Celebrating David Ng’s work in Gender Justice
What does it take to become a leader in diversity and inclusion? Our own David Ng was awarded The Diversity and Inclusion Award from the City of Vancouver.
In July 2016, our own David Ng, 29, was awarded The Diversity and Inclusion Award from the City of Vancouver which celebrates outstanding leadership to foster inclusion across diverse communities. How does a young person acquire such recognition?
David Ng, started his journey at 14 as a volunteer youth advisor for Condomania – a youth sexual health program – developing their website and participating in and leading focus groups with Hello Cool World. This was David’s first experience learning about activism and anti-oppression.
With the help of a contract through Canada Council of the Arts and mentorship from Hello Cool World, David was able to hone in on and develop his video editing skills, writing, editing and directing his own short film 5ensAsian which addressed sexuality in the Asian community, and co-writing and editing the other youth team's project called “StereoTYPO” which looked at gender stereotypes throughout the ages. David continued working with HCW part time while finishing high school and completing his undergrad in women’s studies at SFU and then a Masters degree in South Africa.
David, a person of colour and member of the LGBTQ2+ community, began to truly notice some disparities and stereotypes within his communities and how unhealthy gender roles can be.
“A lot of my motivation in the social justice work that I do involves trying to find ways to do intersectional movement building. I wanted to find ways to address some of the misogyny, racism, and transphobia that I’ve noticed not just in broader society, but from the queer community as well.”
— David Ng
David was looking for ways to create a platform for interactions of race and queerness, queue Love Intersections. Love Intersections is a Vancouver based project that seeks to challenge racism, through increasing the visibility of LGBTQ2+ people of colour from different cultural backgrounds, through sharing stories of love and resilience. Co-founded by David and Jen Sung -- Love Intersections’ films have since been shown in over a dozen film festivals around the world – from Glasgow, Mumbai, New York, and several other film festivals in Vancouver. In April, David also travelled to Lahore, Pakistan, to screen three of the Love Intersections films, and participate in a panel about transnational feminism. Hello Cool World has taken on a supportive role as Executive Producer. A number of Love Intersections’ films are now on the curriculum of educational outreach programs throughout Canada and Vancouver.
“One of our key philosophies behind Love Intersections include finding new ways of solidarity building and creating a culture of 'calling in' instead of 'calling out' that helps to foster a change of behaviour to call people in to create true allies.”
David’s passion for increasing the visibility of diverse communities has had a number of lasting impacts in Vancouver and in BC. In 2008, he was a youth video mentor and editor for the the ‘Star in Your Own Stories’ project with Hello Cool World and Chee Mamuk, which was an Aboriginal youth multimedia project that engaged with HIV prevention, through cultural engagement. He co-founded the ‘Super Power Project’ in 2010 to engage with issues on gender diversity and gender stereotypes, working with both young men and young women, to prevent violence against women and girls. Alongside his continuing work with Our City of Colours (a queer diversity organization), Out in Schools, and Theatre for Living.
“I was part of Hello Cool World and travelled to 4 out of 5 communities to film Star in your own Stories. I met Duane Grant who was part of the first Star in Your Own Stories and he also starred in the Love Intersections film, 'Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits.'”
David is incredibly in tune of the changing landscape and he also recognizes the need to have several approaches to these sometimes uncomfortable topics. Love Intersections is now in the process of creating a new series that is working on tackling the issues of cultural appropriation.
“We want to look at the idea of cultural appropriation – a serious and common theme. The conversations are becoming very binary and punitive – wearing a war bonnet at Coachella is being talked about in the same way as a non-Japanese person eating Sushi. We really want to find ways that we can do ethical cultural exchange, while still being cognizant of the power dynamics that underpin the ways we navigate the world in the context of systemic racism. One of the beautiful parts of human diversity is being able to appreciate culture, and through this project, we hope to find ways that we can not lose sight of that, while being critical of colonization and racism that continue to persist today.”
Diverse Appetites is a blog, video, and social media campaign that will present a dialogue about cultural appropriation and cultural exchange from the stories of people of colour and allies. The goal is to find tangible and ethical ways that people can do cultural exchange, while also finding ways to identify and avoid cultural appropriation.
David’s current work with Theatre for Living is another example of his passion for using arts to engage with social justice issues. Theatre for Living is renowned within the theatre community in Vancouver as leading the way for diversity and inclusion practice and praxis. Theatre for Living is collaborating with Journeys Around the Circle with support from the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre on their next Main Stage project. The premise of the project is, after all the proclamations, apologies, and truth and reconciliation commissions – what does reconciliation look like between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people? What does it feel like? Is it just another form of assimilation? The play will be created and performed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver in March 2017.
“We’re creating a space to ask what Reconciliation looks like and what it feels like in everyday life.”
David understands at a very deep level that projects are about people, giving a true voice, and that stories are what change minds and hearts. He has enhanced his knowledge, and has continued to work collaboratively on issues of anti-racism, indigenous solidarity, women’s rights, anti-violence, decolonization and reconciliation, mental health and harm reduction, sexuality and LGBTQ2+ issues.
“I often see the ways ‘diversity and inclusion’ becomes lost in deep misunderstandings of how racism operates today. Growing up, I was taught that we should 'not see' the colour of people’s skin, and treat everyone equally. While this sounds nice, and is definitely something we should strive for, it assumes that we are born equally, which unfortunately is not the reality or the world we live in. The colour of our skin DOES matter, because unfortunately it informs the ways in which we navigate the world - or, as we’ve seen brought forward by the Black Lives Matter movement, it affects whether we can simply walk to a grocery and live or be killed by a police officer – simply from the colour of your skin. And so, while the term 'Diversity and Inclusion' is nice – I think it is absolutely critical that we interrogate how that term is being used to whitewash the anti-racist work that needs to continue to happen today.”
Written by Thea Belanger. All quotes by David Ng.
Links to some Love Intersections Projects: