right beside Victoria Park.
Bangishimo: You can't get any more essential than that bus station.
Bangishimo: So we started having those conversations, and two students came forward, heard that we're having these conversations.
Bangishimo: From the University of Waterloo, two architect students said, hey, we want to create this vision document, this type of blueprint of what a potential building could look like in downtown Kitchener to help support your cause, to help amplify your message.
Bangishimo: And we were like, sure.
Bangishimo: So we met with them, told them some idea of what could potentially go in that building, and they ran with it, came up with these beautiful illustrations, floor by floor, room by room.
Bangishimo: So tjeu came to us with this visual document, with these illustrations and four x four plans, room by room, of what a potential space could look like.
Bangishimo: And we use that to create a petition to get the support from the community.
Bangishimo: We then approached five local indigenous organizations with our idea, and we got five letters of support from them as well, too.
Bangishimo: And then we presented it to the region, our idea of this vision plan of what a potential space could look like, and then it just gained a lot of support, and the next thing, it's all over the media.
Bangishimo: And then they're asking the question to the larger community, what do you want to see happen in the space?
Bangishimo: And people are starting to give their own opinion.
Bangishimo: And the region put out a survey which closed in December, asking the community what they wanted to see.
Bangishimo: So we were promoting a survey asking people to fill it out and support the indigenous community hub idea.
Bangishimo: And so going into 2022, we wanted to keep the conversation going about the terminal.
Bangishimo: We didn't want it to just be put on the back burner.
Bangishimo: So again, Niara, who's amazing, said, why don't we create this, an outdoor art installation beside the terminal, to keep the conversation going?
Bangishimo: So he said, Yeah, let's do that.
Bangishimo: And the idea got narrowed down to another film.
Bangishimo: This is the second film now and recollections and Imagining.
Bangishimo: So we've been doing interviews with people on the street, asking them, recollections, meaning what is an experience, what is a memory that you have with the terminal?
Bangishimo: And then imagining, what do you hope to see become of that space?
Bangishimo: So people have been sharing we had one person share that they remember the terminal being a gas station.
Bangishimo: And I was like, wow, that's the first time I heard of that.
Bangishimo: It used to be a gas station.
Bangishimo: And then people who have moved here and not knowing anybody in KW and how the terminal became a safe space for them to meet other people, and catching the transit every day and having conversations with strangers.
Bangishimo: So a lot of beautiful stories came from just asking people on the street, right?
Bangishimo: And then people saying they hope to become a community center or grocery store or more green space for them to hang out with.
Bangishimo: That because they live in one of the condos and there's not enough green space, and they hope it becomes like another park or something like that.
Bangishimo: So a lot of cool ideas out there.
Bangishimo: And now we're in the middle of editing, and we're going to be screening the film sometime at the end of July.
Marshall: I've really enjoyed our conversation about space.
Marshall: It makes me think about how you would observe this in a park?
Marshall: There's wildlife behind fences, right, that are on display.
Marshall: And then there's swans there with lots of signs.
Sara: Please stop feeding the swans.
Marshall: We're sitting here recording a podcast in a space that has encroached on lots of species, especially barn swallows that now.
Sara: Live far, far away, and an endangered.
Marshall: Salamander species, and also a deer and a protected green belt, which would have to cross Columbia.
Marshall: When you think about space, and you must see these odd contradictions and priorities when it comes to the wildlife around us.
Bangishimo: Oh, yeah.
Bangishimo: And I mean, if people would just take the time to just go sit on the land.
Bangishimo: And I know we've been trained to be these busy people and to have every moment of our day occupied with doing something.
Bangishimo: And if we only would take the time to just be on the land and sit on the land, even if it is in a park, and to actually observe your surroundings and take a moment to just be with nature.
Bangishimo: It's been proven that there's so many benefits, right, to just being out in nature and being around the animals in the air and the sun and yeah, it's so beneficial to our health, right.
Bangishimo: Like, we weren't made to live in buildings.
Bangishimo: We were meant to be outside.
Bangishimo: And like, in the whole time we've spent in Victoria Park or Waterloo Park or Laurel Creek Conservation Area, when you're in the same place every single day, you get to know the nature around you.
Bangishimo: You get to know the trees and the plants and the animals.
Bangishimo: And it's really interesting when you start building this relationship with them.
Bangishimo: And it's really beautiful.
Bangishimo: When we were in Victoria Park, we started to get to know the foxes.
Bangishimo: There are two foxes that would come by the camp at night.
Bangishimo: There was like a family of skunks that lived underneath the bathrooms in Victoria Park and they would actually come out at night and visit us.
Bangishimo: For some reason, the skunks love me.
Bangishimo: It's this weird thing at skunks for some reason.
Sara: I think you need a T shirt that says, it is weird.
Bangishimo: One of them always would make a beeline for my tent and would try to get in my tent for some reason.
Bangishimo: But even that too, we knew who these family of blue jays that moved into our tree above us.
Bangishimo: We had a hawk live with us for a day in the teepee.
Bangishimo: It actually ended up falling into one of the creeks in the park and somebody rescued it because it couldn't get out of the water.
Bangishimo: We ended up calling this animal rescue place and they said if we take it, it might not come back.
Bangishimo: So they said, or if you folks it's just stunned.
Bangishimo: If you folks want to take care of it and then let it go in a few hours, we would loan you a cage because they didn't want to put it down.
Bangishimo: So we actually had this hawk in the camp with us for the day as it was drying off.
Bangishimo: And then at the end of the day, we actually let it go and actually flew off.
Bangishimo: And then for the rest of the time we were out there, we had this family of hawks in the trees above us.
Bangishimo: It was really cool.
Bangishimo: But it was just like moments like that where you can be in touch with nature right in your backyard, right in the park, right.
Sara: Even in the coveted times, I never know how to word it because we talk about the pandemic like it's over.
Sara: It's not over.
Sara: We had two families of robin's nest with babies here at our house.
Sara: We've lived in this neighborhood for 22 years.
Sara: It's the first time that's ever happened in the last two years.
Sara: The neighborhood is quieter.
Sara: Everybody's slowing down, everybody's staying home, everyone's taking time to chill out and not start their cars and all that kind of stuff.
Speaker UNK: Right.
Sara: So we haven't seen it happen this year because I think it's getting noisier again.
Sara: But that moment to take time to slow down and connect with nature, which would have been part of your life had Canada not turned into canada turned into right.
Sara: These would have been part of your daily life anyway.
Sara: And that relationship with wildlife would have been there anyway.
Sara: But how long were you there?
Sara: A few days.
Sara: Before animals start to approach you and you start to get to know them.
Bangishimo: And like he was saying, we came to understand that they're not in our space.
Bangishimo: We're actually in their space.
Sara: This is something that Marshall talks about a lot.
Bangishimo: We're in their space.
Bangishimo: And so we have to acknowledge and respect that.
Bangishimo: We're living under the trees for the summer.
Bangishimo: We're occupying the land where they might actually collect bugs on right.
Bangishimo: For the summer.
Bangishimo: So we are taking up their space, and we have to respect that.
Marshall: There's a lot of lacks of education.
Marshall: I have a neighbor who will put their trampoline out in the protected environmental green belt, not realizing there's red winged blackbirds right there.
Sara: I don't think it's intentional, but intention doesn't matter.
Marshall: Those red wing blackbirds do not want that trampoline.
Bangishimo: It's one of the many challenges with living in an urban area.
Bangishimo: Everyone's trying to fight for a little piece of space right.
Bangishimo: That's occupied by concrete buildings.
Bangishimo: And that's what we're constantly fighting for.
Bangishimo: It's just like we literally occupied.
Bangishimo: We claimed 50 meters of land in Victoria Park and we were somehow taking up the whole park.
Bangishimo: And people would yell that at us every single day.
Bangishimo: You're taking up the park and it's like the largest parking Kitchener.
Bangishimo: We're taking up 50ft of it and we're somehow taking up the whole park.
Bangishimo: 50 meters of it.
Bangishimo: We're just like, really, please tell us more.
Marshall: When it comes to food choices here, living in wirelessly region I'm talking about, is there not a dilemma there?
Marshall: Our grocery stores and places we buy food are packed with mostly factory farmed meats.
Marshall: Is that not a difficult thing, trying to make morally or ethically good food choices living in a city that has.
Sara: So much I'm going to give context.
Sara: Like, me and Marshall are both vegetarian.
Sara: Marshal for 22, 23 years.
Sara: His whole family is actually vegetarian.
Sara: We were just at Vegfest on Saturday, which is vegan.
Bangishimo: In Toronto?
Sara: No, just here, actually.
Sara: The activists that we met were going to Toronto.
Bangishimo: There was a Toronto one, right?
Sara: We talked to a few people recorded with them.
Sara: And then they were leaving for Toronto and then Marshall's family met him there and they packed up and went to Victoria Park to go to the Pride Festival.
Sara: Marshall is incredibly passionate about vegetarianism, factory farming, food issues.
Sara: It's something that we explore together often.
Sara: And if you don't mind me leading you in, I'm not going to speak for you.
Sara: Why don't you say in your own words, animals don't have a right to fight for themselves, for their own land back.
Marshall: They're voiceless, right?
Bangishimo: Yeah, absolutely right.
Bangishimo: And we respect that.
Marshall: Sara and I are really interested in hearing about your path towards becoming an educator.
Bangishimo: So I moved down to southwestern Ontario back in 2008, I think.
Bangishimo: I was struggling with drug addiction at the time, trying to get my life back on track.
Bangishimo: Just dealing with a lot of bad life choices at the time.
Bangishimo: My mother was living in Sarnia, she still lives in Sarnia, you know, went to rehab, did the thing, got sober, got off the drugs and just started to ponder what to do with my life.
Bangishimo: And I was like, okay, I think I'm going to go back to school.
Bangishimo: And somebody had said you should get into social work, because I was like, you know what, I really want to work with other people with drug addictions and I would really like to give back and work with addicts.
Bangishimo: People are like, yes, you should check out social work.
Bangishimo: And I really knew nothing of social work at the time or the term.
Bangishimo: I did my research and signed up to go to college and did that, realized I was really good at school and within my first year, and I was like, oh, I'm really good at this.
Sara: Sometimes we just need a little push.
Bangishimo: Especially when you think of yourself as just like this pain, like this burden of society.
Bangishimo: I was like, just a drug dealer.
Bangishimo: And a drug addict.
Bangishimo: And that's all you think you are, right?
Bangishimo: That's all you've been doing for so long.
Bangishimo: And then realize, I'm like, oh, I'm actually really good at the school thing, so I'm going to keep going.
Bangishimo: Packed up, moved to London, went to Western, got my BSW.
Bangishimo: Bachelors of Social Work did that.
Bangishimo: That's kind of where my advocacy work took off with the Idol No More Movement, which started and became one of the organizers for that.
Bangishimo: Nobody showed me how to organize a rally or a demonstration or how to block an intersection.
Bangishimo: Kind of things you just figure out on your own and then started doing a lot of organizing on campus and just gained a lot of support from the community.
Bangishimo: And I thought, let's just keep doing this.
Bangishimo: Let's just keep going.
Bangishimo: So I was, like, packed up again, applied for the Masters program at Laurier in the Social Work program, the indigenous field of study, moved to KW, and at the time, I had also been in social work for a long time, and she had always talked about her Masters.
Bangishimo: And she called me up one day, and I thought she was asking me, like, a hypothetical question, and she was like, what do you think if I applied for the same program?
Bangishimo: And I thought, Oh, that'd be cool.
Bangishimo: Yeah, that'd be great if you did that program Sunday.
Bangishimo: And she's like, Well, I applied, and I got accepted.
Bangishimo: I was like, no way.
Bangishimo: I was like, Really?
Bangishimo: I'm like so she packed up and she moved to Waterloo, and I moved to Kitchen there.
Bangishimo: And we ended up doing the program together as a one year program.
Bangishimo: And by Mother's Day, CBC heard of this and said, hey, we want to do a story, Craig Norris said, hey, we want to do a story on the two of you going to school together, and we think that would be a great Mother's Day story.
Bangishimo: And we said, Sure, okay.
Bangishimo: And then they picked it up in Mexico, like national news by the end of the week, and we had all these camera crews following us everywhere, and it was hilarious.
Bangishimo: And we're on the cover of newspapers and magazines and stuff, like, mother and son graduate at the same time from the same program, the first ever from Laurie A, which is really cool.
Bangishimo: It's very inspirational because my mom is also recovering alcoholic and also struggled with her own addictions as well.
Bangishimo: And she's a residential school survivor, so she's also overcome a lot.
Bangishimo: And then I didn't have role models growing up.
Bangishimo: The only one I had was my mom because I had seen everything that she'd overcome.
Bangishimo: So I was able to use that as, like, keep that in the back of my mind and tell myself, I'm like, okay, if she can do this, I can do this too.
Bangishimo: So, yeah.
Bangishimo: So I just kept going with my school, with my education, and now with the work that I do.
Bangishimo: I've worked with youth.
Bangishimo: I worked with students for over ten years now at Laurier, at University of Waterloo, and even as an educator speaking to classrooms, guest lecturing, I love working with students, and I love working with youth.
Bangishimo: I've been working with youth now for, like, 15 years.
Bangishimo: And it was interesting because when I first got into this field, I actually didn't want to work with youth because youth terrified me.
Sara: It's such a fragile thing to have in your hands someone else's youth, right?
Bangishimo: And now I love it.
Bangishimo: Now we have so many young people in our camp, and to watch them grow and flourish and evolve and become these voices in their circles now, in their communities, in their schools, and it's great these young people that Amy and I have been working with are now doing their own types of organizing.
Bangishimo: One of them organized a rally last year with 500 people in Victoria Park when they started to find the residential children that were missing in the schools.
Bangishimo: The first 200 that were found I'm sorry, I don't have the exact number, but one of them organized a rally about 500 people together in downtown Kitchener.
Bangishimo: We see them on speakers panels now, like, we see them in the media.
Bangishimo: And these youth that we've been mentoring are now becoming these leaders, which is amazing.
Bangishimo: That's such a cool thing to be a part of.
Sara: It's so incredibly important for any youth to have leaders, role models, mentorship people, grown ups that they can look up to, that are outside of their family structure.
Sara: And you're part of that story.
Sara: That's an amazing place to be, because it's so needed.
Bangishimo: It is needed.
Bangishimo: And at the same time, it's exhausting, in a sense, that there's still so much homophobia, transphobia, and violence taking place within the community, even from our own people, unfortunately.
Bangishimo: And these youth, these queer, indigenous youth, again, they still don't see themselves being reflected in these organizations and these spaces.
Bangishimo: And it's really unfortunate.
Bangishimo: And that they're still being bullied online by people.
Bangishimo: And then Amy and I are like the mother hands, like the parents who do our best to protect the young ones.
Sara: A lot of kids for two people to take care.
Bangishimo: We do.
Bangishimo: Sometimes you're like parents.
Bangishimo: Sometimes we sit back and we're like having the proud moments when we see these young people at the mic, we see them up on the stage, and we see them being this voice for other young people.
Bangishimo: And I just feel like we're sitting in the corner on a rocking chairs, being like, proud parents.
Bangishimo: It's really cool, right?
Bangishimo: It's really cool to see how far these young people have come just within the three years of the camp.
Marshall: Maybe we'll wrap up with you by you shared a really powerful, inspiring story here.
Marshall: You are an educator doing really important work, and at one time, you were probably felt powerless and without purpose.
Sara: That's a really good point.
Sara: Like, there was a moment that we read about where you were at your lowest, and I was so touched by the fact that you found your own way out.
Sara: You called the number.
Sara: You said there is a chance.
Marshall: Because a lot of people just can't find the way out.
Sara: They can't.
Sara: And when you're feeling that worthless and lonely, it hurts me to even say it and look at you in your eyes and know that you felt that.
Sara: You're not asking for help.
Sara: You're not looking for that.
Sara: Sorry, Marshall.
Sara: I hijacked your question.
Marshall: This is an encampment not far from where we're sitting right now of people who I'm pretty sure feel powerless to make their situation better.
Bangishimo: And even being at that point in my life, too, where I had this phone number in my pocket and for a treatment center, and I would call the police and they hang up and they call the place and hang up.
Bangishimo: And I finally called them and said, hey, you know what?
Bangishimo: If you don't get me in there, I don't know if I'm going to be around tomorrow.
Bangishimo: And I tell people that today, too.
Bangishimo: I'm like, you know what?
Bangishimo: The three biggest words that you're going to learn in this lifetime is just to learn to say, I need help.
Bangishimo: And I always tell people that all the time.
Bangishimo: I'm like, if you can say, I need help, those three words are going to take you so many places.
Bangishimo: Because as much as a lot of us like to think we're superheroes and we're invincible, you can't do it alone.
Bangishimo: You cannot do it alone, right?
Bangishimo: And that's what I love about the camp, is that, like, we're a family, we're the community.
Bangishimo: Everyone supports each other.
Bangishimo: Everyone has their own projects going on and their own things going on, and we support one another, right?
Bangishimo: And it's really cool because we have this group chat and sometimes somebody will post something really cool that they're doing in their life, and everyone will give them praise and support what they're doing, right?
Bangishimo: And it's really about lifting each other upright, lifting each other up, and then now we're able to do that.
Bangishimo: We just found out last week that folks from the Encampment, a number of them identify as indigenous, and they've asked specifically for me and Amy and even that's heartfelt as well, too, right, that you're doing something right.
Bangishimo: We're looking forward to visiting them next week and seeing how Land back camp can support the folks at the Encampment.
Bangishimo: So, yeah, we're evolving and growing, and it's really beautiful to see.