Twitter may taketh away but it can also be used to giveth back.
The cultural appropriation controversy that's been roiling across Canada over the past week or so has taken down two white magazine editors, sparked Twitter apologies from the white media bosses at CBC, National Post, Rogers and Macleans and made indigenous luminaries like Jesse Wente go viral with impassioned explanations of why appropriating their stories is wrong.
But the viral success of Emerging Indigenous Voices, "a Canadian literary award to support the vision of emerging indigenous writers," gives a small glimmer of hope that change is coming.
"I was watching the 'appropriation prize' story unfold on Twitter...I didn't want to take up space arguing. I wanted to help create space for creativity and art."
— Robin Parker, Toronto lawyer
After the resignation of Write magazine's Hal Niedzviecki, who ignited the uproar with his "Winning the Appropriation Prize" editorial, and that of Walrus Magazine's now-former editor-in-chief Jon Kay, who ignited the Twitter "joke" session among Canada's media elite about crowdfunding an actual #AppropriationPrize, everyone wondered — what happens next?
Robin Parker, a Toronto lawyer, decided to take that joke to its logical conclusion by crowdfunding an actual Emerging Indigenous Voices award.
"I was watching the 'appropriation prize' story unfold on Twitter in real time and it was so upsetting," Parker told CBC News. "I didn't want to take up space arguing. I wanted to help create space for creativity and art."
The IndieGoGo page went up on May 15 and had made about $1,100 when CBC first wrote about it the next night. But it then exploded on Twitter and by noon on May 17, it was over $24,000, more than doubling the campaign's $10,000 goal.
UPDATE: By the morning of May 18 the total had passed $45,000.
In the campaign's explanation, Parker wrote:
The #AppropriationPrize events highlighted two things: the lack of diversity in the ranks of senior Canadian editors and journalists, but also the democratizing power of social media. A crowdfunded literary prize won't just support new literary voices and nurture emerging indigenous writers, but is also the ultimate boon to young writers — and to all of you who contribute.
The more money we can raise, the better because it means we have more to give to young artists. But how many people give is also important. Imagine knowing, as a young writer, that your work is being supported by 1000 people. Our contributions, all together, are worth so much more than one big donation. Together we are a chorus of positive change, creating and building.
The campaign's viral success has caught Parker off guard, and she later added an update that read: "We've been overwhelmed by the response on Twitter. It's exciting! We are trying to keep up. Stay tuned as we reach out to indigenous organizations to set up the details of the award, we hope will be managed by an indigenous organization."
Of course, cultural appropriation isn't just a story that affects Canada, as similar controversies are currently ongoing in Australia, over a US$1,300 Chanel boomerang, and in the U.K., over artist Damian Hirst's latest work, as you can see in the videos below.
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