By Greg Price
As the Taber Equality Alliance (TEA) continues to make inroads into the Taber and southern Alberta community to create a safe space in the community for sexual and gender identity minorities and their allies, the organization is looking at ways to raise funds as it looks to become an official society.
That fundraising comes in the form of TEA putting on a concert on Saturday, April 23 at Knox United Church featuring the music stylings of indie-folk duo Andrew Smith and Neil Fraser.
“We’ve had Andrew Smith in the community for the last couple of years, with last year being able to do a bit of a fundraiser for the Taber Figure Skating Club. We were on Andrew’s list and we really enjoyed his music, and enjoyed him as a person,” said Michael Rose, one of the members of the Taber Equality Alliance.
Andrew Smith is an accomplished singer songwriter, a captivating tap style guitarist and an award winning music producer. Smith is one of the few Canadians to have won the prestigious Kerrville Newfolk Songwriting Competition in the USA with his songs ‘Rite of Passage’ and ‘Holes in the Night Sky.’ Andrew’s tap style guitar playing is sought out for many collaborative projects and his instrumental CD Escape Velocity, won him the Okanagan Instrumental Artist Award and has been nominated for many international awards. Smith has been a music producer since 1998, and is a winner of the Okanagan Producer of the Year award.
The TEA focuses on a more welcoming and inclusive community through community engagement, partnerships, social groups and advocacy. The group strives to increase awareness of LGBTQ rights issues, but is also simply a place that is safe and welcoming for people to bond in friendship.
“A lot of our membership do not attend our meetings regularly, but we are about 80 members strong and they are not all from Taber. We have a lot of people who follow us digitally or follow us through other means,” said Jillian Demontigny, a co-chairman of the Taber Equality Alliance along with Kathleen McKenzie who are helping organize the fundraising concert. “We are starting to get a lot more organized where we have a formal executive with bylaws and we are applying to be a not-for-profit society. We are very ally heavy at the moment, even in our directorate, we don’t have a minority member. We have a family member, a parent of an LGBT child. It would be nice to have a few more people who would be able to attend the meetings regularly.”
In getting society status and doing fundraisers like the folk concert on April 23, TEA could give funds to organizations like OUTreach in southern Alberta that would help an organization like the Taber Equality Alliance with their resources.
“They could have some of their membership come and give us some of their educational programming that they deliver to different businesses and organizations like Queer 101 training or how to be an ally with skills development we really want,” said Demontigny. “Even though we have some really keen members, we are all new to this. We didn’t necessarily grow up with things GSAs (gay/straight alliances), trans-positive culture messages. Just trying to figure out how to do the right thing the right way and involve the people who want to be involved.”
With the controversy swirling around the Best Practices guidelines for LGBTQ issues that were released by Alberta Education which instructed school boards to implement into policy, drawing some petitions from concerned parent groups, organizations similar to the TEA have come to the forefront in equality rights.
“It’s nice to have that political climate where it’s being written into human rights codes and to have schools include it in their polices,” said Demontigny. “If the political climate is not favourable, its just that much more work that needs to be done. There is that optimism that the groundwork is being laid.”
“I was so happy to see that something like this existed in Taber. I wish I knew about it a year ago when GSAs were making the media,” added Scott Gillespie, a member of the Taber Equality Alliance. Events like this coming up (with the fundraising concert) will help raise the visibility of the group and help get us working towards the goals of the group.”
And for Michael Rose, the concert is about more than just fundraising, but an event for people of all different identities to come together to enjoy in fellowship.
“For me, the concert is as much about initiating a safe community for sexual and gender minorities as it is about raising money,” said Rose.
“We can legislate things all we want, but how does that get to the grassroots? It’s just everyday people like you and me working in small ways and living the justice aspect in their everyday lives by being loving and accepting of everyone. It’s not just paying your $20 bucks to listen to some good music, but coming together as a community and loving and supporting these people.”
Andrew Smith and Neil Fraser perform at the Knox United Church on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Tickets are available from Taber Equality Alliance members or at the store Charmed downtown, or at the door. Phone 403-332-0480 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you would like to learn more about the Taber Equality Alliance, you can find them on Facebook.
“My take on the group is there is a group of people who have a genuine concern and passion for this area of justice. It’s people coming together and sharing ideas. We have an incredible group of people who come to our meetings, a huge depth from obviously a medial and mental health perspective and other forms of advocacy with people who are genuinely giving of themselves,” said Rose. “I see this group as gaining momentum.”