“Don’t be afraid of the uncharted path”
“If I had run away then from a field that already wasn’t clearly embracing people who looked like me, I could not be what I am today. So don’t be afraid of the uncharted path.”
When I first watched the trailer for the There is Something About You project—an initiative to promote linguistic diversity and empower young Quebecers—this quotation from Charmaine Nelson stuck out to me. Nelson, a professor of Art History at McGill University, was the first tenured Black professor of art history in Canada. She’s an inspiring leader and there is no doubt that her work—both the writing she publishes and her work in the classroom—has carved space for more students, particularly Black students, to see themselves belonging in the academic community.
Though Nelson is only one of many inspiring figures participating in the project, I see her idea of staying with the uncharted path underlying There is Something About You as a whole. It is precisely this spirit that runs through each of the projects proposed by this year’s 10 finalists. Each finalist has proposed a project that relates to their interests and would benefit the Anglophone community in Québec—anything from documentary films and podcasts to media literacy curricula. The winner of the project will receive a $5000 grant to make their dreams a reality.
There is Something About You was conceived as a way of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Official Languages Act in 1969; while each project does not necessarily address language per se, they still feel connected through the spirit of searching for belonging and following the uncharted path. The videos from this year’s finalists cover a remarkable range of subject matter and media. Elia El Habre, a science journalist, has proposed a podcast with “no fancy, no jargon, just regular conversation” to bring discussions of artificial intelligence out of laboratories and into the lives of everyday Montrealers. Robert Majewski, a filmmaker, hopes to complete a film illuminating the movement of alternative lifestyles taking root in Trois Pistoles, Québec. And Gloria-Sherryl François, a student in art history and psychology at McGill University, has proposed to create an interactive, online archive to improve representation of Black people in the history of Québec.
Despite the diversity of ideas on display, watching the videos from this year’s 10 finalists I was also struck by the number of threads that seemed to connect them all. Each of the 10 finalists speaks to their experience of belonging in a community in Montreal, each has proposed a project that allows us to better understand the communities we live in and alongside, and each has also proposed a way to create a better sense of belonging and diversity in Québec. The question of belonging is one that seems to be top of mind for many young people—I know it’s a question that’s preoccupied me since moving here from Nova Scotia last summer—and it seems to be a question that literature and storytelling seem particularly well-suited to addressing.
I can’t wait to see which of these finalists will be given the grant to continue their project, and to continue these conversations about language, storytelling and belonging at this year’s Blue Metropolis Festival in May. You have until March 20 to like and comment on the video of your favourite project—and join us in celebrating the ideas of these inspiring young Quebecers by sharing their ideas far and wide.
MEET THE FINALISTS