Leaders

Photo courtesy of Louie Gong.

Louie Gong is a Native of mixed heritage (Nooksack, Squamish, Chinese, French, Scottish) who was raised by his grandparents, father, and step-mom both in Ruskin, B.C. and in the Nooksack tribal community. Louie is an educator, activist, and artist. He is the past President of MAVIN, co-developer of the Mixed Heritage Center, and a former child and family therapist. Louie is also the founder of Eighth Generation, through which he merges traditional Coast Salish art and icons from popular culture to make strong statements about identity, such as his highly sought-after, hand-drawn custom shoes. By choosing the name “Eighth Generation”, Louie intends that respect for the previous seven generations and a spirit of giving back is embedded in his work. Louie’s latest creation is called “Mockups”, a DIY design toy based on his work with youth and his desire to a make the experience of personalizing a pair of shoes more accessible. Louie is proud to have represented his family and community through keynote level presentations and custom shoe workshops around the world, as well as in media such as NBC Nightly News, The New York Times, MSNBC.com, and Indian Country Today. His unique merger of art and activism is the subject of UNRESERVED: the work of Louie Gong, a Longhouse Media film that is currently screening at prestigious film festivals around the world, including Festival De Cannes and National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Sakulensky.

Lawrence Hill is the son of American immigrants — a black father and a white mother — who came to Canada the day after they married in 1953 in Washington, D.C. On his father’s side, Hill’s grandfather and great grandfather were university-educated, ordained ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His mother came from a Republican family in Oak Park, Illinois, graduated from Oberlin College and went on to become a civil rights activist in D.C. The story of how they met, married, left the United States and raised a family in Toronto is described in Hill’s bestselling memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada (HarperCollins Canada, 2001). Growing up in the predominantly white suburb of Don Mills, Ontario in the sixties, Hill was greatly influenced by his parents’ work in the human rights movement. Much of Hill’s writing touches on issues of identity and belonging. Lawrence Hill’s third novel was published as The Book of Negroes in Canada and the UK, and as Someone Knows My Name in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. It won the overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. The book was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award and longlisted for both the Giller Prize and the IMPAC Award. Hill is also the author of the novels Any Known Blood (William Morrow, New York, 1999 and HarperCollins Canada, 1997) and Some Great Thing (HarperCollins 2009, originally published by Turnstone Press, Winnipeg, 1992). Hill’s most recently published fiction is the short story ‘Meet You at the Door’, which appeared in the January-February, 2011 issue of The Walrus magazine. Hill’s most recent non-fiction book The Deserter’s Tale: the Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq (written with Joshua Key) was released in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and several European countries. In 2010, Hill received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier University, the Bob Edwards Award from the Alberta Theatre Projects, and was named Author of the Year by Go On Girl, the largest African-American women’s book club in the United States. Hill won the National Magazine Award for the best essay published in Canada in 2005 for “Is Africa’s Pain Black America’s Burden?” (The Walrus, February 2005). In 2005, the 90-minute film document that Hill wrote, Seeking Salvation: A History of the Black Church in Canada, Travesty Productions, Toronto (2004), won the American Wilbur Award for best national television documentary. Formerly a reporter with The Globe and Mail and parliamentary correspondent for The Winnipeg Free Press, Hill also speaks French and Spanish. He has lived and worked across Canada, in Baltimore, and in Spain and France. He is an honorary patron of Canadian Crossroads International, for which he travelled as a volunteer to the West African countries Niger, Cameroon and Mali. Hill is also a member of the Council of Patrons of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, and of the Advisory Council of Book Clubs for Inmates. He has a B.A. in economics from Laval University in Quebec City and an M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Hill lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Photo courtesy of Minelle Mahtani.

Minelle Mahtani is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Journalism at University of Toronto Scarborough. She was a former national television news producer and completed her PhD at University College London. She also completed a Killam postdoctoral fellowship at University of British Columbia in the Department of Geography and School of Journalism. She has published on mixed race identity and is currently completing a manuscript about mixed race identity in Canada, paying particular attention to the potential decolonization of mixed race epistemologies.  She also developed a course at University of Toronto entitled “Spaces of multiraciality: critical mixed race theory.” Also be sure to check out the “Reference” section for a list of her work!

 

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Jeff Chiba Stearns.

Jeff Chiba Stearns is a multi award-winning animation and documentary filmmaker.  Born in Kelowna, BC, of Japanese and European heritage, he graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design with a degree in Film Animation in 2001. Soon after, he founded Meditating Bunny Studio Inc., which specializes in the creation of animation and documentary films aimed at both children and adults that combine different philosophical and social elements together to create humorous, entertaining, and inspiring stories.  The studio has also created broadcast and viral commercials for such clients as 3M, Sharpie, and Generali.  His animated shorts, Kip and Kyle (2000), The horror of Kindergarten (2001), What Are You Anyways? (2005), Yellow Sticky Notes (2007), and Ode to a Post-it Note (2010) have screened in hundreds of film festivals around the world, garnered 32 awards including a Webby Award, and broadcast internationally. “What Are You Anyways?”, winner of 7 film festival awards, was the first animated film that explored multiethnic issues and lead Chiba Stearns to become an international spokesperson on mixed-race identity. He coined the term “Hapanimation” to describe his style which blends Japanese animation with a North American animation style.  Yellow Sticky Notes (2007), winner of the Prix du Public at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival was animated with just a black pen on over 2300 sticky notes and is the official selection of over 80 international film festivals, winning 10 awards.  Yellow Sticky Notes was also one of the first films acquired by YouTube’s Screening Room and has since achieved over 1.8 million views. Jeff Chiba Stearns’ latest film and first feature documentary, One Big Hapa Family (2010), is about children of mixed-Japanese descent and the high Japanese-Canadian interracial marriage rate.  The award-winning documentary was funded by Rogers, Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, NAJC, CIFVF and Knowledge.  In 2010, he was awarded the Emily Award from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design for outstanding achievements of an alumni.  As well, he was awarded the Cultural Pioneer Award by Harvard University in 2011 for his continued exploration of multiethnic identity in his work. On top of filmmaking, Chiba Stearns has also instructed college animation, written articles for national publications and lectured around the world on topics of multiracial identity, cultural awareness, filmmaking, short film distribution, and animation.

Photo courtesy of Fred Wah

Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan but grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. His Chinese-Swedish-Scots-Irish mix is documented in his biofiction about hybridity and growing up in a small-town Chinese-Canadian café, Diamond Grill. It won the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction in 1996 and has been a popular text on the angst of racialization. He studied music and English literature at the University of British Columbia in the early 1960′s where he was one of the founding editors of the poetry newsletter TISH. After graduate work in literature and linguistics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the State University of New York at Buffalo, he returned to the Kootenays in the late 1960′s where he taught at Selkirk College and was the founding coordinator of the writing program at David Thompson University Centre. After teaching poetry and poetics at the University of Calgary for many years, he now lives in Vancouver. He has been editorially involved with a number of literary magazines over the years, such as Open Letter, West Coast Line and the Literary Review of Canada. His book of prose-poems, Waiting For Saskatchewan, received the Governor-General’s Award in 1986 and So Far was awarded the Stephanson Award for Poetry in 1992. A collection of critical writing, Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity (2000) was awarded the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Writing on Canadian literature. His latest collections of poetry are Sentenced to Light (Talonbooks, 2008), is a door (Talonbooks, 2009), and a selected edited by Louis Cabri, The False Laws of Narrative (Laurier, 2009). Some of his poetry and thinking about racial hybridity is nicely accessible in Anne Marie Nakagawa’s film Between: Living in the Hyphen (also featured on this site in the Film section).