Giving A Voice To The Voiceless
This week on the blog we hear from local photographer, Lionel Migrino, and his story as Filipino-Canadian living with cerebral palsy. Lionel shares his thoughts on the social change we're witnessing in our world and how we can better support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Continue reading and follow Lionel on Instagram [@lmigrino] for more information on how to continue support social equity and justices and his photography.
Hello lovely people! My name is Lionel Migrino, and I identify myself as a Filipino-Canadian who happens to live with a disability called cerebral palsy. I am proud of my Filipino roots and to be a member of the disability community. I recognize that I might be different than most people, but those differences are part of who I am. As a local photographer, one of my goals is to show people - through photography - that your obstacles should never stop you from going on adventures and chasing your dreams. Connecting with people and sharing a story through my lens are some of the things I am most passionate about. Another strong passion of mine is doing social advocacy to help make my community a better place for everyone. For example, I enjoy speaking out on social issues concerning marginalized populations and spreading awareness on inclusivity and equity within my community. I am incredibly grateful to have photography and social advocacy in my life because it allows me to have a voice in this world. Having a voice is important to me because as a person of colour with a disability, I face many societal barriers and people like me are often left voiceless.
To bridge my love for social advocacy and photography, I became involved with Migrante Alberta, a non-profit and self-help organization that addresses issues surrounding the rights of migrant workers. I was a part of their creative project called Kwento't Litrato, which means "story and pictures" in Tagalog. Kwento't Litrato allows photographers like me to explore subjects related to migrant life in Canada through photography. In my contribution to this project, I explored the issue of racism as a second-generation Canadian. It is bad enough to be judged based on my disability, but I have also faced discrimination based on the colour of my skin.
In my photo series for Kwento't Litrato, I focused on a microaggression that I get asked frequently, "Where are you from?" The purpose of this series was to challenge this question and spread awareness about the forms of subtle racism that people of colour often experience. I took photos of people from several different ethnic backgrounds, and I asked them to reflect on, "Where are you from?" Each person shared a personal response to this question, and I accompanied their narrative with a portrait I took of them. To many people (myself included), this question makes us feel excluded and seen as a foreigner by the rest of the Canadian population. We are asked if we are 'really' Canadian as if being born elsewhere or being a person of colour makes you less Canadian than others. Personally, when I get asked this question, I automatically feel labelled for not being White. Some people are even surprised or are in disbelief when I tell them I was born in Calgary. My intention of focusing on "Where are you from?" was to demonstrate that white privilege exists within Canada, and together we must address racism as a community.
As a person living with cerebral palsy, I know that my disability will never go away and will always be a part of me as I navigate through the numerous injustices that I have faced in my life. Although I have experienced several dehumanizing events, they have made me more resilient and a better advocate for others in the disability community. Currently, I am going around my local community to share my story and spreading awareness on social issues that people with disabilities face in their everyday lives. Speaking with the community helps me connect with others and has taught me how to be an effective leader. I also show my support for the disability community by attending local events such as the annual Life Without Limits Challenge hosted by the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta (CPAA). The CPAA enriches and supports Albertans with cerebral palsy and other disabilities through their programs and services. Last September, I hosted a fundraising event with my family and friends to raise over $2,500. This could not have been possible without the additional support of local businesses such as Local Laundry and Millstreet Brewery.
I can honestly say that I would not be the person that I am today without my family and friends. They have always believed in me and have never treated me any differently based on my disability. My grandma has always believed in me, and while growing up, she motivated me to do well in school and continue my studies. I admire my mom so much because she taught me how to advocate for myself while growing up, and she always fought to ensure I received all the resources and support I needed. As a single mom, she made so many sacrifices to support my sister and I. My younger sister has always pushed me to be better and do meaningful things in life. I am so lucky and blessed to have incredible family and friends. They have helped build my confidence and have always supported my photography and advocacy work. Their constant support helps me believe that I can live my life limitlessly.
With everything going around in the world, I think it is essential to recognize that we do have injustices in the world. As people, we need to work together to promote fairness in our community. It is crucial to give the voiceless a voice in the world because BLACK LIVES MATTER, INDIGENOUS LIVES MATTER, MIGRANT LIVES MATTER, DISABILITY LIVES MATTER, and so on. People that are participating in those movements have one common goal. They are fighting for basic human rights! We should remember to educate ourselves, support one another, and keep the conversation going. The only way we can make changes is for everyone to commit because we are stronger together!