I am a producer, DJ, and event curator based in ‘Vancouver’. I’m the co-founder of NuZi Collective, Vancouver-based events, and music collective focused on uplifting black & brown women, trans women & gender non-conforming individuals within the Vancouver electronic music scene through music initiatives & community engagement. In my music practice, one of my main focuses is reclaiming the Black & brown roots of electronic dance music and creating black political spaces as a source of empowerment. I’m also the founder and director of the Vancouver Black Therapy & Advocacy Fund, a non-profit foundation aiming to connect Black Vancouver residents with mental health resources such as free therapy in the Vancouver Lower Mainland - land of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. The VBT&AF was founded in June 2020, which has already reached $197,0000 of it’s $200,000 goal (as of September 29, 2020).
Favorite compliment you’ve received about yourself:
Being told I smelled so good I made someone hungry.
In the face of constant racism and trauma celebrating Black joy is an act of resistance against systems of oppression and important for Black Mental Health. How do you choose to celebrate your Black joy?
Black joy is an act of resistance. Living in a world where capitalism rules everything, a system built on the exploitation and suffering of Black bodies, a system that continues to thrive due to the exploitation of Black people and POC, immortalizing Black pain is helping so many companies and corporations profit. We’re in the midst of a technological renaissance, and by choosing to broadcast our joy and work towards collective healing, we resist everything the white gaze wants to see. Black joy will never be a spectacle. Black pain suffering is a spectacle. It’s crucial we find ways to experience radical Black joy and also love. There is no right or way of doing things, even if it means channelling your anger in unconventional ways, if that helps your psyche heal, then so be it.
When it came to your mental health, did you have to decolonize your individualistic approach to it as a Black woman?
Yes and no. I grew up extremely poor and underprivileged, and I was always seeking out publicly funded resources for therapy and support from a very young age. The services offered through the system are pretty mediocre. Whenever I discovered free resources, I would always tell all my friends about them so they could also access these resources and we could heal together. I’ve always looked at healing as being a collective thing. The thing is, the system doesn’t work for everyone. Even free therapy from a white therapist as a teen was very individualized, and there was a reason a lot of friends were unable to even give it a try. Mindfulness isn’t the answer when you’re poor, black, trans, queer etc. We need community, and telling everyone to just try out therapy isn’t the answer. I know running the VBT&AF, where access to mental health resources are provided still won’t always be the answer, and it’s not a quick fix. Therapy isn’t the answer for everyone. Learning about Healing Justice, healing as an active intervention. We all want to heal, but there’s no quick fix, no one-size-fits-all cure-all. True healing is about enshrining individualism. Prioritizing Black and brown trans, disabled, queer lives. Understanding the impact that the consequences of oppression have on our bodies can’t be undone from one-on-one therapy. Collective healing must be prioritized.
How do you safeguard your wellbeing?
I safeguard my wellbeing by surrounding myself with people with the same values and asserting my boundaries whenever necessary. Listening to my body and taking time to rest. Also prioritizing time for play.
How do you remain authentic to yourself and others?
Speaking my truth as much as I can. Minding my own business. Checking in with myself, as a Libra, this is crucial since everything revolves around balance. Accepting my flaws and consistently working on healing and loving myself.
Systematic barriers disproportionately impact mental health in the Black community. How is Black Therapy and Advocacy Fund dismantling those barriers and making mental health both a priority and accessible to the Black community?
The VBT&AF prioritizes redistributing time and resources to make care work accessible to the Black community in Vancouver; working towards this kind of access is key to our collective healing. We are pushing towards providing affordable services, and by affordable, we mean free. Specifically for folks who are the most invisibilized - such as trans, disabled and queer folks. Wellness is such a white concept and healing services do not cater to these groups. It’s these people that are always on the frontlines, yet they are ones being retraumatized in conventional therapy. Although Blackness is not homogeneous, we are focused on Black-led healing. It’s not perfect but it’s a start. This fund will enable us to manifest what is urgently required to counter individualistic therapeutic models of whiteness, which promote false ideas of the self as an independent agent and do not address or understand racial trauma.
You and so many other Black femmes/women have created initiatives that provide community care for the Black community. What do you feel like you've built with the Black Therapy and Advocacy Fund and what would you like to continue to build on?
I find power in being able to see just how much I am able to do. DragI feel like we’ve prioritized and centralized community care, bridging the gap between health equity and the Black community. I would like the VBT&AF to be as sustainable as possible, to become a permanent resource hub in the city. There is a great demand for these resources and also consistent support from donors so don’t the first intake round to be only one, ideally, we’d like to continue to redistribute all the resources to as many people as possible. I want affordable and sustainable mental health resources to become the norm in Vancouver. So many disabled black folks are fighting privately, collective care needs to become central. Mutual aid and reparations have become more normalized here however folks need to continue to commit to supporting Black lives regardless of the news cycle.
Using our latest collections campaign as a mode, we interviewed and photographed 6 people here within our Vancouver community. These voices are loud, these voices and bodies are bold, these bodies and voices are tired, they're grieving, they’re healing, they’re celebrating, they’re resilient, and they’re a conduit for change, each on their own trajectory to see a change and shift in power.
Each person that spoke with us selected a charity to support. Betty has selected Vancouver Black Therapy & Advocacy Fund. If you are able and choose to make a contribution (big or small), email us your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and receive a 20% off discount code between October 1–6.