Thank you June, thank you Milton, my collaborators and contemporaries.
Who you are is important.
Who YOU are is important. Respect yourself. Be TRUE.
Self-love is under the umbrella of self-respect. Do not let the fad of self-care make you forget the roots of respect.
Stand up in your greatness and Set Your Intention for this life.
Why are you here? Keep asking yourself this. Listen. What will your life mean? Listen.
Have the moral courage to understand that it is always worth it to be yourself, even if it is unpopular.
Even IF, like ME, you are the embodiment of the OTHER in a society at risk, in danger.... A society that celebrates greed, ego, whiteness.... A society asleep to the GRACE OF LOVE, JUSTICE and FREEDOM FOR ALL. The grace of an infinite universe where there is enough for everyone. A society waking up ever so slowly — Again.
Indeed, it is still a long walk to freedom.
“Overnight success” is a fantasy told to keep us small, to keep us in motion, never risking, to keep us comfortable in the idea that capital S-Success is only for some. It breeds inaction, which breeds apathy, it breeds yet another fantasy that some lives are supreme and disregards the billions of others who have been roaming this ancient habitat and participating in its demise and rise, global extinctions and emotional rides.
You will FAIL. It is a given.
What is not a given, however, is giving up after one failure and making that failure the measure of your life.
Remember as the great Maya Angelou has said, what you say and do will likely be forgotten, but how you make people feel, will never be forgotten. I charge you to measure your life with this wisdom in mind, which to my mind affirms, that Truth survives.
The year is 2020 and I acknowledge that I am on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people. Specifically the Musqueam, Squamish and Tslei-wa-tooth First Nations, that I have much to learn and unlearn in my support of indigenous sovereignty and climate action, that I have unknowingly settled on unceded land, that I speak in a colonized language, that the technology I use is a luxury and should be accessible to all, that I work to decolonize my mind, that I make mistakes, that I stand with Black Lives Matter. That I AM black, queer, bipolar, a poet, an artist, a human being of the animal kingdom on planet earth.
The year is 2020. Today is June 11th. Today is your historic convocation.
Life’s obstacles and opportunities arrive on our stoep at the same moment, it is our choice to believe that. Practice this choice.
As you approached this day, you may have imagined bag-pipes, ceremonial robes, your best outfit and photo-shoots for Instagram with your friends, partners and families at the SFU Burnaby campus.... You may have imagined that moment when your name is called and you walk across the stage praying you do not trip and you hear the thundering applause of a full auditorium.
The obstacle of a global pandemic has deemed that impossible.
You are however being recognized for your time, effort, commitment, dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, the meeting of adversity and rising above, the completion of something you deemed important at some point in your life.
Do not let this moment be diminished. Celebrate the victory of the finish.
It took me 8 whole years to finish my undergraduate degree. And here I am before you, an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist and alumni speaker at your convocation. The odds were stacked against a person like me. Not WERE, ARE. Even in making this speech it is sad that my first thought is, “Does the institution truly want me, or do I diversify this ceremony?” If I was white, I would not have had to think that. I could simply be proud because these institutions privilege my life and I am innately accepted. And that is the difference. Not all of us are free. I cannot taste the full flavour of my relative freedom, if I am looking beside me and my brothers and sisters are not free. If they are dead and dead and dead like George Floyd, if they are dead and dying and have been.
What has served my creative path as a university graduate is a sense of humour, utter conviction, integrity and endless courage which this school helped solidify in my character. I have made literal vows to the artist’s path in a private ceremony in a basement suite I called the Bog-Zone in East Van which I shared with a steadfast friend who sits in this audience as graduand today. In short, I have set my intention and accepted change (the only constant) and inevitable death. I have worked hard to accept my peculiarities and lean into them. The shape of my soul is pressing through the mold of my flesh, daily. And of course, the fierce love of my mother, the woman who taught me that love is an action, love is a doing word. Take a moment to thank your care-givers and support systems today. We are all connected.
A quote from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, a seminal text in these revolutionary times:
Every spiritual tradition has stressed that this human life is unique and has a potential that ordinarily we hardly even begin to imagine. If we miss the opportunity this life offers us for transforming ourselves, they say, it may well be an extremely long time before we have another. Imagine a blind turtle, roaming the depths of an ocean the size of the universe. Up above floats a wooden ring, tossed to and fro on the waves. Every hundred years the turtle comes, once, to the surface. To be born a human being is said by Buddhists to be MORE difficult than for that turtle to surface accidentally with its head poking through the wooden ring. And even among those who have human birth, it is said, those who have the great good fortune to make a connection with the teachings are rare; and those who really take the teachings to heart and embody them in their actions even rarer, as rare in fact 'as stars in broad daylight.'
You are alive. Create the world you yearn for.
What I have said, has been said before.
There is an opportunity as an artist for your purpose to become your life and your life, your purpose.
In this approach, you may become the person you dreamt of, and everything you do could become as simple as this breath. (inhale, exhale) It’s your choice. You are alive. Now.
To you, class of 2020!
Back to you June and Milton ~
Eddy van Wyk is a multidisciplinary artist from Namibia. She has studied Clown under guidance of Steven Hill, David MacMurray Smith and Gina Bastone. She has also studied Grotowski as facilitated by Raïna von Waldenburg. Eddy's solo show tadpole:the last episode is an intimate journey about her experience navigating mental health in a Western medical system, which was the unanimous winner of the TD Fringe Forward Award at the 2019 Vancouver Fringe Festival and will return in the summer of 2020 through a different format. Eddy is a Theatre Performance graduate from SFU School for the Contemporary Arts and has worked locally with Radix Theatre, Rumble Theatre, The Only Animal, Vines Art Festival, Speakeasy Theatre, Popcorn Galaxies, New(to)Town Collective, rice&beans, Hong Kong Exile, UpintheAir Theatre and HUNCH. She has also performed internationally at the South African National Arts Festival and was part of the opening ceremony for Harambecouver in 2017. Her current practise takes a deeper look at ritual, habit, attachment theory basics and the body's innate intuition as (re)sources for continuous creative flow in all aspects of life. Although she wears many creative hats, the first and truest is Poet. Contact: email@example.com