Paola Gomez is a trained human rights lawyer, community organizer, public speaker, artist facilitator, writer and dreamer. A member of PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile and an advocate, Paola is involved in causes such as ending violence against women and forced migration. Her works integrate arts, community engagement and anti-oppressive frameworks.
Paola is the co-founder and director of Sick Muse Art Projects. In this role, she has developed an innovative way of integrating conversations about identity, inclusion and community engagement into community art programs.
Paola writes poetry, essays and short stories. As a community leader, researcher and emerging curator, she has contributed to the access and visibility of other Latin American artists in the Toronto arts scene. Paola is part of the TAC 2017 Cultural Leaders Lab and is a well known well known community arts facilitator who develops a variety of community art programs aiming to support newcomers, refugee kids and women where topics such as identity and inclusion are at the centre of the arts engagement.
I always had big dreams; I always looked at the world through my very particular lenses; I was different and felt like I never fit in. I always questioned why a child would need to live in a state of fear and anxiety. I wondered why being a girl was so hard. I asked myself why there was so much violence around me. I certainly never played with princess dolls or tried to be one. I was quiet, and most of the time, I was fearful or sad.
During my teen years and while reaching adulthood, I realized that it was time to speak up. I knew that my role was to be an instigator of change. I promised myself I was going to be a voice for those who did not have one, and if I could not fulfill that mission, at least I was going to make sure to have my own voice heard.
Canada has taught me about generosity. It’s also taught me about the importance of being socially and civically responsible. As a member of this society, I have the obligation to check my own privileges and I have the responsibility of being an ally—an ally in amplifying the voices of those who have experienced violence and oppression.
By being declared a refugee, Canada has offered to protect my life and my family. I am forever thankful. I am aware of the privilege of protection that was given to me and that many of my brothers and sisters did not and will not have access to it.
I will continue to build community through art and I will always be a friendly neighbour willing to say “welcome” to newcomers.
We still need many more allies. We still need more people to believe that social justice is for all and that change is necessary. This is a process that is done one reader, one heart at a time. I hope you can join me…. in never being silent when witnessing injustice.