EMMA Talks: The ‘grit’ of things

Melanie Matining. | Photo by David Ball

Melanie Matining. | Photo by David Ball

EMMA Talks, an accessible platform for people to speak openly. will be hosting their fifth talk since their launch in April 2015, which will take place at the SFU Woodwards building on Nov. 16.

It is similar to Ted Talks and Pecha Kucha, but EMMA Talks wants to showcase people in marginalized communities- it’s an awesome model that wants to engage community,” says Melanie Matining, community organizer who will be presenting this month.

EMMA stands for Engaging Monologue and Mutual Aid, and Matining says its mandate is to have speakers who are women, trans, queer and gender nonconforming folks. Presenters include local activists, community leaders, authors and women in academia, and tickets to EMMA

Creating spaces for conversation

There isn’t often a space where people can bring up really, really hard conversations based on storytelling, based on one’s personal experiences, taboo subjects, the elephant in the room,” explains Matining, who gives the example of challenging and understanding race and the system of power.

Matining says EMMA Talks wants to get to the ‘grit’ of things, and to focus on the human experience through story telling and sharing.

“What does it mean to be living in this space that is predominantly white, straight, male [powered] and able-bodied?” she asks.

Matining worked at Heartwood, a social and community restaurant, for three years.

The vision of Heartwood was for marginalized communities to create dialogue around accessibility.

“One of the most revolutionary things I’ve learned is that love and friendship is at the centre of the movement building that I would like to do,” she adds.

Matining says youth would come into Heartwood to organize events such as a queer youth poetry night where participants talked about their own personal experiences. With the recent closure of Heartwood, Matining is focusing on what drives these spaces as well as thinking of people on the frontlines.

“Especially when speaking about social justice and activism, often times [in my experience] there haven’t been many places to sit down and get to know each other,” she says.

Prior to Heartwood, Matining worked as a curriculum developer with youth organizations centred on youth empowerment, history of migration, working with youth of colour and figuring out what platforms and spaces the community needed.

“My work and community experience has been centred on access and belonging: how do we create these spaces,” says Matining, who has also organized community panels and discussions on depleting community spaces in Vancouver and creating a sustainable network for these spaces.

A settler’s tale

Matining, who emigrated from the Philippines to Vancouver at age 10, says a lot of her work also revolves around what it means to be an immigrant settler.

“I never had the conversation of how Canada was built as a nation [when we were young immigrants]; we didn’t talk about the displacement of Indigenous people and the history of Indigenous people. It’s important to have conversation with and be in solidarity with Indigenous people because as a settler, I am perpetuating colonialism,” she says.

Matining’s presentation for EMMA Talks is about physical space and social movements and is focused on Indigenous solidarity.

“It’s about land and place- we need to talk about solidarity. I’m grateful for organizations such as Reconciliation Canada for having more conversations about this and others such as the missing and murdered Indigenous women,” she explains.

Matining wants to challenge others to further relationships with the Indigenous people by talking about Indigenous issues. She says there is a difference between acknowledging the issues and understanding how citizens are implicated in these histories, since certain issues still continue.

“When we say, we are on the unceded land of the Coast Salish people, that acknowledgement should be an action, not just words,” says Matining.

Donations to Matining’s talk will go to The Unist’ot’en Camp, an Indigenous community where people are trying to protect their land from pipeline projects.

For more information: www.emmatalks.org www.unistoten.camp