Indigenous

Ontario Native Women's Association's poetry night moves online because of COVID-19

Ontario Native Women's Association's annual poetry night is looking different this year as it moves online because of COVID-19.

'This is an opportunity for people to share and a safe place for people to share'

Each year, the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) hosts Poetry Nights across Ontario to raise awareness of violence against women in support of the United Nations International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women’s #orangetheworld campaign. (ONWA)

Ontario Native Women's Association's annual poetry night is looking different this year as it moves online because of COVID-19.

This is the fifth annual Strong Hands Stop Violence poetry night, which aims to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. The event is in support of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25.

"This is an opportunity for people to share and a safe place for people to share," said Michele Solomon, a community development manager with ONWA who is from Fort William First Nation.

In past years, the main event has taken place in Thunder Bay, Ont., with multiple other events taking place at the same time across the province, but the pandemic has forced ONWA to move the poetry night online to Zoom.

The previous in-person events have provided elders for support to those that might be feeling triggered. This year will have breakout rooms during the Zoom meeting and phone lines available for support. 

This year's featured poets are Al Hunter, Duke Redbird and Trivena Andy.

"It's really important for us that this event continues and we are very grateful that we can still host this event this year," said Solomon. 

"We need to continue to be telling these stories and sharing these words so that those experiences are not lost and we make sure that those experiences are at the forefront of society so that we can work towards eliminating violence against women." 

The 'power of story'

Collin Graham, a community development manager with ONWA, said the event is a chance to "come together and share in the power of story, share in the power of the healing that comes along with story."

"It's a really big opportunity not only for us to showcase already accomplished or published artists, but it's an opportunity for community members to share their talent, to showcase their contributions to ending violence through the power of story."

The event is also a chance to come together to talk about what violence looks like in the community. 

Each year ONWA publishes a collection of poetry that is submitted for the event. This year, to mark the five-year anniversary, the book will feature work from past events. 

Strong Hands Stop Violence takes place virtually on Nov. 25 starting at 7 p.m. ET. 

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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