Creating Safer Spaces in the Music Community

Thursday, Jan 26, 2017, 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Alexa Potashnik, Black Space
Ashley Au
Jodie Layne, Safer Spaces Winnipeg
Jen Zoratti, Winnipeg Free Press / Screaming In All Caps
Leonard Sumner
Tyler Sneesby, The Good Will
Uzoma Chioma, QPOC
Fools + Horses
379 Broadway, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Big Fun Productions
Manitoba Music


The conversation around safer spaces in music has been increasingly in the spotlight. How do we, as a community, make our music spaces safer for audiences, artists, and workers? Join community members for a free panel discussion on the concepts behind, and importance of, safer spaces, and the challenges in creating and maintaining them, with a focus on gender, sexual orientation, and the experiences of Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour, and the people who exist at those intersections.   

Moderated by Winnipeg Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti, the panel features Alexa Potashnik, creator of Black Space, host of Raw Colours radio, and performer known as MC Woke; bassist, composer, teacher, and musician Ashley AuJodie Layne, founder of Safer Spaces Winnipeg; Leonard Sumner, award-winning MC and singer/songwriter; Tyler Sneesby, co-owner and founder of The Good Will Social Club, which gained national attention for drafting and adopting its House Rules; and Uzoma Chioma, entrepreneur, founder of QPOC, registered psychiatric nurse, member of the Premier's Advisory Council on education, poverty, and citizenship. 

Presented by Manitoba Music and Big Fun, this panel discussion is part of January Music Meeting, which runs in conjunction with the Big Fun Festival, January 25-29. 

The venue is wheelchair accessible. There is a ramp on the south side of the building. There are no automatic doors. The inside of the venue is quite spacious and can accommodate movement throughout.

This event is free and all ages.


Alexa Potashnik is a beatboxer-activist and a fourth year undergraduate at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in Human Rights with a double minor in Business Administration and Conflict Resolution Studies. Alexa is the current Racialised Student Commissioner with the Canadian Federation of Students of Manitoba. Her work has provided conversation for people of colour to have a safe space to heal, decolonize and create solidarity to strengthen marginalized communities. She has conducted and hosted events such as: Dear White People: Black History Month Film Screening, Sexualizing the Disposable Woman, One Month in our History: The Search for the Afro-Canadian Identity, Blacktivism and many others. Alexa remains a strong leader in her community, connecting her activism with her musicianship as a vocal-percussionist in the hip-hop community of Winnipeg.

Ashley Au is a Winnipeg-based bassist, composer, arranger, and educator. A multifaceted musician, Ashley specializes in the upright and electric basses (4-string, 5-string, and fretless) as well as guitar, and is a much sought after sessional musician and music educator. After completing a degree in Jazz Bass Performace (B. Mus) at Brandon University, under the direction of Michael Cain, Greg Gatien, Eric Platz, and Gilles Fournier, Ashley has become an active member of Winnipeg’s music scene. Current and past projects include work with Weakerthans frontman, John K. Samson. folk roots songstress, Carly Dow. internationally-acclaimed Americana tastemaker, Scott Nolan. composer/trumpeter Chuck Copenace. progressive spoken-word hip-hop outfit, Dr. Strange and the Hidden Gems (Nereo II). indie art-rock quartet, Odanah. songwriter, Brett Nelson. Roma-inspired feminist folk-punks, Bacca. and many more. 

Jen Zoratti is a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and the founder of the blog SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS: another feminist response to pop culture. For almost 10 years, she worked as a music journalist, covering the local and national music scene for a number of outlets. 

Jodie Layne is a writer and activist in Winnipeg, MB who was named one of Chatelaine Magazine's 2015 women of the year. By day, Jodie works for the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival as the marketing & communications manager and is one of the founding board members of the Rainbow Trout Music Festival. Jodie is the founder of Safer Spaces Winnipeg and works with music venues, festivals, and bars to create policies and procedures and train staff and volunteers with an emphasis on bystander intervention. She also writes about feminism, fashion, fat positivity, and basically anything else for publications like Bustle, xojane, and Extra Crispy.

Leonard Sumner (aka Lorenzo) is an Anishinaabe MC from the Little Saskatchewan First Nation located in Interlake Region of Manitoba. He provides perspective from a voice often unheard and over-looked in the traditional music communities: truthful, insightful, and providing a new sound straight from 'the Rezzy'. His music is best described as a fusion of hip hop, country and rhythm & blues. His lyrics are both intricate and honest, combined with his heart, message into a raspy flow that growls with the bittersweet existential angst of Reservation Indian. On stage, he captivates crowds with a guitar slung over his shoulder, singing and rhyming to the beats, allowing his style to be enjoyed by people who typically 'aren't into rap.' 

Tyler Sneesby (AKA DJ Hunnicutt) has been DJing since 1991, both in the clubs and as a member of the Winnipeg instrumental outfit, the Hummers. As a member of the rap group Farm Fresh, Hunnicutt was also a co-founder of the acclaimed Canadian hip hop label Peanuts & Corn Records. With his unique blend of hip hop, funk, disco, rock, reggae and anything else that gets bodies moving, Hunnicutt, along with his partner DJ Co-op, has been ruled the dance party scene in Winnipeg and Western Canada for more than a decade. Since 2005, Hunnicutt has been performing with internationally renowned improv duo Crumbs, enhancing their freestyle comedy shows with an improvised soundtrack. In 2014, Hunnicutt and some friends opened The Good Will Social Club in Winnipeg. The music venue made national headlines when it included safer space guidelines in their “house rules.”

Uzoma Chioma is an entrepreneur, registered psychiatric nurse, member of the Premier's Advisory Council on education, poverty, and citizenship, retired member of the Canadian Women's National basketball team, and founder of QPOC Winnipeg. QPOC is an initiative that creates safer spaces for queer and trans people of colour in Winnipeg.

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