A performance on taboo, humanity, and self expression

Two Iranian protesters and their journey of performing across Montreal to spread awareness on issues regarding women, peace, and eliminating stigma

International Women’s Day on March 8 was extremely important this year. Many women around the world could not help but think of Iran and the thousands of women fighting for their freedom following the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022 for violating Iran’s strict rules on wearing the hijab. 

Born in Iran, Reza Azarpoor married a Spanish man, and dedicated his life to art, theater and performance. Mandana Zandi, also born in Iran, is a woman who has published multiple books and journalistic works. The two met at a performance a few months ago and have been performing together ever since.

Azarpoor and Zandi took to the streets of Montreal on March 8th to conduct a rather abnormal and intriguing performance, one that raised questions and made room for discussion. This piece did not focus solely on Iran or women specifically, but it was about the correlation between humanity and taboos when it comes to being ourselves. Neither of them spoke throughout the performance, but there was music playing in the background. The performance itself was a mix of dance, and theater. 

“It’s all about taboo and taboo has very deep roots in human history. I believe taboo should die,” said Azarpoor. “Taboo is a virus engraved in our society,” he added.

Throughout the performance, Azarpoor wore a dress and makeup, and brushed and cut his hair. He represented women not only in Iran but all around the world. He also represented shame, and the human in general. Zandi, on the other hand, was represented as a sort of “goddess,” which she explained was meant to portray mother nature. She held a mirror to him, and took care of him.

Their performance was significant because it reflected something new, something refreshing to us as a society. By combining art and passion, they were able to talk about taboo topics, societal pressure, gender roles, Iran, and much more purely through movement.

“The philosophy of the performance was about being a human being, not about being man or woman. Mandana was performing the inner human nature of every human being,”

Said Azarpoor. 

To him, gender roles and expectations are engraved so deeply in society that we forget who we are and forget the general meaning of humanity. 

He talked about being brave enough to exist in this world and stand up for who you are. Then, he abruptly looked towards the audience and showed feelings of sadness and failure.

“That was the pressure you feel from society. That society can be your brain at the same time if you let yourself be one of them,” explained Zandi. “Because he felt ashamed of wearing  makeup and a dress as a man, he didn’t let himself be happy. It’s not a matter that society accepts yours, it’s a matter that you make your own space in society,” said Azarpoor.

Azarpoor believes that, with these performances, he can give courage to at least a few people to do the same, or open their minds to a new concept.  “Like this, you give that courage and braveness to people who ever see you and you open a window in their brain maybe,” he said.

When you believe in yourself, as a lady, as a man, as a person, you can do everything because problems are always following us,” Mandana said. “When you understand a problem and how to deal with it, you will be victorious.” 

Silence was also largely reflected in the performance as they alluded to our responsibility as humans not to stay quiet. Azarpoor strongly believes that we need to fight for what we believe is right and help each other. 

“Your words have meanings and pressure and impact. Silence as well. You are responsible not only with what you say, you are responsible for your silence. If you are silent, you will be [a] victim,” said Azarpoor.
In one scene, he cut his hair in protest with Iran. “War will never stop,” said Mandana. We need to protest, as according to the pair, only as a united society will people open their minds and change their ideals.


Holocaust Survivor Angela Orosz speaks on intergenerational trauma

“I dreamt of the Germans,” says Orosz’s daughter who was conditioned to learn adulthood before she even knew the meaning of the word

When she was just three years old, Katy Orosz was sent grocery shopping on her own. Unbeknownst to her, her mother Angela was secretly following along to ensure her safety. Still, the trauma of that early push for independence lingers in Katy today.

In late January, Angela Orosz, one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, spoke at the Montreal Holocaust Museum (MHM) to discuss her daughter’s experiences with intergenerational trauma.

The event, which held an audience of 350 people, took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. 

Former Chief Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV News, Lisa Laflamme, hosted the public interview with Orosz to discuss how the genocide impacted aspects of her life, notably her motherhood.

Laflamme covered Orosz’s story on CTV News in 2020, when the two visited Auschwitz. It had been the survivor’s first time back at the concentration camp since her birth.

Orosz was born on Dec. 21, 1944, in German-occupied Poland at the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was one of few to survive the liberation that following year.

The public discussion unraveled the painful psychological impacts of the Holocaust, and Orosz explained its influence on her early parental experiences.

During the mid to late 1960s, Orosz gave birth to her daughter Katy in Budapest, Hungary. Orosz passed down many of the “survivor skills” that she learned from her mother Vera Otvos-Beins. This consisted of sending her young daughter off to go grocery shopping and take public transportation “alone.”

“She was three years old. She can’t forgive me. I taught her how to go shopping by herself. She didn’t know I was following her, but I wanted her to have that feeling that whatever is happening, she is not lost,” confessed Orosz. 

This motherly instinct to push for early independence and adulthood in her toddler reflected the trauma she endured when anticipating a recurrence of the Holocaust. 

“I think it’s understandable, given what you’ve been through, what your mother probably taught you as a little girl,” said Laflamme. The journalist sympathized with Orosz on the challenges of teaching one’s own child as a survivor. 

In August of 2016, Orosz was asked to speak about the transmission of psychological trauma from mothers to children at a psychiatric conference in Dresden. However, Orosz’ reaction to the invite involved instant denial to her repressed feelings of trauma. “I’m not going to do it, I don’t have trauma,” she said.  

Orosz went directly to her two children to ask about their thoughts on her attending the event. When she questioned her having trauma, her son had little to say. “But my daughter gave me a list to China and back, on what I did,” she jokingly stated. 

“She said, ‘Mom, are you telling me you don’t have trauma? Your whole life is the Holocaust, everything was the Holocaust. You wanted me to be strong and you made me scared. I couldn’t go to sleep because I dreamt of the Germans,’” explained Orosz. 

Sarah Fogg is a staff member at the MHM and a third-generation survivor to her two grandparents, Marek and Mara Lewkowicz, who survived the Holocaust in Balkhash, Kazakhstan and Kassel, Germany. After World War II, the young couple began a family and fled as refugees to Canada, where they started a new chapter in their lives. 

Fogg has worked with Orosz for years, and emphasized her good intent in trying to protect her daughter from potential harms after the Holocaust. 

The thought of Orosz instilling fear into her daughter at such a young age had never been her intention. “For Angi, it wasn’t from that perspective at all, she was just trying to build a safer human,” expressed Fogg.

Orosz felt strongly towards being open about her past with her children, in hopes of teaching them resilience and gratefulness. 

She referred to memories early on in her parenthood when her children would complain about something. For instance, if they disliked the meal their mother cooked for them, Orosz would reply with “you know how happy [you] would have been in Auschwitz?”.

“We were happy if water came from the faucets in Auschwitz, how could you dare to complain?” she often asked her children.

When her children were young, she juggled the task of being a novice mother while carrying the weight of being a Holocaust survivor. Orosz was also just trying her best, and many other survivors were too.

“When I think of the survivors that I know, again I can’t speak for everybody, everyone’s different, everyone has just tried their best. They came to Canada as refugees, they had to build new lives, learn new languages, new jobs, start from nothing. And I think they all just did the best they could, really,” said Fogg.

Despite never enduring trauma from the Holocaust, Fogg sympathizes with other descendants who’ve felt as though they lived within their families’ tragic stories. 

“Now that I work at the museum, I know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring up the history because it could be really traumatizing to talk about it, for the listener and for the survivor,” said Fogg.


Reality TV: The Illusion of Real

Where does the “real” stop and the “fake” begin?

Reality TV is a defining facet of our era. Its emergence coincided with the beginning of television itself, and since has branched out into an innumerable amount of subgenres.

From game shows to survival shows, competition shows, dating shows, and many different variations on some sort of American family drama, each gives us a glimpse into the lives of different people. But how real are these perceived “glimpses?”

Not only are many popular reality shows scripted, directed, and heavily edited, these shows are carefully constructed to mimic a standard fictional narrative. Each episode has an overarching problem, a build-up, a climax, and a resolution.

The people that are portrayed fit into character roles that have been around since the beginning of storytelling: protagonists, antagonists, love interests, etc.

I began to question how much of the stories are fabricated.

Each show is clearly packaged in a way that makes them easy to watch, through the use of common story tropes and themes that the viewer can recognize.

This is fair enough, since most of us enjoy consuming media that does not require much critical thought or drastic change to our emotions. We watch it simply because it’s comforting.

Although we can accept that reality TV is a large part of our culture and used as a source of comfort for many people, it is important to acknowledge that reality TV is not a true representation of our reality.

Take reality TV show “Floribama Shore,” for example. A spin off of MTV’s classic “Jersey Shore,” the show features eight adults who live together in a house on the Gulf Coast. I’ve only watched the show in passing, but everything about it is ironically bad (especially the name), so much so that it reads as a parody of the original. But it’s not, and it checks all the required boxes of a reality show, and has a solid viewership.

Cast members Jeremiah Buoni and Gus Smyrnios play the roles of protagonist and antagonist respectively, with their rivalry extending through all four seasons. Smyrnios plays the black sheep of the crew, Buoni is the “hero,” who doesn’t shy away from confronting Smyrnios on his wrongdoings.  Cast member Nilsa Prowant fills the role of the sweet and pretty one, and Aimee Hall is the loud and outspoken one (you get the gist). The cast is branded as a family that, despite their differences, always make up.

We watch this in relation to our own lives, classifying the characters as their tropes and their actions on camera, and nothing more. But these are real people, and this is not how reality works, and using this as a source of comfort can be troubling to our perception of life.

Like the original, “Floribama Shore” has its fair share of drama, scandals, fights, secrets, and sex.

In fact, reality shows can only exist on the premise of ubiquitous problems. Shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “Real Housewives” thrive off interfamilial disagreements and tumultuous friendships. Viewers would be generally uninterested in a reality show that had no conflict — so why is it that we love watching all these disagreements and in-fighting?

It can be said in this case that media must imitate real life to be of any interest to us, which is the exact purpose reality TV serves.  It capitalizes on the portrayal of our own insecurities and problems, and we consume it because it makes us comfortable with our imperfect lives.

Seeing someone make a fool out of themselves, or say something so tone deaf you choke a little just makes us… feel better.

The issue with reality TV, then, is that we perceive these people as real, as that is how they are portrayed. The stars are simultaneously characters and real people, but what we see of them is entirely constructed. By watching these shows, we accept that these people are just like us, because the lines between real and fake are completely blurred.

Although their problems might reflect on our own, the events are dramatized for the screen and therefore not a true representation of our realities. It is harmful to idolize these people for being real as they are simply an illusion of what is real.


Collage by James Fay

Student Life

It’s okay to be uncomfortable – confronting our complicity through The Lily Pod

A Concordia podcast that teaches us how vulnerability can connect us to ourselves and each other

Often when I think of Linneah Shanti, I think of all the things that have to do with feeling good. A feeling of good-ness that isn’t attached to something I can hold, no matter how much I adore croissants and cappuccinos. A feeling of good-ness that unwinds from budding empathy, love in bloom. A feeling of good-ness that, like her podcast, would be the worst thing to keep secret.

Originally from Ontario, Shanti is currently based in Montreal and in her third year of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality at Concordia University. The two of us were introduced during

our first semester at university. A year and a half later, in January 2021, she started The Lily Pod.

The idea had been on her mind for a while before then, morphing itself from a yearning to create something special. What she ended up creating is now a space for learning and exploring, focused on the disentanglement of ideas and quenching curiosities.

When I asked Shanti to try and contain The Lily Pod to a set of defining words, she playfully replied with “Queering the existence of life.”

TC: So where did the name come from?

LS: The initial intention for the name came from my desire for this podcast to be a safe, peaceful, and loving place. I decided to take garden imagery — which for me evokes a sense of calm, safety, serenity, and welcoming. Flowers, water, and greenery have always played a big role in my feelings of belonging and safety, which I wanted the podcast to reflect.

‘Lily’ is [also] a name my partner calls me because it’s an acronym for “Linneah I Love You,” which felt really special given the loving space I wanted to create.

TC: Given that the podcast is something that is both yours and something you share — where does being vulnerable fit into this context?

LS: It fits in with how I and listeners confront our own questions, instincts, and learned ways of thinking about the world. In the process of thinking about and creating the episodes, I’m constantly confronted with how much I want to share and what I really think about something… putting my thoughts into the void can be both really scary but also really liberating.

I get a few messages a week from listeners interpreting what I’ve said in a really personal way, and I find this openness to vulnerability really special. It’s this cool cycle where this vulnerable experience for me is made public, then made personal to someone, and then reflected back to me… we’re all going through it together.

TC: You’ve explored so many topics throughout the last year, from desirability, to the male gaze, to polyamory, to the complexities of gender… Is there one topic that has stuck with you more than the rest? 

LS: I immediately gravitate towards what it means to desire and to be desired in the unique context of our own individual identities… how this intermingles with gender, sexuality, the body, perceptions. What it means to understand our positionality and using this understanding to connect us even if our experiences aren’t identical.

TC: If there’s one episode you recommend to first time listeners, which one would that be? 

LS: The polyamory one! It was the first collaborative episode and was recorded with two beautiful friends. It felt like I was doing something more than just sitting down and recording… and it reflected a lot of different themes from a queer perspective, really encapsulating what The Lily Pod is.

How to listen to The Lily Pod

My favourite place to listen to Shanti’s podcast is in my bedroom, in the midst of my process of getting ready to go somewhere. I often catch myself audibly agreeing with her, or suddenly hyper-focused on a new thought she’s helped me connect with.

Regardless of where I am when I hit play, I’ve found that by the end of each episode I’m always left feeling some type of new.

The Lily Pod is available on Spotify, Buzzsprout, and Apple Podcasts. You can find more of Linneah Shanti @linneahrae and @thelily.pod on Instagram. 

Photos by Catherine Reynolds


‘You’re creating your own life based on what you want:’ Meet the owner of Cocktail Bomb Shop

Kiana Gomes, a second year journalism student at Concordia, started a bakeshop in the middle of the pandemic from the comfort of her own home. A few months later, she expanded her business to selling cocktail bombs

During the first COVID Christmas holidays, most other students were taking a break from Zoom classes. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Kiana Gomes was converting her home into a Willy Wonka chocolate factory and perfecting her first “chocolate bomb.” 

Hot chocolate bombs are chocolate spheres filled with chocolate milk powder and marshmallows. When put into a mug with hot milk, they explode to make hot chocolate. Gomes thought they were a great way to treat yourself during the winter in lockdown.  

Gomes started her bakeshop to ease her boredom during quarantine and pursue her baking passion. During the first wave of the pandemic, she started baking cakes for friends and family. 

“I started making cakes because I didn’t really have a job because of the pandemic.” 

It was late October 2020; Montreal had just entered into a red zone, restricting people from non-essential activities and services. The weather was getting colder and the days shorter. Like many people, Gomes was stuck at home in need of distraction.  

When her mom suggested she sell her cakes on Facebook Marketplace, she began baking five cakes almost every week.  

Gomes baked custom birthday cakes using coloured frosting and edible decorations. Her personal favourite was an Among Us birthday cake. 

Inspired by a video she saw on Facebook, Gomes had the idea of making chocolate bombs for the holidays and decided to sell them on Facebook Marketplace.  The chocolate bombs were the perfect product to sell during the cold winter, stuck in another lockdown. In just a few weeks, she launched Kiki’s Bakeshop from her house around the Montreal area. 

Soon after she began her venture, her family members were welcomed  by the mouth-watering smell of chocolate and peppermint. In contrast, the room itself was cold and dry — they had to turn off the heaters to keep the chocolate bombs from melting. As her family entered the kitchen, they were welcomed by the sight of chocolate bombs scattered along counters, leading up to her dining table.  

Around fall 2020, while most students keep their cameras off during Zoom lectures, so no one sees their bedhead, Gomes closed hers so no one would see that her shirt was white with flour. With the help of her mom and two family friends, she made hundreds of chocolate bombs a day. 

Her family’s garage quickly turned into Gomes’ own mini warehouse. Sales exploded. Gomes was selling chocolate bombs on Etsy, shipping them to the United States, while also selling them locally in Montreal. Local orders were picked at her house, while the U.S. orders were shipped through Canada Post.  

 It was hectic; her days were long but felt short. During her Christmas break that year, Gomes started her days at 5 a.m, working over 12 hours. Time flew by as she packed what felt like endless boxes of bombs all day, drinking lots of hot chocolate in the process.  

 However, as the holiday season came to a close, her chocolate bomb business started to die down. She knew that they would not be very popular after the winter months. Gomes needed a new idea to keep her business flowing.  

Inspiration struck when she came across a video on social media of a bartender in New York City making cocktail bombs for a special event. She then searched the recipe online and experimented to find the perfect ratio for the ingredients.  

For Gomes, putting the puzzle pieces together was a matter of trial and error. 

“The first bombs that we made are not even the same bombs that we make now,” said Gomes. “Before, it took longer to dissolve, now it dissolves in two minutes, and the flavours are stronger. There’s a lot of things that I figured out along the way.”

The cocktail bombs are similar in concept to bath bombs. You add them to a glass of sparkling water and pour in a shot of liquor of your choice. They can also be prepared as mocktails, making it a great option for children and non-drinkers who wish to join in on the fizzy fun.  

 Gomes’ cocktail bombs are unique. The ingredients have a high quality and natural focus, with the final products packaged in biodegradable plastic. 

These bombs make a great addition to any drink by adding fun colour and taste. A popular flavour is the Peach Bellini bomb. As Gomes describes, it tastes like a peach with a splash of tequila. Other choices include margarita, blue raspberry, raspberry orange, mojito, mimosa, and piña colada.  

Gomes’ involvement on TikTok was also a major factor in the success of her business, as she began making short videos to promote her products.

“When I first posted the TikTok about the bomb, I knew it would be something big,” said Gomes.

Gomes was happy with the amount of good reviews and comments from her TikTok videos. 

“Because the business came so fast, we had a lot of time to adapt on what people were saying: what we should change, what’s good, what’s not good, to finally come up with this perfect product, but I wouldn’t even call it perfect, because it’s constantly evolving. Like tomorrow we might change something or add new flavours,” Gomes said. 

“I feel like the product is so new. It doesn’t really exist, [it] is is growing with the business,” she added. 

Her cocktail bombs are now being sold in different Linen Chest stores around Montreal, as well as Pusateri’s Fine Foods, and smaller gift stores. They are also shipped to the US and internationally through the Cocktail Bomb Shop’s website.  

 Since March 2021,Gomes has seen her business grow exponentially. Instead of working from her workshop at home, she now owns an office in downtown Montreal, with 10 full-time employees. From working in her messy kitchen and garage, Gomes now has a small office and an open space with designated areas for her employees. The sections are divided into three departments: manufacturing, packaging, and shipment.  

 The employees are constantly producing bombs, while Gomes focuses more on the on the administrative side of the operation, such as clearing paperwork, answering emails, taking phone calls and attending meetings.

Though she misses making the cocktail bombs, she is very happy that her business has flourished. 

“Follow your passion, because I really liked baking so I decided to sell the cakes, and it brought me to this,” said Gomes. “Everything that I did was out of the fact that I enjoyed doing it. It wasn’t doing something that I was miserable in.” 

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you just have to do what you love because the business can be generated from anything.”  

 Gomes still attends university part-time while running her business. She explained that she loves the program and is willing to finish her degree as a backup plan.   

“Every day, it just continues to grow. I guess sometimes it hits me that it’s not that small anymore. I think that every day is just an adventure. I don’t know how big it’s going to get or if it’s going to stop tomorrow. Who knows? But right now, I’m just going to ride and see what it becomes.”  

Gomes’ quarantine hobby ended up creating the perfect product for a socially distanced picnic in the park. 


Visuals courtesy of Kiana Gomes


Opinions Student Life

Can’t Handle The Cringe?

A look into silly handles from childhood and growing up with the internet

The year is 2010. Nine-year-old me has spent a few weeks eyeing the prospect of a Gmail account to chat with my friends. Wary of the dangers of the internet, my mom finally acquiesced, and sat with me as I created my account.

We sat there together, filling out all the necessary information — when I’d normally be yawning over the boring stuff, I was squirming in my seat, eager to choose my handle. I knew it had to be something fun, exciting, and quintessentially me. So, naturally, I pondered it with great concern.

I leafed through my address book from summer camp, looking for inspiration, when I came across an email handle that caught my eye immediately — “thepicklequeen.”

While I didn’t (and still don’t) like pickles, I knew that this was the path I wanted to take with my email, given my overwhelming, overpowering, and intense obsession with chocolate. My handle would be “thechocolatequeen.” It is the perfect encapsulation of who I am. Plus, it has a nice ring to it.

As I typed that into the server, I was appalled to find out that someone else had the same brilliant idea as me. I considered trying to reach them and have a chocolate eating contest to settle who was the real Chocolate Queen. But, as a nine-year-old, I realized that I might not have as big of an appetite as the person defending the title, and couldn’t stomach the thought of that crushing defeat.

I did what any kid would have done at that moment. I added my birthday to the end of the aforementioned handle, and thus, my beloved, silly email address was born.

From then on, “thechocolatequeen” was my identifying handle on the internet. It even had a brief stint as my Instagram handle. I should honestly change it back.

As much as it pains me, I now only use “thechocolatequeen” for promo emails and correspondences with old friends and family. But, looking back, I miss the unapologetic silliness that it conveyed, and decided to look into the slightly cringe elementary school email trend and how it’s progressed now that it’s 2022.

I used my Instagram story to find other silly email fiends, and their handles and stories did not disappoint.

Samantha Stermer made her handle around 2009, opting for one that didn’t reveal her full name at her father’s request due to safety concerns. She explained that as a kid, she was always climbing things. Fittingly, her nickname became “monkey,” so she decided to tack on her birthday and make that her handle.

“It was such a pain when I got older and had to figure out how to swap everything,” she said,  noting that in high school, if anyone had seen it, she would have been “mortified.”

Now, she has a more professional handle, but “monkey” remains her handle on iCloud. She finds it hilarious that when texting people on a recent trip to Portugal, the messages were coming from that account.

Sarah Lotfi, better known as “wdwfanatic,” created that handle in grade four or five, when her Walt Disney World phase was in full swing.

She explained that though she only uses this account for promos now, she still identifies with her younger self, and is a self-proclaimed “Disney adult.” While she fell out of this phase for a bit, she said that she spent lots of time during quarantine watching videos about Disney secrets. “It’s cool that I came back to myself,” she said.

Like many of us, when Lotfi started CEGEP, she realized that she needed to create a more professional account, but wasn’t happy about it. “I don’t want an email with my name in it,” she said. “That’s so boring.”

Lotfi laments that her name is often misspelled. “We wouldn’t have this problem if I was just the Walt Disney World fanatic, you know?”

In her opinion, we could all use a little more fun and self-expression in our emails. “Everything is so sanitized and so ‘LinkedIn.’ I hate that.”

I suggest a revolution where we revert back to our silly handles. Who needs a job? If they don’t want me as the Chocolate Queen, they won’t be getting me as anything else. I mean it.  At some point, they’ll have to notice the copious amount of chocolate wrappers in the work garbage cans.

In all seriousness, it’s very interesting to watch the shift in ways in which internet safety has changed as we’ve grown up.

“It’s weird that we used to protect ourselves by pretending we weren’t ourselves on the internet,” said Stermer. “Now, we are ourselves but we have to kinda change ourselves a little bit, and filter what part of ourselves [show] through.”

For better or for worse, as adults, the internet is now a place for real names and creating profiles that make us professional and employable. Or maybe that’s just a part of growing up. Either way, it’s important not to lose sight of what makes us who we are — whether it be monkeys, Disney World fanatics, or chocolate queens.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt


Life of L’Ange

From a man who once lived on the streets to one who now gives back to his community in any way he can, Gaëtan Ouellet’s life inspires him to support those in need

Trigger Warning: The following includes mentions of suicide, addiction, and mental illness.

A life of ups and downs best describes a man who, through the toughest of hardships, continues to keep his head above water. Someone who strives to be a positive influence to those around him who are struggling, as he once was. From being someone who got offered a helping hand when he needed it most to now being that person who lends a hand, Gaëtan Ouellet remains a man of perseverance and humility.

Ouellet is well known in the Old Port of Montreal, and more specifically known by the name “Ange.” His nickname grew out of his previous acts of generosity in parking lots. Beginning in the mid ‘90s — back when parking meters could be filled at individual machines set up for each spot —  Ouellet would take pleasure in filling them out for people before parking security showed up to issue them a ticket. When car owners noticed Ouellet saving them from a ticket, they would ask for his name.

“I’m just a guardian angel looking out for people. They call me Gaë-tange,” he would reply.

Those who discovered who their parking meter angel was often thanked him by offering small gestures, such as meals, money, or cigarettes.

People’s small offerings were not the motivators behind his actions. Although people’s kindness meant the world to him, all he expected was a simple “thank you.” Simply put, Ouellet enjoys helping others, and that’s that.

Growing up in Gaspésie on the east coast of Quebec, Ouellet had a rural upbringing. At the age of six, his father moved their family to Montreal after having trouble finding work in their area and he has been here ever since.

Ouellet’s early adult life began to take off when he took a welding course. He had an interest in the technique behind the craft and had studied it at a trade school in Saint-Henri. He ended up earning a steady income for five years as a welder and then moved on, working at Québecor binding magazines for 23 years. Things were looking up for Ouellet, until everything suddenly came crumbling down.

Looking back, the year 1994 marks a difficult time in Ouellet’s life. In the span of one week, he had lost his job due to layoffs and came home to find his roommate’s body —who was also a childhood friend of 32 years — hanging in their apartment. This line of horrific events led Ouellet into a dark cycle of drinking and heavy drug consumption of heroin and cocaine. Four months after being taken in by his family and friends as a temporary solution, Ouellet found himself alone, homeless, and on the streets of the Old Port of Montreal.

“Living on the street, you need a vice to forget you’re living on the street,” said Ouellet.

The homeless community of Montreal was never a stranger to Ouellet. Growing up, he would spend most of his free time around the Old Port. Ironically, years before finding himself homeless, Ouellet came to know an elderly homeless man whose health was in poor condition. He recalls the man being concerned about what would happen to his physical spot on the street once he was gone. Ouellet remembers the man sharing that if ever Ouellet was to be in tough times, his spot would become available soon as the man knew he wouldn’t be here much longer.

The elderly man’s spot soon became Ouellet’s first home on the streets of Montreal.

“It’s funny how life works,” said Ouellet. “It makes you realize we are not that different from one another.”

No one is prepared for the moment when they realize that bartering for their next meal is one of their only options for food. They don’t expect to find themselves desperately picking through ashtrays on the city sidewalk in hopes of finding a cigarette that isn’t fully smoked. Living on the streets, Ouellet was faced with this hard-hitting reality. For nine years, he was begging strangers to get by.

It’s often easier to think of the hardships that we face in life as temporary situations. Ones that won’t last long. For Ouellet, along with many others who find themselves in a similar situation, finding their next meal or having to endure weather of all kinds, lasted longer than he would have liked.

His days under the influence of heavy drugs and alcohol were spent begging for change at traffic lights and slurring words at passersby. The reaction on people’s faces was telling. They were not willing to help someone in an intoxicated state. Instead, he realized that they would be more willing to give to someone who was looking to help themselves. He knew his behaviour was not an effective way to appeal to people’s sympathy and generosity.

Ouellet takes out the garbage for a Vieux Montreal business, Montreal, Quebec, October 4, 2021. In exchange for services such as this one, “l’Ange du Vieux Montreal” is fed. CHRISTINE BEAUDOIN/The Concordian

Over the years, Ouellet learned that if this was to be his lifestyle for the time being, he had to make some changes in order to survive. Once he was clean and no longer being consumed by his vices, Ouellet decided to offer his free time to performing small tasks which became a new way to meet his needs of meals and clothing.

Gaëtan Ouellet, also known as “l’Ange du Vieux Montreal”, cleans up dust and spider webs from a restaurant’s window, Montreal, Quebec, October 4, 2021. CHRISTINE BEAUDOIN/The Concordian

On an average day, Ouellet can be found spending the better part of his time lending people a helping hand on Saint-Paul St. in Montreal’s Old Port. From brooming store fronts, washing windows, to shoveling walkways during the winter months, Ouellet’s acts of generosity are done with nothing asked in return.

From 2007 onwards, Ouellet began performing odd jobs for local businesses. Every now and then, he brings in garbage bins and occasionally fills in for dishwasher duty. While Ouellet may not be employed by anyone in particular, the 12 clients that he helps out from time to time provide him with food and clothing in exchange for his services.

Ouellet, Old Montreal’s “Angel”, takes out recycling bags from an Old Montreal alleyway, October 4, 2021. Some mornings, Gaetan wakes up early to do his rounds of trash removal in the area. CHRISTINE BEAUDOIN/The Concordian

Living as a homeless person, he came into contact with several influential people, including celebrities such as Carlos Santana, by chance, through mutual friends. Judges, lawyers and restaurant owners like Chuck Hughes are also acquaintances Ouellet has formed bonds with. Ouellet’s down-to-earth and friendly personality even got him invited out to lunch by judges who were looking for company during their lunch break. He noticed his presence on the street made a difference. On the odd day when he didn’t follow his usual routine, familiar faces would ask him why they had missed him and where he had been.

Notably, 2021 marks 19 years since Ouellet got sober. He attributes his success in getting clean to a good friend, now a lawyer, who he met while living on the streets. When he could no longer stand to see him in this state, Ouellet’s newfound friend called an ambulance so he could get admitted to the hospital for help; the first step taken on the road to recovery.

This lawyer friend paid for Ouellet’s four month stay at the Louis-H. Lafontaine psychiatric hospital, which got Ouellet clean and provided medication for his health issues.

It is also thanks to this lawyer friend that he now has a government-subsidized apartment to come home to, as well as a place to offer others to stay if they need a roof over their head and a good night’s rest.

Despite no longer living on the streets, Ouellet still gets up everyday to support those within his community, whether they be homeless, business owners, or just people passing by.

The sun rises over Old Montreal, the place Ouellet, “Angel”, calls home, October 4, 2021. CHRISTINE BEAUDOIN/The Concordian

In the fall of 2020, Ouellet began devoting his free time to residents of the Notre-Dame Street camping site because of the large volume of people who continued to struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the help of volunteers, he aided in distributing donated goods, such as clothes and food. Eventually, they managed to find long-term homes for 16 people at the campsite, providing them with an affordable rented space when sharing the cost amongst groups of two.

Ouellet recently got contacted on Sept. 19 by the Old Brewery Mission who provide services to the homeless in Montreal. He was asked to help them out given how he’s familiar with the community in need and could make them feel more comfortable in accepting the help. He went out to the corner of Berri and Sainte-Catherine St. to help homeless citizens in the area. The team focused on preparations for upcoming weather changes, so heavier jackets and boots were distributed in addition to access to a barber and foot care services for those in need.

As someone who once lived that reality, Ouellet knows first hand the needs of people living on the street. Access to foot care and acceptable personal hygiene resources are as necessary as warm clothes and appropriate footwear. It’s this type of knowledge that Ouellet feels thankful to have when lending a helping hand to those in need.

Ouellet places a mat in front of Tommy’s cafe for people to sit on in Old Montreal, Quebec, October 4, 2021. CHRISTINE BEAUDOIN/The Concordian

Ouellet is the proud father of three daughters. While they have been in and out of his life during his time on the streets, his bond with them has grown now that he is clean. He enjoys the time with his six grandchildren who brighten up his days. He feels fortunate to have gotten sober. He says that he now feels like he can fully appreciate and enjoy the years ahead with his family. What does the future have in store for his retirement years? Ouellet doesn’t have a set plan just yet.

Ouellet says that he is happy where he is now and is grateful for the opportunity to help others. Lending a helping hand to those he sees sleeping on park benches for nights at a time fulfills him with a sense of gratitude.

Life has its ups and downs for every individual in any community. Some people’s challenges may be more visible than others. Kindness is universal and can go a long way in impacting how someone’s story plays out. In rising above hardships, we have the ability to look beyond those less than perfect times in our lives with compassion. It is that compassion that allows us to put ourselves in others’ shoes. Ouellet reminds us that everyone has a story and, more importantly, that everyone is human.

“Are we really that different? I look at the human side of every person that I meet whether they be officials such as police officers, judges or just humans that need support. They are all the same in my eyes, I help everyone in good faith,” said Ouellet.


Visuals by Christine Beaudoin



Living with Stage 4 Cancer: Nalie Agustin’s Journey to Inspiring the World

Best-selling author, public speaker, and social media influencer has made it her mission to spread light and hope on her path to raising breast cancer awareness

“You have cancer.”

These are the words that changed Nalie Agustin’s life when she heard them for the first time in 2013. Eight years later, Agustin is thriving despite living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer – and she’s doing it in the most inspiring way.

At 24 years old, Agustin found a lump in her left breast. Initially, she didn’t think much of it, given that breast cancer is known to be most common in older women. It wasn’t until the lump continued to grow larger that she decided to take action and seek medical assistance. After several tests, the results came back: On July 17, 2013, Agustin was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

Driving home from the hospital on that very day, after receiving life-altering news, Agustin recorded a raw, unfiltered and incredibly emotional vlog in her car for her YouTube channel. “The reason why I’m recording this is [be]cause I know I have a crazy journey ahead of me, and this is day one,” she says to the camera.

Eight years later, Agustin has a growing community of over 29,000 YouTube subscribers and 110,000 Instagram followers who are inspired by her ability to shift perspective, find inspiration in the everyday and remain resilient, brave and courageous despite her cancer diagnosis.

These unique abilities have been instilled in Agustin since childhood.

Growing up, Agustin was raised to be thankful for the little things. With family in the Philippines who didn’t have much, her parents always ensured that she and her two brothers understood the importance of gratitude. In the Agustin household, even a simple dinner began with a prayer. “We had to be grateful for everything on the table, no matter if it was big or small, or fancy or not,” she said.

The resilience, courage and bravery that she emanates today also stems from her childhood. As the only girl in her tight-knit family, Agustin was always ready to prove that she could successfully take on any new challenge that stood in front of her with determination and drive. Naturally, from a young age, her ability to face any obstacle head-on was clear.

After completing CEGEP in 2008, Agustin enrolled in communication studies at Concordia University, a program she felt would allow for the exploration of her creativity in several facets of media, including writing and video. As a self-proclaimed “multi-passionate” individual, this program was perfect for her. However, post-graduation in 2012, Agustin landed a job working in eCommerce where she felt incredibly lost and unfulfilled. She knew it wasn’t the right fit for her.

Photograph by Karolina Victoria Jez

“I always knew I was meant to do something special,” recalled Agustin as she reflected back on this time in her life.

While a cancer diagnosis may not have been her idea of “special,” raising awareness about breast cancer in young women and inspiring both the cancer and non-cancer community may have been the “special” she was searching for.

It wasn’t long after Agustin graduated from Concordia University that she received her diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.

She spent the following year in and out of the hospital receiving the standard treatment, while simultaneously sharing blog posts to “” and vlogs to her YouTube channel. “As a creative, and being a communications graduate, it just felt therapeutic and right to express myself and write,” she said.

Her blog posts were written in the form of personal diary entries. At the time, Agustin’s goal was to keep her large Filipino family updated with the treatments she was receiving, as well as how she was coping with the challenges she was facing.

What started out as a way to communicate with her close relatives and express herself eventually grew into a large and supportive online community.

“I dedicated my entire journey at that point to advocating and spreading awareness because I didn’t know any other 24-year-old who had breast cancer,” said Agustin.

As Agustin sees it, going through breast cancer at a young age raises unique concerns that may not impact older women in the same way, such as the potential of infertility.

In 2014, after chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and 23 rounds of radiation, Agustin was considered to be in remission. For three years, she was travelling, speaking and sharing her story with many individuals around the world. “I was really living that dream list of things I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.

The sense of freedom that Agustin felt was cut short in 2017, when she had a recurrence. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer — which spread to her lungs. “That was really traumatic because I really thought it was over,” Agustin recalled. “I really thought I was in the clear.”

A stage 4 diagnosis is considered incurable and terminal. Evidently, this reality was a scary prognosis that weighed heavily on Agustin and her loved ones.

Although difficult, she continued to share her journey with a growing social media following who were “beyond just followers on Instagram.” Based on the overwhelming support she receives, it’s evident to Agustin that her “followers” genuinely care about her health, happiness, and progress. This is evident in the hundreds of kind, supportive and empowering comments left on every post, and in the meaningful interactions Agustin has with individuals in her direct messages.

For a while, the cancer was quite stable and everything seemed to be going well — until May 2020, when Agustin’s cancer journey took an unexpected and unfortunate turn.

Agustin began experiencing neck pain, headaches, muscle spasms and sudden numbness in her legs. An immediate visit to the hospital and an emergency CT scan confirmed that Agustin’s cancer had spread from her lungs to her brain.

“All I remember hearing in my head was ‘no.’ No, this can’t be true […] No, this can’t be the end,” shared Agustin in an Instagram caption.

What followed were five rounds of whole brain radiation, Taxol (a chemotherapy medication) and stereotactic radiosurgery. “That was probably the toughest time of my entire eight-year journey,” she said.

“My brain is like my artifact, it’s where I get all my ideas, it’s what controls my whole body […] it’s my mind which is key to everything,” she explained.

With such a traumatic diagnosis, Agustin disconnected from social media. She knew that focusing on healing herself had to be the biggest priority. “I had really dedicated my last seven years to helping others, and now I realized I really need to help myself,” she explained.

However, although she temporarily ceased writing for her active online community, she never stopped writing for herself.

Writing by hand in her diary, Agustin wrote out her life lessons learned amidst the trauma.

When Agustin returned to social media four months later, she decided to make separate dated Instagram posts to update her followers. Each post represented an event or an experience that she had undergone during those intense months of treatment. But most importantly, each post had an incredibly powerful caption with an inspiring takeaway. Organizing all these posts within Instagram’s “Guides” feature, she titled them “The Diary of Nalie.”

These posts are the inspiration behind Agustin’s new book, The Diary of Nalie: A collection of life lessons and reflections shared while thriving through stage IV cancer.

“I always wanted to write a book and have something tangible and physical that my community can hold,” expressed Agustin.

Overnight, her book found its place as a #1 Amazon Best Seller in Canada, as well as in two specific categories: #1 Best Seller in Cancer, and #1 Best Seller in Practical and Motivational Self-Help.

“There’s such a big analogy between a stage 4 cancer diagnosis and not knowing what’s to come, and I feel like that’s what people are facing right now – complete unknown and uncertainty,” said Agustin, referencing how the ongoing pandemic has changed life for everyone.

In an Amazon review, one reader shares, “I do not have cancer and I felt like this book spoke to me […] This journal is raw and authentic with so many incredible life lessons that would definitely make you do a double take on how to perceive things in life and how to handle it with grace.”

Another reader wrote that “Nalie will walk you through her journey and inspire you to keep moving forward in the midst of your battles.”

Evidently, The Diary of Nalie is offering a glimmer of hope and inspiration that many are so desperately seeking in such an unpredictable time. That’s why Agustin believes her book has seen so much quick success.

During some of the lowest lows of her cancer journey, her book and its success has ignited a sense of purpose and joy in Agustin and her family’s life. Launching the book was a beautiful way to “flip the script and really celebrate the wins rather than focus on the trauma,” she said.

In true Agustin spirit, she has found a way to give back. On Oct. 20, she will be hosting a book signing at Maison Principal. All ticket sale proceeds will be donated to the Program for Women’s Cancer Research at the McGill University Health Centre Division of Radiation Oncology.

It’s been eight years since the words Agustin never thought she would hear changed her life.

But she will continue to live every day with gratitude and faith.

She will thrive.

She will grow.

She will evolve.

She is determined to do so.

“To me all that matters is focusing not on eradicating the illness, but making sure [I] feel as strong and good as possible, because when you feel strong and good, then that’s living,” she said.

While Agustin is eternally grateful for the medicine she has received and her team of oncologists at the hospital, she believes that’s only half the battle. “Healing happens at home,” she explained.

She believes that effective cancer care is the perfect combination between standard treatments in hospitals and integrative out-of-hospital holistic therapies.

Agustin’s years of undoubtable challenges have also been marked by unforgettable life lessons: taking care of your mind and body is key to truly living. Mindfulness, meditation, healthy eating and light exercise is “the reason I believe I am still here today,” she said.

Agustin is the epitome of what it means to face adversity and uncertainty with resilience and bravery. Throughout it all, she has continued to use her platform as a way of giving back in incredible ways. She remains driven to inspire thousands online, advocate for young women diagnosed with breast cancer, and be a voice of hope within the cancer community.

Agustin calls herself a “Thriver,” and by continuously sharing her genuine and authentic self, she inspires the rest of the world to thrive alongside her.


Feature photograph provided by Nalie Agustin


Cycling to End Hunger

Two friends bike 100 laps around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to relieve food insecurity in Quebec

It’s 5 a.m. at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, known as “The Circuit” for short, on Aug. 22 2020.  While the sun has barely set and early morning dew is still floating on top of the grass, the sounds of spinning chains and gears shifting fill the air. Last year’s inaugural ride was not only a challenge, but also motivation to pursue it again.

While most are still asleep, university students Étienne Laprise and Gaspard Vié are about to accomplish what seems like the impossible: 100 laps around the circuit, totalling over 430 kilometres of biking in one day in a fundraiser they created called 100 tours par amour.

“I’m getting chills just talking about it,” said Laprise, one of the co-organizers of the fundraiser.

The fundraiser started by Vié is in support of people who have been affected by food insecurity from the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is simple: the more money raised will mean more food on Quebecers’ tables this year.

Still in its infancy, the second annual fundraiser on Sept. 18 is hoping to not only surpass last year’s goal of supplying 21,000 meals to the less fortunate, but to also raise awareness regarding food security problems many people in the province have faced. According to Les Banques alimentaires du Québec more than 500,000 people suffer from hunger in Quebec each month. Each dollar raised from the fundraiser supplies three meals to people in need.

Last year, Vié stumbled on a fundraiser that partnered with Les Banques alimentaires du Québec to supply meals to Quebecers. After doing his own research, he realized that something had to be done to provide more food assistance to people in their time of need. 

“I realized that there was a big demand from food banks,” Vié said. “Why not try and do something good for people who are struggling through the pandemic.”

Vié also saw this crisis as an opportunity to provide assistance to the food bank shortage.

“If people aren’t properly nourished, it’s easier for people to develop diseases and other illnesses. Without it you cannot properly succeed. You start off with the primary necessity for all people to succeed, and the primary necessity is to be able to get fed and to have water,” Vié said.

This isn’t the first serious physical challenge for the duo, considering they’ve competed in other physically demanding sports since high school. From skiing at tremendous speeds, to completing an Ironman at 18 years old, one thing was clear: for both Laprise and Vié, this endeavor differed from all others. 

“We like to push ourselves together,” Laprise said. “The challenge is great, but with COVID going on it was a no-brainer to accomplish this for a good cause.”   

Though the distance is quite a feat to cover in a single day, both Vié and Laprise have found that last year’s success was attributed to the support from people around them.

“It’s hard on the legs, I won’t deny that. But with people’s support it makes things easier,” Vié said. 

From last year’s experience the beginning is exciting, however when fatigue sets in at the halfway mark it becomes a mental game, according to Laprise. 

“At some point you lose count, your body gets tired and you’re just going to follow the kilometers on your speedometer,” Laprise said.  

Though most would find biking for 13 hours daunting, Vié knew he couldn’t accomplish this alone. That’s when Vié called Laprise to invite him on this journey, and Laprise was on board from the beginning.

“He called me and asked if I wanted to get in. We love doing those challenges,” Laprise said. 

With the workload of being full-time students and having jobs, things were a bit harder to manage. However, for Vié and Laprise not only staying organized is key, but their passion for the cause motivated them to pursue this fundraiser into their second year.

“At the beginning I had no idea what I was doing, I was diving into the unknown,” Vié said. “It’s hours I don’t count because I’m passionate about the project that I’m doing.” 

In their second year, they have acquired more prominent sponsors who have donated money to the fundraiser and have upped last year’s goal of $3,000 to $10,000. If achieved, their goal would provide 30,000 meals to those most impacted from COVID-19. 

“We doubled our goal last year and made a total of $7,000. I’m looking forward to seeing if we can get to this goal,” Vié said. 

Les Banques alimentaire du Québec claims that 1.9 million food assistance requests are made monthly to their food banks as of 2019. Since the beginning of COVID-19, that number has increased by 30 per cent. 

As for the future, Vié plans to have more people on board to further grow the fundraiser. 

“I would love to get to a point where I can invite more people to come and bike for the cause,” Vié said. “We’re currently still at the regional level, but as for a long-term plan, I would love to grow les 100 tours par amours into a known provincial fundraiser to spread the message.”


Photograph by Samuel Lemieux


Introducing Lana Denina

An artist who speaks her truth through intimate art-making

Social media does have its advantages; it allows people to discover and connect with the many talented artists that share their work on social platforms.

I came across Montreal-based artist Lana Denina’s Instagram account a few months ago while scrolling on the application’s explore page. The colour palettes she uses and her detailed illustrations of faces caught my eye.

Denina, who is of Beninese and French origin, is currently studying Marketing at Concordia. She remembers copying drawings from her childhood books when she was six. Then, she started painting.

Her style is unique. Denina’s art illustrates modernity and authenticity, exploring human relationships, body movements and morphological diversity.

My paintings are greatly inspired by our era of beauty and technology,” says Denina. “I also incorporate a lot of modern fashion into my art.”

Denina combines digital art and painting, representing people of colour is important for her as she feels they should be more included in contemporary art.

She looks up to different cultures. For instance, she gets inspiration from the art of the Shōwa era, a period of time in Japan that signified the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from 1926 to 1989. Denina also admires Dan masks, traditional objects created by the Dan people, an ethnic group from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the masks are integrated into the hierarchical system that governs political and religious life.

Her paintings are designed differently from each other. Some pieces are darker, whereas some are lighter; it all depends on Denina’s mood. The faces depicted in the artworks were envisioned by the artist, creating new beings. “They all are made-up faces from my imagination. It’s a mix of various faces I saw over the internet or in real life that I thought were unique,” said Denina.

Moi vouloir Toi (2021) is an animated painting depicting a woman with a snake on her head looking at a man. The background changes colour, from green, purple, to a fading red, giving life to the artwork.

L’ocean du regret (2021) is a self-portrait of Denina from the series Wet, a collection of paintings she created where water is always present. In this painting, viewers can observe Denina standing in the water, with a cut over her heart. The piece is about giving one’s heart to someone fighting personal battles and the way it can be harmful for both people. The piece is painted with dark red shades, making the painting seem more intimate since it’s a self-portrait and red is known to signify intimacy and passion. It’s as if Denina was portrayed in her vulnerability.

I want to show my process of evolving throughout adulthood but also tell love stories,” said Denina. “Love is extremely powerful because it transforms people into vulnerable beings. It unveils the true nature of people.”



Loving myself, suffering with myself (2021) is another astonishing work, illustrating a woman in a red background, sitting on a red couch looking at viewers. This painting is about self-love and the way it can be challenging to accept one’s self. “I mostly love my sad paintings,” added Denina. “ They express powerful feelings.”

Her most recent work, Puedes oírlo (2021), which translates to “you can hear it” in Spanish, is animated work, showing a couple sharing an intimate moment, while the sound of a heartbeat can be heard. This painting seems to be a remembrance of a past relationship, where one still remembers the heartbeat of a partner that they once heard; a sound that never left.

I’m attached to all of my paintings. All of them are unique and capture a particular emotion I was feeling at the time they were created,” said Denina.

She possesses the skills to fabricate her art with different materials. Duo Tone is a set of velvet rugs, each with a different illustration on them. She also designed a woven throw, inspired by the Suri tribe, a community from Ethiopia. A woman meditating can be seen on the throw.

“I want to tell stories about life, the good and the bad sides of life. Every human being on Earth is different and has [their] own story,” said Denina. “I want to represent people as much as I can.” For the moment, Denina is working on a silk scarf she is designing.“The sky really is the limit, I have so many ideas. Lots of new projects are coming up soon but cannot be revealed yet!”

Viewers can keep up with Lana Denina’s work on her website and Instagram.


Photos courtesy of Lana Denina.


The Black Student Union utilizes its social media to educate the Concordia student body

How four young women started the organization

Concordia students Amaria Phillips, Lorry Joseph, Tanou Bah and Ernithe Edmond were all shocked to see there was no Black club or union at Concordia University.

“We were like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s no actual like, Black club?’ It’s either Caribbean or African? But there’s not one for just Black people,” said Phillips.

For example, McGill, the other anglophone university in Montreal, does have a Black Student Network, which acts similarly to a union. Before the BSU initiative, this overarching support would fall under the Concordia Student Union’s responsibilities.

Phillips said, “We realized that, really, there was no Black Student Union period, then we kind of like changed our minds and we said, ‘Okay, let’s just do a Black Student Union’ … It’s going to be something that’s actually going to advocate for students.”

“We kind of found a good batch of people to help the BSU take off … We’re so like-minded,” said Phillips.

The process of becoming an official student union at Concordia is a complicated one.

“We put a lot of focus in establishing [the BSU],” said Phillips. Tired of wasting time trying to establish themselves, the BSU decided to create its own path for representation.

Now, almost a year later, they have grown their team to 13 students who help run the day-to-day operations, just by asking who wanted to be involved.

“We put something on social media to ask if anyone wants to join the team. And yeah, a lot of people were DM’ing back and saying ‘Yeah, I’m interested,’” said Phillips.

The BSU’s main platform is their social media — mainly Instagram. Run by Kyla Renee Jallow and Beza Getachew, the BSU is able to spread awareness on Black issues and educate their followers on Black Canadian History.

Phillips is excited to see the growth that comes along with the bigger team. She said, “Since we decided to start the executive team, our Instagram grew from, I think five hundred to now nine hundred something in a month.”

The increase in posts also helped grow their following. On the heels of Black History Month, Phillips does not plan to slow down the flow of information shared on the page. She said, “We’ve gotten so many messages of people saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’ or ‘I really wish that I would have known that before, that it was taught in schools.’”

The executive team decided to extend Black History Month to Black History Year, in order to educate and highlight Black history and Black people in general, because “Black History is everyone’s history,” said Phillips.

“There’s so many things we didn’t get to cover for the month,” said Phillips, so may as well continue to put an emphasis on reteaching ourselves to our history.


OFFISLAND is turning his career on

Meet the 19-year-old producer turned singer with his upcoming debut project, zero.five

Sometimes you need to turn the focus on your own craft and see it through. Coming off his debut project, zero.five, 19-year-old Alex Mavroudis flipped the switch from producer to artist under the moniker OFFISLAND.

What started for Mavroudis at age 12 with Minecraft dubstep remixes on free softwares eventually grew into a curiosity for music making. When it came time for post-secondary, he attended Recording Arts Canada in Montreal to take up audio engineering and music production.

“I picked up mixing and producing because I wanted to make my own stuff,” said Mavroudis.

He asserts that his education in mixing gives him an edge as a recording artist, saying, “If you learn an instrument or a sound you don’t have to rely on a producer.”

With formal education finished, Mavroudis got to work in the Montreal scene, getting in the studio with artists like 3MFrench, nayil, and YNG Travs.

“I admire the people I’ve worked with a lot, these guys are all great and on their way up,” he said.

Having worked primarily in the Montreal trap scene, Mavroudis opted for a different direction on his debut project, zero.five, slated for independent release in February. With a trio of tracks varying from indie rock to psychedelic synth-pop, the variety is there, though it’s not something to hold against him.

“It’s not the first fully defining sound I am going to release,” he explained. “I would describe it as fluid and spacey.”

Through his three-song tracklist of “Burn Down The Bar,” “Cynical,” and “No Make Up,” Mavroudis wrote, recorded and mixed everything except the bass on “Cynical,” done with help of bassist Ilia Galanakis. There is room for comparison between the Mac DeMarco-esque “No Make Up.” He admitted he “Took heavy inspiration from ‘Chamber of Reflection.’ He’s a one man show but he’s insane at bringing a track to life — someone I look up to as a singer, artist, and producer.”

Even with a short tracklist of three songs, Mavroudis’ inspirations are still at the forefront of his creation. For “Burn Down The Bar,” he wrote the song based on a photo of his parents’ old car, the same photo used in the album artwork.

“I wanted to take the feeling I got from that photo and put it in the song,” he said. While the song is close to home, it’s a double-edged sword for the musician, adding, “I saw two young people partying having the time of their lives and I wanted to capture that, but it’s sad also because time catches up to you.”

When it comes to the future, Mavroudis’ plans are ineffable. 

“It’s hard to explain what your vision is sometimes, with words,” he said. Without a set plan in mind, the artist is taking things as they come while navigating new sounds, saying, “I don’t think that far ahead, especially when it comes to making music. The next thing could be completely different.”

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