A Message from Claudia Chan Tak, Diversity Commissioner

Claudia Chan Tak [Photograph: Claudia Chan Tak]
Claudia Chan Tak [Photograph: Claudia Chan Tak]

Phénomena 2021 marks my first year as Diversity Commissioner for the Festival. This brand-new role, which within its very title contains a word with complex, delicate connotations, is indicative of a need, a lack. The past year has seen too many racist, tragic events, prompting us to reflect, protest, denounce, read, listen, shout, and demand. The pandemic forced us to stop, take the time to look in the mirror, and question our most fundamental values. But outside of the words, reflections, and promises, what concrete action has been taken?

The position I hold today proves that Festival Phénomena wants to be an agent of change. It wants to act and is looking for concrete solutions by opening doors, sharing decision-making power, and remaining receptive to new ideas. I am proud of my role. Immensely proud. But quite honestly, I hope its days are numbered. I hope that soon, we will no longer speak of diversity as an imbalance, an absence to correct, but rather as a richness and pride we will no longer need to demand but instead celebrate—without having to identify or label it.

Dear Mixtape — Side A and Side B artists, I selected you because you touched me. As I was researching you and your work, I felt a spark ignite, a thrill run up my spine. I needed to meet you. This is the reason I invited you to create together, to share a scenic space. I want our paths to cross, our thoughts and journeys to enrich one another’s. I want to take pictures so that our faces are seen, I want people to write articles about us, I want there to be catalogues of artists presenting our work, I want mediation activities to open us to new audiences, and I want creative residencies to introduce us to new allies. And I worked hard this year to offer you all of this. Because you deserve it, and because it is through these kinds of initiatives that we will prompt change and progress. I love you, and I admire you. Thank you for your willingness to move forward with me.

Dear D. Kimm, thank you for creating this position. Thank you for listening to me, trusting me, keeping an open mind, remaining committed, encouraging me, and especially—thank you for supporting my initiatives with such passion and for believing in my dreams.

Dear audience members, I hope you will be as charmed by these artists as I have been. And if I’m being honest, I hope you will also become more diverse. As a proud Quebecer of Malagasy-Chinese origin, I need to see myself represented on stage—and represented in the audience. I still feel too alone.

Dear artists of the Asian community, my unofficial appeal online to reach out to you made me want to book all of you. We have been through a lot lately, but we have also had the strength and the courage to come together and stand up for our hashtag, #StopAsianHate. Discovering all of you as part of my job has been one of the most emotional and empowering parts of my year. Although I wasn’t able to offer all of you a place on the Phénomena stage, I am proud that it gave me the idea to create my Quebec Asian Artist Directorythat has been working its magic since day one. May our future be prosperous.

Dear BIPOC artists, we still have many fights to win, but we must not forget that each time we perform on stage, each time our face appears on a poster, each time our name is printed in a playbill, is a victory in itself. A victory we must all celebrate together.

I wish you all an incredible festival.