Community Builders: Introducing our region’s 2SLGBTQ+ advocates

6 MIN READ

While COVID-19 has changed the ways we gather, celebrate, and honour one another, it has not changed the way our communities step up to support each other in times of crisis.

From making essential grocery trips for immunocompromised neighbours; conducting wellness phone call checks for seniors; or even helping newcomer families access the support services they need—volunteers have come together when we need them the most. 

Early in the summer of 2020, in collaboration with Apt613, United Way East Ontario sent out a call for nominations to honour local volunteers who stepped up in this time of need. Together, we recognized five outstanding COVID Heroes with Community Builder Awards to honour the incredible work they did to support their communities and the most vulnerable people within them throughout the pandemic.

Since then we’ve gone on to award over 20 remarkable volunteers who have uplifted their community during COVID-19—showing constant selflessness and care during these unprecedented times.

With our host and former Community Builder Award recipient Davy Sabourin, we were joined by our friends at Capital Pride for a very special edition of our Community Builder Awards, recognizing five more incredible community builders who have worked tirelessly to make our communities safer, healthier, and more accepting for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. These people are community leaders, fearless advocates, and supporters of the Queer community, and have stepped up and demonstrated a local love that has not gone unnoticed.

We thank everyone who took the time to nominate these everyday heroes and we thank you, community builders, for your exceptional contributions.

Do you know a community builder who has gone above and beyond to support their communities through COVID-19? Our Community Builder Awards program accepts nominations year-round!

Osmel B. Guerra Maynes

As the current Executive Director of Capital Pride, Osmel B. Guerra Maynes is a proud Afro-Latino Queer man who’s known by his colleagues, peers, and friends as patient, kind, and always willing to take the time to listen and impart wisdom.

Osmel is a social justice activist with a focus on enhancing the inclusion of marginalized voices. A natural leader and mentor, Osmel cares immensely for his community and is tirelessly looking for new ways to engage with his community, and always ensures that he provides a voice to all marginalized people, especially 2SLGBTQ+ folks.

"I do [this] work...to provide space and support to folks within our communities; I never looked to be praised for it. I just assumed that that's what what folks in our societies need to do—provide space and a voice."

— Osmel B. Guerra Maynes

Osmel has created and fostered inclusive spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in our region. From organizing the summer and winter Pride programming to creating the first-ever Queering Black History Month engagement, Osmel’s done it all. He also creates anti-oppression and Queer/Trans competency training, which he provides to schools, businesses, and organizations to help make their spaces more inclusive and equitable.

Outside of Capital Pride, Osmel has also done a great deal of work to support the 2SLGBTQ+ community, including serving as: the chair of the All Blood is Equal campaign; the Diversity and Inclusion Board Member of the Ottawa Festival Network; Executive Director of QMUNITY, British Columbia’s Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit Resource Centre; and General Manager of the Pride in Art Society Queer Arts Festival.

In 2020, Osmel was also featured in CBC Ottawa’s Proud to Shine digital series, and was profiled in the Ottawa Citizen, where he told the special story of his own path to pride.

Pearly Pouponneau

Pearly Pouponneau is constantly doing work in her community and producing content to uplift and highlight marginalized groups—whether it be for people of colour, the Indigenous community, the 2SLGBTQ+ community, or an intersection of all three.

Being a Queer woman of colour from a marginalized community herself, Pearly identifies gaps and assess needs on a community level. She brings together marginalized voices and invites them to shape a community that is truly inclusive and safe.

According to her nominator, Pearly’s biggest accomplishment has been organically creating Colours of Mama—a safe and inclusive community for mama’s of colour to be valued, acknowledged and celebrated—which Pearly founded after she noticed the lack of inclusivity in Mothering spaces in Ottawa.

Pearly has also been recognized by multiple South Asian organizations for her efforts in dismantling misogyny, violence, and harm against WOC and 2SLGBTQ+ folks in the South Asian community. She was also recently recognized as a CBC Ottawa Trailblazer for her work with Colours of Mama, and even featured in numerous panels, most recently with CBC Ottawa and Creative Mornings Ottawa.

Pearly continues to uplift and support members of marginalized groups by creating The Diatribe Podcast—the first podcast in the South Asian community that tackles taboo topics and creates space and time for learning, openness, self-love, and balance. Through the Diatribe Podcast, Pearly offers healing through storytelling, and is fearless in her pursuit of uplifting voices and using the privilege she has to open doors for her peers.

“We don't do this work for recognition. This work is kind of inner child centred where I do things that she or other children would have needed."

— Pearly Pouponneau

Ali Arbeau

Ali is a 200-hour certified yoga teacher with a passion for helping people feel at home in their bodies, and meeting people where they’re at. Her practice is rooted in accessibility and grounding, and she truly believes that yoga is for everybody and every body.

In addition to offering classes online, Ali spends a lot of her time working with Warrior Yoga—an international non-profit with a mission to make yoga accessible for all. At Warrior Yoga, Ali serves as the leader of the 2SLGBTQ+-serving Spectrum Committee and the BIPOC Committee, sits on the board of directors, and even offers and facilitates workshops.

She works to create safe and fun spaces for all people to practice yoga and go deeper into their personal practice. Ali runs and coordinates events for both the Spectrum and BIPOC committees, develops content and programming (including a Diversity & Inclusion program for local yoga studios), and engages with clients and partners directly in all of her work.

"You don't do this for the recognition, you do it to help that inner child that would have needed something like this, and the the other folks in the community that you know need something like this as well."

— Ali Arbeau

Ali is always sharing opportunities to teach yoga to various communities, and even outreaches local 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC focused organizations to engage with Warrior Yoga’s important work and build strong partnerships.

Only a couple years after becoming a yoga teacher, Ali has created and provided so much space and programming for communities that are often underrepresented in the yoga and fitness industry. Her classes are inclusive of all races, body types, genders, and sexualities.

Jenna and Kayla Spagnoli

Kayla and Jenna Spagnoli are local community builders, who are more formally known as The Feminist Twins.

The Feminist Twins work to share resources, information, and promote community collaboration. At first, the twins did this work virtually all through social media, and with support of their community, they were able to pivot to creating in-person events and welcoming spaces for BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+ peoples, the Indigenous community, and other marginalized groups in our region.

"When [Kayla and I] started The Feminist Twins many years ago, we did it out of desire to make Ottawa a more inclusive space for everyone, and a welcoming space, and see events that people see themselves reflected in and to be recognized today is just such an honor and privilege."

— Jenna Spagnoli

You likely know the Feminist Twins from some of their accessible and progressive events like the annual Feminist Fairs, their Non-Heteronormative Valentine’s Craft Nights, Card or Poster-making nights with local advocacy groups like the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) and the Ottawa Women’s March, or any one of their sober dance parties or networking workshops. 

The Feminist Twin’s Feminist Fairs also inspired the Pride, Not Prejudice Fair—a reoccurring virtual craft and community fair for the socially conscious—which Kayla and Jenna offered some initial advice on. The fair prioritizes marginalized and progressive creators, highlights community resources, and aims to build community through the sharing of art, supporting artists, and dissemination of resources.  

Back in January of 2021, Jenna and Kayla decided to take a step away from the Feminist Twins, and held one final virtual hangout—in spirit of International Women’s Day—focused on centering community care and honouring feminist organizing in and around our region. While the Feminist Twins collective may no longer exist, the impact of Kayla and Jenna’s work will continue to inspire and uplift advocates and activists for years to come.

While we don’t yet know when we will be able to gather again at the Walls of Inspiration across our region, we look forward to adding the names of community builders to these walls in the future.

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