VCC Pride alumni presenter Jaibrend (RainbowGlitz) Johnson-Baker
On Wednesday, July 27, Vancouver Community College (VCC) leaders, employees, and students joined B.C. Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training (AEST) Anne Kang at the Downtown campus for a lively event celebrating 2SLGBTQIA+ Pride.
In the spirit of Vancouver’s upcoming Pride Parade and Festival (July 31), this event was held to officially unveil and celebrate the installation of three new rainbow murals at both VCC’s Downtown and Broadway campuses. These murals, which cover entire walls and windows in high-traffic campus areas, represent VCC’s largest and most visible commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to date.
Shatel Ivits, VCC Basic Education department leader, EDI committee co-chair, and longtime advocate for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and education, contributed the caption which is embedded in each mural:
The rainbow flag is a beacon of the Pride movement, which advances justice and equality for Two Spirit, queer, and transgender people. The black and brown colours represent that this movement must be rooted in decolonization and racial justice. All of our struggles for liberation are connected. We all belong here.
Wednesday’s event opened with an Indigenous welcome and honour song by VCC Elder in Residence John Sam, followed by a speech by VCC president Ajay Patel. In his message, Ajay reaffirmed the college’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming space for people of all backgrounds, including members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
“This Pride installation is symbolic of the inclusive community that we are, and that we want to be. We want everybody to belong here,” said Ajay, who also took the opportunity to show off a Pride-themed manicure he’d received from students at the VCC Salon and Spa.
L to R: AEST Minister Anne Kang, VCC President Ajay Patel, VCC Vice Presdent People Services Kate Dickerson
Minister Kang reflected on the way VCC champions diversity in its everyday work. “This wall reflects the pride of VCC. We are all unique, we are all different, we are all special, and VCC is providing that environment for everyone to be successful. Whenever I come to VCC, I am just so proud.”
Recent VCC Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) grad Jaibrend (Rainbow Glitz) Johnson-Baker shared her perspective as an Indigenous-Black burlesque dancer, makeup artist, fashion designer, and educator. “Pride is a reminder that it started off as a protest, and it still is a protest here today. As much as we celebrate, we’re still fighting for every right – still fighting for respect.” She went on to remind us, “Even though Pride is so beautiful and so bright and colourful, this is not the destination. We have to continue the journey.”
With the vibrant background of VCC’s new murals, event attendees contributed to an interactive display by sharing “What Pride Means To Me.” Folks also participated in a selfie station, enjoyed coffee and famous cupcakes from VCC Baking and Pastry Arts, and received care packages from the VCC Salon and Spa.
AEST Minister Anne Kang with students from the VCC Salon and Spa
VCC’s 2022-25 Strategic Innovation Plan recognizes that our institution must be guided by justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and reconciliation to achieve true and lasting success. These values, in turn, have inspired many meaningful projects and actions by VCC students, faculty, and employees.
VCC nursing and jewellery students partnered to create a “We Care for All Bodies” pin that health care professionals can wear to signify they will respect trans and gender-diverse patients.
Shantel’s award recognizes their work as a champion and creator of open educational resources that allow students from marginalized identities to see themselves reflected in the texts.
Jewellery student Kale Needham creates kinetic/moving jewellery that is meant to ease anxiety. Kale also plans to use hands-on art to assist troubled 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.
VCC and the Students’ Union of VCC have partnered to install free menstrual product dispensers in all universal/all-gender washrooms on campus.
Student designer Stevie finds their purpose at VCC and a promising career creating Indigenous-inspired couture.
VCC’s Positive Space Scholarship honours a student who has displayed leadership in building a positive and welcoming environment for 2SLGBTQIA+ community.