In the Blog
Kerry Potts: Aboriginal-Arts Activist
Every Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the wonderful Kerry Potts…
A self-declared Aboriginal-arts activist, Kerry Potts is a proud Teme-Augama-Anishnaabe woman of mixed heritage who has worked in urban Aboriginal communities in Ottawa, Toronto and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Involved with initiatives that include working with Aboriginal social service organizations coordinating women’s and youth programming, and working with street-involved youth to delver anti-discrimination workshops, she is also formerly the Assistant Manager to Juno Award winning singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark. Kerry has recently completed her film Love on the Streets, exploring themes of love with people who are homeless, and is now the Managing & Development Director at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.
What drives you to do what you do?
I have always been invested in both the arts and the Aboriginal communities wherever I have lived. A lot of my life has been focused on exploring issues of race and social justice, but I would always get exhausted in certain activist contexts. I found myself being bogged down by the politics of certain organizations or community groups, and frustrated by just how slow everything seemed to happen because people were too focused on things that felt so secondary to the larger issue. When I moved more completely into the arts sector, I found that art, activism and culture intersected in such interesting ways, and produced some amazing pieces of art that really blew me away. I knew that I wanted to stay in the arts community in order to find a buoyancy that was lacking in the front line anti-racist and Aboriginal activist movements. I’ve found it through artists, and now I get to help show the world what amazing work is being produced in the Indigenous community.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
Being a woman empowers me because I am constantly being connected to incredibly strong women in my work. Currently, about 85% of imagineNATIVE is made up of women staff or Board members. I have met incredible artists and community activists who are women, and in the Aboriginal community, the women always seem to be right out front. I love the idea that I can nurture life, but I will say that I can’t imagine how much of a challenge it will be to do what I do and have a child at the same time. For now, I’ve opted for a dog.
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Stay involved in things that engage your passion. Volunteer, consider jobs that may not pay as much, get involved in your own community, and do whatever it takes for you to connect to the things that inspire you.
Name one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
Everyone should know about:
Place: Havana, Cuba and walking along The Malecon. Person: Frida Kahlo Thing: imagineNATIVE (shameless, I know).
Okay, or everyone should watch the film Before Tomorrow which should be out in theatres very soon. This movie presents an Aboriginal story that has been told so many times but in a way that is so profoundly personal and beautiful it’s as though it’s never been told before. I ugly cried when I watched this at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?