Real people, real stories, on loan for discussion

Is it possible to challenge prejudice through one conversation with a stranger?

If you ask the creators of the Human Library™ they’ll tell you that it is in fact one of the most effective ways.

FemFest2017 and the Winnipeg Public Library are proud to present The Human Library™ right here in Winnipeg.

“We need a space for dialogue about tough issues that we wouldn’t address in the supermarket”, says Ronni Abergel, a Human Library creator.

“We’re navigating through diversity by putting people in boxes. We don’t go back to the box and check if what’s in the box is in accordance with the label we put on that box,” he continued, “I do it also. I do it every day. I do it with the speakers, I do it with people I meet. I gather a little bit of information and I use that information to put them in a box.”

Abergel spoke in Groningen at a Tedx talk, “You can go to the Human Library and challenge your own stereotypes, challenge your prejudices. You have to be a little brave because you have to fess up. You have to admit to yourself that you’re thinking things about other people-probably things that you shouldn’t be thinking, but you’re doing that for your own comfort.”

The local Human Books come from all backgrounds and ways of life, but they all have one thing in common, for different reasons they are often subjected to stereotyping or prejudice. Imagine getting to sit down with some of these amazing human books:

 

Nigel Bart

Book Title: Whale Calling and the Purpose of a Rabbit

Nigel Bart - HeadshotNigel tells his story from early childhood to present about living with schizophrenia, dealing with the additional issues that come with mental illness, and recovering as the successful founder of Artbeat Studio.

 

Sadie Phoenix Lavoie

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie - HeadshotBook Title: Resilience through art and literature

Resilience. Decolonization. Matriarchy. How do we bring matriarchal principles back to the Indigenous world?

 

Razak Iyal

Book Title: The Struggle of Refugees

Refugees are stranded around the world, struggling to maintain hope. Razak arrived in Canada as a refugee, lost his fingers to frostbite, and has overcome one of the biggest challenges of his life. This is a story about human rights.

 

Lara Rae - Headshot_smallerLara Rae

Book Title: Becoming Lara

A Life in Progress. Lara Rae is a proud transgender woman and a writer and comedian. She is an artistic director who uses creativity and life experiences to promote understanding not just for herself, but for other marginalized people.

 

 

 

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith

Book Title: Finding the Gift: How to Face Life’s Challenges

Most people do not expect to be a caregiver when they are in their mid-twenties. Rachel’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease then later, Lewy Body Dementia. Rachel’s hope is that by sharing her story she can help others with their own challenges.

 

The Human Library takes place on the second floor of the Millennium Library during these times:
    Thursday, September 21: 4-8 pm

    Friday, September 22: 1-4 pm

    Saturday, September 23: 1-4 pm

This is just a sample of what will be available to readers. Click here for more information, updates on additional books and details on how to reserve a Human Book visit.

 

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A Caregiver’s Perspective

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith has been a part of our mental health project since the project first launched. Rachel is a theatre artist currently based in Winnipeg. She is also a caregiver to her father, Morgan.

When my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease my mind flooded with fears of the future. I wept at the idea of what was to come” said Rachel, “but then I realized that I could choose to dread what might happen or I could appreciate my Dad while he is still here.”

Rachel initially provided input to the project as a caregiver through interviews. She then became part of the community workshop series, helping us to present the script and gather feedback. We are very excited that Rachel will now be working as an actor in the workshop sessions and for the public staged readings of Breaking Through.

I think it is very important to talk about mental health. There is still a stigma around it and I don’t really understand why.”

The caregiver’s perspective is a powerful one. Caregivers face incredible demands, taking on the emotional and physical duties of caring for a loved one, providing support to family members all while trying to meet the demands of their own life and maintain their own emotional health. In addition, Rachel has had to deal with the effects of stigma and lack of understanding surrounding Morgan’s mental illness.

“I found there have been a lot of assumptions made, especially in the beginning. My Mom and I experienced accusations and blame placed for not doing something about it sooner. That somehow we should have been able to prevent it from happening or we should be able to stop it or do something about it. That somehow the difficulties we were experiencing were our own fault”, explained Rachel, “For myself, I found family suddenly coming to me to talk about what was happening almost like they were keeping it a secret from my parents.”

Rachel strongly believes in the value of human understanding surrounding mental health issues.

“One of my more amazing experiences was when there was no stigma, but an understanding. I described to a friend what I was going through in a lot of detail because he is a good friend who I have not seen in a while. He sat and listened, asked questions and then he began to cry. He completely empathized with me for what my Mom and I have been going through and gave me a big hug” said Rachel.  “I cannot help but think how wonderful it would be for others to experience that kind of empathy. For someone to say to them ‘I understand’ and give them a big hug.”

That’s why she is most excited to see how the audiences at staged readings of Breaking Through will respond to the ideas brought forward in the script.

“I feel that a project like Breaking Through is a great way to start the conversation. It is a way of communicating an understanding about what many people experience and why it is important to listen to them instead of making assumptions. It is also a way of telling people who are affected by mental illness in one way or another that they are not alone.

When we refuse to stigmatize people with mental issues we are able to see them for who they are.

“I think I most admire my Dad for his eagerness to help others and his gratitude for those who help him”, said Rachel, “when I think of my Dad I do not want to think of a disease; I want to think of who he is and how strong he is to get out of bed every morning with a smile on his face, ready to meet the challenges ahead.

You can read more about Rachel’s experience here and find resources for caregivers here.

Support Breaking Through by attending and adding your voice at the staged readings from May 22-28.