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Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival includes public talk by Indigenous scholar and musician Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson by Nadya Kwandibens.
Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and musician Leanne Betasamosake Simpson will share her thoughts at the 20th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival. Photo by Nadya Kwandibens.

Usually, the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival attracts artists and speakers from the neighbourhood for which it’s named. For its 20th year, however, it will feature one of Canada’s leading Indigenous scholars.

Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg writer and musician Leanne Betasamosake Simpson will deliver a  public talk presented by the SFU Office of Community Engagement. This year’s festival runs from October 25 to November 5.

Simpson, author of eight books, is a member of the Alderville First Nation. She has a PhD from the University of Manitoba.

Moreover, she collaborated with Policing Black Lives author Robyn Maynard for her most recent book, Rehearsals for Living. The project emerged after they started writing to one another at the start of the pandemic. The book was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

Penguin Random House describes the Rehearsals for Living this way: “By articulating to each other Black and Indigenous perspectives on our unprecedented here and now, and reiterating the long-disavowed histories of slavery and colonization that have brought us to this moment, Maynard and Simpson create something new: an urgent demand for a different way forward, and a poetic call to dream up other ways of ordering earthly life.

Simpson has also been short-listed in the past for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction for her novel Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies. And This Accident of Being Lost was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

As a musician, Simpson’s Theory of Ice made the Polaris Prize short list. She also won the Prism Prize’s Willie Dunn Award, which is named after a Montreal-born singer-songwriter, film director, and politician of Mi’kmaq-Scottish heritage.

Heart of the City is grounded in community

This year’s Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival theme is Grounded in Community, Carrying It Forward. According to the festival website, there will be more than 100 events at more than 40 venues.

One of those events, entitled Spontaneous Street Poetry, features poet and activist Gilles Cyrenne. He will lead three days of writing outside the Carnegie Community Centre at 401 Main Street.

There will also be the 9th Symposium on Reconciliation & Redress in the Arts. Voor Urban Labs and Coast Salish Culture Network will present this gathering.

Another event, narrated by Ewin Xie and Shon Wong, is called Once Upon a Time in Chinatown. It will feature “an evening of Chynatruckfunk music by the ‘Son of James’ rock band”.

Meanwhile, movers of musical theatre can take in Battle of Ballantyne Pier, which revisits a violent longshore workers strike in 1935. Sherry MacDonald, Thomas Jones, and Russell Wallace wrote the songs, and MacDonald wrote the book.

Vancouver Moving Theatre in association with the Carnegie Community Centre and the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians present The Downtown Heart of the City Festival from October 25 to November 5. For more information, visit the website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.