We kicked off NextGen month last week with the latest edition of Pecha Kucha Night at the Maclab Theatre inside the Citadel. It was a special PKN, hosted as part of the City of Edmonton’s Reconciliation Week, celebrating the second anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Final Report.
Our NextGen team worked hard to create an experience that would encourage our guests to look forward and imagine our potential as a nation as Canada reaches its 150th year.
In keeping with the pillars of Canada 150, we asked Edmontonians, “What’s your idea for building a stronger, more inclusive, and more sustainable Canada?” Our presenters addressed themes of diversity, sustainability, reconciliation, and engaging youth. Rather than looking backwards, our engaging speakers challenged the audience with their ideas of how Canadians can grow together in the next 150 years.
I’ll fill you in on how the evening went, but first, for the uninitiated, I’ll answer the question you’re probably wondering: “What is Pecha Kucha Night?”
Pecha Kucha draws its name from the Japanese term for “the sound of chitchat.” Pecha Kucha Night was devised by Tokyo’s Klein Dytham Architecture in February 2003 as a venue for young designers to meet, network, exchange ideas and discuss their work in public. It rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds, for a total presentation length of six minutes and 40 seconds. Why this format you ask? It keeps presentations concise, fast-paced and entertaining. You can learn more at pechakucha.org.
A special theme requires a special group of presenters, & we are pleased to say we delivered.
Our evening kicked off with Chris Change-Yen Phillips. Chris is no stranger to telling stories; as Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, he hosts a popular local podcast called Let’s Find Out, in which he and fellow Edmontonians explore our city’s past. Edmonton may not seem like a city with a fascinating history, but Chris says if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that it is all around us. Our history is written in natural relationships. “We live in a place where active dinosaur digs are happening within our city limits.” As Chris had the audience repeat: “OUR LAND IS FULL OF STORIES.”
Ann Normand, who works for Work Wild, followed Chris, with an exploration of how the forestry industry approaches sustainability. Alberta is 60% forest, and industry is incredibly innovative in utilizing this resource. Not only can wood fibers replace all the petroleum in plastic, waste from wood production can be converted into an energy source. As Albertans, this is something we can all feel good about.
Following Ann, Karen Unger took the stage to talk about her personal experience working with Motionball to help connect young professionals with people with intellectual disability. She challenged the audience to rethink inclusion and to imagine a world where intellectual disability doesn’t define someone’s existence. In fact, seeing the world through the eyes of someone with an intellectual diability can teach you a lot. “It’s not about creating a space for them,” she insists, “it’s about them creating a space for us.”
Up next, Jacquelyn Cardinal came to help us all consider how we can become better Treaty people. “As we think about our treaty relationship, we need to think about it in a way of moving forward together, “ she shared. Jacquelyn applies three rules from her role in communications to help others approach treaty thinking: modularity, systems thinking, & Keep It Simple Stupid.
Bashir Mohamed was the last presenter before the break, uncovering the legacy of the black community in Edmonton. Remembering the voices of the black community is crucial as we move forward; it was only in 2003 that the KKK lost incorporation status in Albert, after all. These lessons of history aren’t meant to shame, Bashir insists. Instead, by recognizing our past mistakes we are taking the first step to becoming a welcoming and non-racist city.
During the break, guests enjoyed various activities while DJ Bradley James played some tunes. Guests were invited to envision their own ideal Canada at an Ideas on Twine station, as well as having the chance to paint a tile for Mural Mosaic, a Canada 150 legacy project led by artist Lewis Lavoie and his partners Phil Alain and Paul Lavoie.
Conor Kerr got the ball rolling after intermission, with a discussion about the importance of a cultural connection to the land. Honoring and respecting the land , he says, will allow us to find who we are as Indigenous people and as allies to Indigenous people as we walk forward together. “If we continue to stifle the voices of our elders, it doesn't matter how often we use the word reconciliation."
Raj Bali took the stage next. Raj discussed the particular difficulties that queer people of color must overcome, and his efforts to create a space where those who feel marginalized can share their experience and create a dialogue. "Patronizing the arts used to be the role of kings. Now we must BE the kings," says Raj. Embracing queer art situates Canada as a safe place.
Mark Korthuis, Executive Director of the Mental Health Foundation, took his turn after Raj. Mark explored the mental health landscape and the progress we’ve made. He shared a few stories of how mental illness has touched his life, as it has many, and reflected on the power of words. He went on to discuss brain stimulation, a new technology that will potentially revolutionize the treatment of depression. He left the audience with a challenge to “squash your lizard brains,” and choose help rather than fear.
Danielle Koleyak kept the momentum up, with a presentation on the ecology and resiliency of cities. Danielle insists that we cannot run from climate change, only run toward solutions, and the time is now to act, as the structures we build now will affect us for years to come. On a hopeful note, she believes Edmonton is up to the challenge.
Our last presenter, Jodi Stonehouse, left the audience with a beautiful and compelling message. Jodi is part of an amazing initiative: the World Indigenous Games, which brings 42 Indigenous nations to Edmonton to showcase their sport. “How do we reconcile? How do we achieve world peace?” Jodi asks. “We must learn about each other.” Reconciliation is everyone’s responsibility; these games are a chance to learn and heal. And you’re invited!
I left the auditorium feeling inspired, as did many of our guests. Our celebration of Canada’s potential was a huge success, but we couldn’t have done it without the many people who helped put it all together. DJ Bradley James provided the excellent music, Tess B designed our beautiful posters, and Bruce Lecky was our fearless photographer. FMAV provided the screens and Jacob Bos made it possible to relive PKN 28 by recording it all for us. None of this could have been possible without our two generous sponsors, Colliers International and the Edmonton Heritage Council. Thanks to our two hosts Rabia and Patrick, our presenters, the NextGen team who donated their time, and all who bought tickets and attended. ‘Til next time!
P.S. You can look at pictures from the event here.