What is your name and what do you do/what is your passion?
My name is Brenda and I have an undying passion for social justice and how it could be utilized within the arts. In my daily life I operate as a social worker in the mental health sector. I work with children who have been victims of a psychiatric disorder. I think the wording in this is powerful, stating that ‘they are a victim’ as opposed to ‘they have’ means all the difference in the world. As a victim, they have been burdened with this illness that is separate from themselves. Often time when dealing with mental illnesses, people forget that that person still has agency, still has a conscious, still has a body. I have been privileged enough to have worked with many organizations in the city that provide safe spaces for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
My passion for the arts was birthed when I was a student completing my placement at a drop-in centre that provided art therapy for street involved/homeless/mentally ill adults. The drop-in space was something I have never experienced in my life. I came from the suburbs and the space was nothing like what I had envisioned. The space smelled of alcohol and body odor, some of the people had just waken up from sleeping on the streets of Yorkville, the space was loud and chaotic. Amidst all of the chaos and the eccentric personalities, the space provided a haven for those who have not been seen by society to express themselves through the only thing that didn't cost money. Through those 6 months I was able to learn about fine art and different mediums from people who are physically disabled, addicted to drugs and homeless. Art is often time seen as a bourgeois delicacy, something people of only a certain class can consume. At this drop-in I was able to experience how art can be used as a tool to bring together people from all walks of life. Art is accessible.
In what moments in your life do you feel most powerful?
Power has always been a strange concept to me because I am the only girl in my immediate family. Growing up with men has skewed my view on power and how women in particular can assert it. Growing up I was always told to be this, be that, look like this, look like that. My mom didn’t discuss many coming of age female issues because of the patriarchal society she grew up in. I was literally just thrown some pads and told to “change it every three hours”. In my formative years, learning about my body and how it works has been one of the most powerful moments to me. I did a lot of self-educating because I was afraid to talk to my mom about my changing body. Learning that what is happening to me is normal and also a very powerful experience to be apart of (I can literally birth a human lol) is something that has rooted a sense of self-confidence that can never fade.
What women have been most influential to you?
The most influential woman in my life is my mother. My mother was thrown in a political prison camp at 29, during this time she was 8 months pregnant with my older brother. My mother worked for a government that was under dictatorship by Idi Amin. Anyone that was educated was targeted, it was a really bad time for a lot of people. My mother managed to escape alive and carry on with her life as if something of this magnitude did not happen to her. My mothers grace, optimism and resiliency has been something I always aspire to inherit. I get on my knees at times when i’m alone and wonder if i’ll ever amount to the greatness that she is.
Do you have any advice for our easy community?
To the easy community, all I can say is that this is a great cause. Thank you to everyone who supports Alyssa’s vision. She has inspired so many females to go against the grain and follow your aspirations. Easy will be a culture and lifestyle that will completely reshape the way we handle our bodies. Self-love is at the centre of this campaign and continues to be a driving force for everyone who supports it. Thank you so much Alyssa and Easy community for making this happen!