Citylife last spoke with Chiang Mai’s newly assembled anti-racism group last June. Hearing that they have had multiple events and meetups under their belt since then, we decided to catch up with them again.
The newly renamed Change Makers Anti Racism Coalition (CMARC) was formed in the wake of the events surrounding the death of American George Floyd. The group’s first major event was a George Floyd vigil held on June 7th at Mazz Coffee Shop which saw over 130 attendees. Since the vigil, CMARC has grown.
Chiang Mai expat and CMARC member Rachael Pettiford said, “What was meant to be a one-time event organically turned into this passionate group of individuals who focus on combating racism through events, sharing educational resources, and raising funds for organisations addressing systemic racism in the US. We work on racism and oppression worldwide but so far have donated funds focusing primarily on the systematic racism that runs rampant in the US.”
Rachael is one of the roughly 14 members of CMARC. “Some members have since moved on and we’ve brought on a few new members who were very active at our events. We’ve also collaborated with Democrats Abroad to run several voter registration events.”
CMARC’s last event was an Open Mic Night held at Cornerhouse: Cafe & Taproom on September 10th. Speakers and performers were invited to express themselves on subjects ranging from racism to LGBT rights. The room was packed and turnout was impressive.
“We decided to create an Open Mic that specifically lifted BIPOC voices [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour] and asked our white allies to come to listen and learn.” said Rachael. “We had many first time performers, performances in different languages, and performers who we haven’t seen in these expat open mic spaces before.”
Performances included spoken word, poetry, musicians, dancing and rap. The four-hour event was warm and inviting. The crowd’s laughter was punctuated by quieter thoughtful moments. The small room buzzed with creativity and passion throughout the night.
While events like last Thursday’s Open Mic were successful, the group has experienced its fair share of struggles. At an Open Mic earlier in the year CMARC experienced an incident that made the BIPOC community feel unsafe. However, the group evaluated the incident and pressed on; “We wanted to ensure our BIPOC voices were lifted, heard, and most importantly people felt at ease to share their stories,” said Rachael. “We’ve since taken some necessary precautions and steps to further protect ourselves and we’re working closely with Thai community members to ensure we’re fully respectful towards Thailand but not ignoring the racism issues that continue even while abroad.”
With a strong collective emphasis on education, Rachael said, “If you’re genuinely interested in learning more about and practicing anti-racism work I encourage you to get into the CMARC Facebook group to keep updated on upcoming events and where members share high-value content.” CMARC has strict group membership due to group protection but all are welcome to join. Rachael continued, “We have community coffee and chat events where we encourage community members to come out and talk. These events are geared towards members who may not be that knowledgeable in anti-racism work and these are open forum discussions where we just share thoughts and ideas.”
The Change Makers are optimistic about the future of the group. Events like their thriving Open Mic Nights reveal how much interest in learning and sharing about racism exists even in places like northern Thailand. The group is stronger than ever and isn’t stopping. CMARC’s next Open Mic Night will be announced soon via their Facebook page.
“Our next Coffee Chat will be on September 20th and the location will be announced in the Facebook group. The Coffee Chat is for people who don’t know much about anti-racism and just want to chat or get a better understanding. We also have an actionable book club and we’ll be voting on our next book soon. We hope to see the community at our next event! Please contact Chelsea Ellingsen or Clayton Shuttleworth on our Facebook page for any questions at all.” If you would like to contact Change Makers Anti Racism Coalition go to their Facebook page. www.willlangston.com