PuSh Blog

Moving Forward With JEDI Values

September 30, 2020


My name is Camyar. I’m a member of the Advisory Group that is helping PuSh navigate its way out of the storm it found itself in. Why did I agree to enter this conversation? 

I want PuSh to survive this.

I’m old enough to remember Vancouver without PuSh. I remember how excited many of us were when Norman and Katrina founded the Festival. I recall the lobbying many of us in the community engaged in to help grow the Festival. I can never forget what it felt like to see shows I or my friends were involved in play alongside international heavy-hitters. Norman continued to grow the Festival and, always being a ‘big tent’ guy, he brought the community ‘up’ with him. So, there are many performing arts makers in town who feel they are important stakeholders; that PuSh, at least on a spiritual level, belongs to them.

They want PuSh to survive this. 

There is no way that every individual who cares about this question is going to agree on how PuSh should move forward. What I can tell you is the best advice I, as part of the Advisory Group, feel I can give. 

Mistakes were made and these mistakes are being accounted for. It’s time to de-personalize and mend the systematic flaws that created the environment for a group of really smart people to do some not very smart things. For those of us who champion organizational capacity building in the non-profit sector, this is no surprise. Many companies, young or old, big or small, either ignore or don’t find time to do the hard work of constant organizational diagnosis and transformation. Sometimes the price is paid incrementally and other times a crisis hits. There is a nautical analogy of wizened old sea Captains running their ships into the ground because they become too comfortable in their experience and neglect to revisit the basics. PuSh sailed into something it could have avoided. It’s far from being alone in doing so. It should not be alone in sinking. In fact, these turning points in the life of a non-profit can make an organization even better, stronger, and more resilient.

For those who are calling on people to resign and heads to roll, my apologies. This is not the approach I am advising. I, personally, would never sign on to a process that adds trauma to trauma. What happened to Janelle, should not have happened. What happened to Joyce, should not have happened. What happened to Franco, should not have happened. That pattern needs to stop. People who work and volunteer in the arts, unless criminally liable, should not be subjected to that kind of treatment. We all know board structures are flawed and stressed for time in the best of situations. The fact that there are members of the PuSh board who are acknowledging their errors and staying on to steer the ship back on course has helped me transform my disappointment into respect and hope. We have opted for a restorative process, not one that penalizes. This does not absolve anyone from the mistakes they have made and that accounting is taking place within the appropriate arenas. Shame on us, Vancouver, if we let this Festival die in a sea of anger. It has provided too much joy, thoughtful provocation, engagement, beauty, recognition, and cultural sector employment to be discarded.

Moving forward with compassion does not mean turning a blind eye to injustice. That is why our committee, led by a superb facilitator, is rooted in Justice Equity De-Colonisation Inclusion (JEDI) values. We wish for PuSh to meaningfully incorporate JEDI values into the core of everything it does; even when competing for attention in an international environment that often isn’t even capable of acknowledging such a need. PuSh has the potential to not only centre itself in these values, but become an international champion of why this work is beneficial. Surviving this tumult and becoming better for it could give it the authentic street credentials to be a leader in the field. Back in the nineties, many of us in the Canadian performing arts world who engaged in these values didn’t have the language for it. We just did it because it was who we were and what we needed to do in order to survive. Deeper than that, it was because we believed, and continue to believe, that it makes the world a better place. PuSh can not only survive, it can be a strong butterfly whose flapping wings add to the multitude of artistic reverberations that are trying to make life more comprehensible, inclusive, and uplifting — and do so on an international scale.

If you have read this it’s hopefully because, like me, you want to see PuSh survive. If that is not your motive, or you can’t find a way to see it happen through a healthy lens, then I ask you to not weigh down the ship. If the survival of PuSh through a compassionate JEDI framework is what you want, welcome aboard. Let’s sail forward together with our hearts aligned, leaving the dark clouds behind us and looking forward to what awaits the PuSh Festival over that promising horizon.

And let’s say, together:

PuSh will survive.


It was brought to my attention that, in my original post, I had neglected to reference Janelle Wong-Moon. When writing that particular section my focus was on the leadership.  Nevertheless, the omission was careless and insensitive and I have since apologized to Janelle and updated the post.