With major acts including A Tribe Called Red and The Cliks set to headline the second annual NWT Pride festival this August in Yellowknife, organizers have no doubts the event is going to be massively successful in its quest to bring people together.
“We started planning earlier, we have way bigger headliners and way bigger workshops planned, and we moved the date up to early August so we could have all those university students, so I think it’s a fair assumption to say that this year’s festival is going to be quite huge,” said NWT Pride director Iman Kassam.
Under the theme “Unite Us,” round two of the brand new Northern festival is expanding on its first kick at the can last summer, hoping to launch its message of shamelessness and understanding into further reaches of the community and the territory as a whole.
“The theme of unity, Unite Us, really came from the lives that we all live up here in the North where people have come from all walks of life,” Kassam said. “In Yellowknife, the community tries to do a really good job of being diverse and being open, but like in every community, segregation and division can happen, and that exists within the Pride community, that exists within every community…This year, we’re saying let’s unite with all of our identities, inside of us and outside of us. Let’s learn about other people.”
For this year’s festival, organizers are reaching out to different religious and cultural communities across the North, as well as smaller communities.
Around 10 workshops have been scheduled so far, with topics ranging from two-spiritedness to capitalism in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) movement, creating safe spaces for LGBTQ people in religious communities, decolonizing LGBTQ identities and focusing on personal unity.
“Part of our theme as Unite Us is uniting communities within the North, within your religion, your culture, your traditions, but also the identities you, yourself, possess,” Kassam said.
“For someone who may come from a very religious background, rooted in a very strong culture, who may not have their family’s and their religion support their LGBTQ identity, they themselves may be a visible minority, it’s about uniting all of those identities and just being proud of who you are.”
And with a range of performers, from the pow wow/hip hop/dub step beats of the biggest First Nations act in Canada, A Tribe Called Red, to indie rock band The Cliks, the first transgender-fronted band to be signed by a major record label, Kassam said diversity is at the fore of the celebrations.
“It’s an acculturation of identities, of sounds, of music. Taking a look at our two headlining acts, for example, they’re such different styles of music and such different groups of people sharing a stage. I think that’s a great representation of what we believe in,” she said.
Last year’s festival was admittedly “last-minute,” said Kassam, who noted the crew threw it together in about six weeks. Despite the short time frame, the event received tons of positive feedback and impacted people in a big way.
“It was amazing. During Pride and after Pride, the amount of thank yous and hugs and handshakes that I got, it’s really humbling and it’s great that I can give back to a community that has given so much to me,” Kassam said, adding that the Pride community was how she found herself and was able to come to terms with all of her different identities. “Last year, I saw people have their first experiences. And it changed people’s lives. People loved it.”
While the festival is elevating itself to a higher profile this year, NWT Pride remains a volunteer-run, grassroots organization. Last Thursday, it held a volunteer drive at Javaroma and is looking for people to help with all sorts of tasks, from set-up and take-down at the site, hosting events, doing bartending and security and keeping the festival site clean and green.
The organization is also looking for donors and partners to join up alongside title sponsor TD Canada Trust to help support the event.
To volunteer or for more information, contact Kassam at email@example.com or check them out on Facebook (NWT Pride) or Twitter @NWTPride.