Meet the Team
Cicely Belle Blain
Head B*itch in charge
Cicely Belle Blain is an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant, activist, public speaker and writer. Cicely Belle completed their Bachelor of Arts in Modern European Studies and Russian at the University of British Columbia where they were a recipient of the International Leader of Tomorrow Award scholarship and a finalist for the YWCA Young Women of Distinction Award.
After graduating in just 3.5 years, Cicely Belle co-founded Canada’s second Black Lives Matter chapter which garnered them much acclaim including being listed as one of Vancouver’s fifty most influential people of 2018, as awarded by Vancouver Magazine. They were also a winner of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Youth Leadership Award in Social Movement Building for their commitment to anti-racism and LGBTQ+ activism.
In 2017, Cicely Belle was listed as one of CBC’s 150 Black Women and Non-Binary People Making Change in Canada and in 2019 they became one of BC Business’s 30 under 30 business leaders as well as a finalist for the Canadian LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. They also served as a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations, advising world leaders on LGBTQ+ inclusion in cities.
When not busy running Cicely Blain Consulting and Stratagem Virtual, Cicely Belle is an instructor of Executive Leadership at Simon Fraser University and their first book, Burning Sugar, debuts in September 2020 with Arsenal Pulp Press and VS Books. They are also thrilled to be on the Board of Directors for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and a Dialogue Associate at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.
Cicely Belle loves:
Wellness & Joy Coordinator
Udokam Iroegbu is a Nigerian born and raised cis-gendered woman, living and working on unceded, stolen, traditional and ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples. This reality is one that Udokam uses to inform her anti-oppression, anti-colonial, Black feminist, queer, social justice work.
With a degree in civil engineering, Udokam works in transportation design at the City of Vancouver. Her work is centered around engaging with the public on several transportation projects with varying complexity and impacts. While doing this work, she invites colleagues to examine historical inequities and its legacy. This process brings about the re-imagining of a radical, more inclusive and equitable transportation network and travel experience. She participates and facilitates conversation that encourages people to come to terms with complex social structures/identities, in a way that preserves their dignity and ignites a desire for change.
As an organizer with Black Lives Matter Vancouver, Udokam advocates for the rights and lives of Black people, while standing in solidarity with the Indigneous people of Coast Salish Territory. In this capacity, Udokam is able to center the intersecting needs of Black people, where our population is low, and freedom often negotiated. She gathers, marches, strategizes, educates, fundraises, celebrates, dances, collaborates, and sings for our collective liberation
Udokam calls on the strength of her ancestors, and is inspired by the fierce radical love of all the women that raised her: her grandmother, mother, aunties, and the woman at the corner store that kept a watchful eye. She finds herself rejuvenated by the fierce, creative, supportive, resilient, and innovative femmes she's come to know and love. When all is said and done, Udokam’s best work, and favorite time, is spent with her friends and loved ones. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Attempting a new dish
Red soil on naked feet
Education & Inspiration Coordinator
Jillian Christmas is the author of The Gospel of Breaking (Arsenal Pulp Press 2020). A Queer, Afro-Caribbean writer living on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam people (Vancouver, BC.), Jillian served for six years as Artistic Director of Verses Festival of Words. She has won numerous Grand Poetry-Slam Championship titles and represented both Toronto and Vancouver at 11 national poetry events, notably breaking ground as the first Canadian to perform on the final stage of the Women of the World Poetry Slam.
In 2016 Jillian was named one of two Poets of Honour by the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Jillian's work has been featured in numerous online publications including Lemon Hound, The Rusty Toque and the Huffington Post, and published in a number of collections, most recently including Matrix New Queer Writing (issue 98), The Post Feminist Post, Plenitude Magazine, Room Magazine (39.1) and celebrated anthology, The Great Black North.
An enthusiastic organizer, Jillian has participated in, developed, and executed programs in partnership with Toronto Poetry Project, Wordplay - Poetry in Schools, the Vancouver Writers Festival, The Talking Stick Festival, Urban Native Youth Association, Museum of Vancouver,, Museum of Anthropology, Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the University of British Columbia. She has presented poetry and theory in a multitude of venues including the BC Civil Liberties gala, the SFU 2018 grad conference closing keynote, and numerous panels focused on the intersections of critical race theory and contemporary art.
Jillian continues to tour the continent experimenting with music/poetry fusion, banging on her drum kit, clowning, and sharing stages and stories.
Splashing in the wild ocean
Cuddling all the fur-babies of the world
Flower adornment as somatic-healing practice
Star Trek TNG reruns
Kevonnie is a Business Analyst at Vancouver Coastal Health. She is passionate about seeing people reach their full potential and does this through developing, implementing and managing the processes involved with improving peoples workplace experiences- especially the experiences of those most marginalized. When you don't see her at the gym, doing yoga, or hanging out with friends, you will find her active in the black community as she currently sits on the board of the National Congress of Black Women Foundation as well as the City of Vancouver Racial and Ethno-Cultural Advisory Committee.
Reading a good book in bed on a rainy day
vision and message Coordinator
Becca Schwenk is a diversity and inclusion consultant, entrepreneur, communications aficionado, and creative chameleon. She is all about deep and meaningful analyses of injustice, and innovative-solution-concoction. Her work is informed by lived experiences of cultural Judaism, gender fluid femme energy, anxiety, and survivorship.
Becca completed her bachelor’s degree at McGill University, where she majored in both Sociology and Gender, Sexuality, Feminism, and Social Justice studies. Here, she extended her solidarity with survivors as a Support Worker and Facilitator at the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society. Close to this realm, Becca conducted archival research for the West End Sex Workers Memorial History Project. A red-burning lamp post stands at Jervis and Pendrell, honouring the sex workers pushed out of the area, including the project’s lead and late legend Jamie Lee Hamilton.
In Melbourne, Becca was a key operational player at Shebah - the all women rideshare. She has led within anti-oppressive support centres and fast-paced feminist startups, and she doesn’t intend to stop shaking up the status quo any time soon. Her background in both business and nonprofit sectors has given her a uniquely complex lens, and well-versed air of compassion. You can frequently find Becca slipping social justice tidbits into everyday conversations; ready to engage free of judgement and full of empathy.
The super organized one
Joy Gyamfi is a Ghanaian-born, black, queer, fat, femme. An organizational powerhouse with a passion for social justice, Joy has a wide range of experience in the non-profit sector. She has worked with organizations such as the BC Crisis Centre, QMUNITY, Black Lives Matter Vancouver, and––most recently––bc211.
As a recipient of the Cmolik Foundation scholarship, she graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in English Literature and Psychology. Joy has a wide range of talents and is knowledgeable in photography, activism, writing, and mental health. Joy is truly the embodiment of her name; always looking forward to making others laugh or smile, while maintaining her compassionate nature.
The colour purple
outreach & accessibility
Mariana Trujillo-Lezama (pronounced mah•re•anah) is a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in Cali, Colombia, now based and creating work on the ancestral and occupied traditional lands of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Watuth, Sechelt and Squamish Nations of the Coast Salish peoples, now known as Vancouver, British Columbia.
With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art & Design, the artist’s practice is greatly based on introspection, exploring personal and collective identity politics through performance, printmaking, painting and collage both analogue and digital. Simultaneously, the artist has developed a rich written practice, informed by her training in social sciences, gender studies, and the observation and interrogation of the cultural legacy of colonialism and imperialism in America, specifically in Colombia and Canada.
“Who am I and how did I come to be? What am I and to who? What places and which circumstances forged the multiple identities I embrace and/or reject everyday? Are these identities expressions that come from within, inherent to my being, the country I was born in, the one I was raised at or the one I immigrated to? Which of these are an expression of the consequences and effect of the past and current systems that rule and move the different societies I’ve been or I’m a part of? Is my gender my identity? Is my language my identity? Is my body, my face, my hair, my artwork, my identity? Is my legal status my identity? Where do I belong? Are the multiple communities I consider myself a part of, my identity?”
These are some of the questions the artist’s practice explores and seeks to answer.
Having lived and studied in Los Angeles, CA as well, the artist has navigated society as a femme queer immigrant in major cities across America, an experience deeply reflected in her work.
Highly committed to the multiple communities she is a part of, the artist is also an advocate for equality and social change through the exercise of Anti-oppression values, working alongside nonprofit organizations such as Feminicides Colombia, Soñadores Siloé and New Works Dance, in addition to her work for Cicely Blain Consulting, causing her art practice to evolve into community work and activism and vice versa.
Disrupting the status quo
Cookie Dough anything
Alia Ali is an instructor, consultant, and activist. She has always lived a life of service to her community – creating and running programs for youth, working in the corporate world of waterworks, and serving as an executive in a start-up tech company in Vancouver. Alia is also an outspoken advocate for empathy and anti-racism. She does a lot of work with Rotary and is the current President of the Surrey Rotaract Club as well as a Director of the Big West Rotaract Organization where she serves and empowers young professionals as well as trying to help Rotary in the DEI department making the organization more equitable and accessible for all. Alia is also currently a Female Empowerment and Leadership Instructor for the non-profit Voices of Muslim Women and is delighted to be a part of this series.