IWD Blog Series – In this Interview Corrina Keeling: Musician, Visual Facilitator, and Change-Maker, Discusses the Importance of “Courageous Honesty, a Willingness to be Wrong, and Unconditional Love” in Social Justice Movements

Name: CorrCorrinaina Keeling
Title: Visual Facilitator / Musician
Education & Experience: BFA Visual Arts & Theatre, Social Justice Artist & Clown, Community Organizer 2009-2013.
Interests: Sidewalk Chalk, Love Letters, Riding my Bike, Climate Justice, Heritage Language study (Həńq̓əmin̓əm̓, Gaelic), Intersectionality, Solidarity, Gratitude.
Affiliations: Board Member for Jellyfish Project, Founder of LoveLettersForEverybody.ca.

Thanks for taking the time to do this Interview Corrina. Could you tell us a little about the work you do as Visual Facilitator and as a Musician. Does your work intersect with any of your other goals and passions? If so, how?

My work as a Visual Facilitator has allowed me the opportunity to work with dozens of teams around the world working on climate justice, holistic health, indigenous sovereignty, water management, feminism and intersectionality, innovation in science & technology, community organizing, social work and human rights. I get to support influential and amazing groups moving through planning and transition with art and graphic tools, and I have received an incredibly diverse global education because of it.

One of the things I am most excited about is the Jellyfish Project, which is an international coalition of musicians speaking out for our environment. The project educates and empowers musicians to leverage their influence to amplify messages about environmental issues. The project also brings bands & musicians into schools to transmit environmental & social justice messages and engage young people through music. We create partnerships and align fans with the causes, organizations, and projects that jump starts their participation in change making.

This past winter I also had the humble pleasure and privilege to tour Australia with artist / activist / environmentalist Ta’Kaiya Blaney from the Sliammon Nation. The singing & speaking tour took us to festivals, concerts, conferences, and rural communities to share music and a message of love and action for the environment and for Indigenous Peoples, and we had the opportunity to share stages and panels with artists and change makers like Neil Young, Feist, Trevor Hall, Natalie Rize and David Suzuki. It was a beautiful experience I will never forget.

That’s pretty amazing!  It sounds like your work and your passions are one and the same and both have allowed to travel, to teach, to influence and to learn from those you’ve worked with. What motivated you work in this particular area?

I have always felt torn between my passion for the planet & the people who live here, and my calling as an artist. For a long time I felt like I had to choose one or the other, and set aside my music and art because I felt there was “real work” to be done.

Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs, and ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Happy, healthy, fulfilled people and communities look after each other and the places where they live, and I’ve discovered the best way I can impact the world around me is by modeling being happy, healthy and fulfilled. I’ve discovered that by making a commitment to what makes me ‘come alive’, that I am far more impactful as a musician and artist than I ever was as an “activist”.

As you already know, this year’s IWD theme was Make it Happen and it focused on two main areas: celebrating women’s achievements, and calling for greater equality. In your opinion, what do you think it will take to “Make it Happen”?

When people think about this question, I most often encounter ideas about big structural changes that need to happen or new policies that need to be implemented. And we need big, structural change -desperately. But I see the heart of these big picture issues is being able to relate to each other better. We need a revolution of emotional maturity, courageous honesty, a willingness to be wrong, and unconditional love.

We need to learn to take responsibility for our complicity in the disharmony, dispossession, oppression and injustice in the world, and also see how far we’ve come. We need to be able to own our privileges and be willing to see & change our behaviors that harm others, and still love ourselves. We need to know that our intentions are irrelevant if our impact is hurtful, and also trust that we are doing the best we can with what we have available in every moment.

To make this happen, we need a community that supports us – spaces for healing, environments that inspire and enrich us, and trusting, healthy relationships where we can hear the whole truth about ourselves and know we’re safe. I believe that at the source, love is the revolution.

That’s a really powerful statement. The points you raised about: owning privilege, being open to learning, being open to change, the difference between intent and impact, and the importance of self-love are all very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing that.  

Given your experience in activism, or rather, in change-movements, what advice would you give anyone who is trying to ‘Make it Happen’ in their communities? Or put differently, what tips can offer someone who is just starting out in their activism career?

Know that you’re going to make mistakes. When I operate in fear that I’m going to screw up or offend someone, I am not present with the people I’m working with. We live in complex times – if I’m not making mistakes, especially particularly embarrassing or crunchy ones, it’s generally evidence that I’m not focused on the most important work of learning to be with each other in a better way.

Know that everyone else around you is going to make mistakes. I’m always working to keep a balance — and it’s always a challenge — between holding people accountable to their behaviours and attitudes, and also to foster compassion and remember that everyone has a story and that generally people are genuinely doing the best that they can.

It’s not what you do, it’s who you are. It’s not always the official, measurable accomplishments that move us forward into a better way of being: the little day to day interactions and the moments in-between that shift the needle on compassion, trust & communication are what change our culture of how we operate as a global community. Be yourself. Shine.

Invite people to step into their potential. People don’t want to be asked “what’s the bare minimum that you can give to make the world a better place?” – it’s disempowering and uninspiring. The truth is, we are all aching to be the heroes of the incredible story that is unfolding on our planet right now. It shows that you trust them with the complexity, that you know how scary and overwhelming things can feel, and that you believe we are capable of incredible things together.

Trust your community. None of us are in this alone. I try to take advantage of the ‘teachable moments’ when I have the patience or personal capacity, and when I don’t, I work to trust that someone else will step in at the right moment to support a shift in perspective.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Corrina. You’ve given us a lot to think about. How can we find out more about what you are doing and the projects you are working on?

Next up for me is a cross-Canada music & event tour with my sister, Jessica Dawn, starting in late April. My music can be found online at corrinakeeling.ca, my visual facilitation tools at lovelettersforeverybody.ca, and there’s an (almost) daily feed of public handlettering and graphic recording at instagram.com/corrinakeeling.

If people want to support my work, they can download the latest album ‘Say Yes’, or order a ‘Love is the Movement’ lyric t-shirt – They’re organic bamboo, printed sustainably & sewn and inked locally, and a portion of the proceeds of every shirt are shared with the DTES women’s memorial march, an event that addresses the systemic nature of gendered violence and honours the lives of women, especially the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women, who disproportionately continue to disappear in Canada without acknowledgement or action.

Thank you.


This interview is part of the Network’s International Women’s Day Blog Series that run from March 2- March 13. Take the time to read some of our other blog posts to find out what other activists/change-makers are doing to Make it Happen, and learn how you too can make a difference.

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