Established in 2016, Immigrant Lessons is a Vancouver- based, international multidisciplinary art collective. Immigrant Lessons shifts and morphs, honouring change and transition, investigation and rebellion. Immigrant Lessons’ exists in multiplicity as an arthouse, Research/creation Lab, youth artist incubator, interdisciplinary performance troupe, which utilizes and explores the mediums of: dance/movement, theatre, film, photography, spoken word, creative writing, music, fashion, visual media, and visual design. This collective creates, plays, and currently is based on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. As underground artists and street dancers, The Collective would also like to express deep love and gratitude for the innovations of black and latinx people and black culture. The collective is directed/founded by Queer Black multidisciplinary artist, Kevin Fraser. It’s core artistic associates include: Sophia Gamboa, Sevrin Emnacen-Boyd, Simran Sachar, Joshua Cameron, Tegvaran Singh, and Hayden Pereira. In addition to its core members, Immigrant Lessons’ regularly brings in guest mentors, collaborators, and interpreters for its umbrella of work, research, exploration, and collaborations. With a shared love of movement and art, Immigrant Lessons incorporates their extensive street dance/underground arts background, experimental practice, contemporary ideology, multidisciplinary skill set, and the investigation of societal norms and intersections to give voice and visibility to marginalized and oppressed communities/individuals. Immigrant Lessons aims to: heal, inspire, excite, inform, motivate, and uplift.
Kevin Fraser is a Jamaican born international Dancer, Performance Artist, Actor, Event Host, Stylist, and Creative Director currently residing in Vancouver, BC. With a career in the arts that has spanned 13 years, former House of Dangerkat protegé has performed, instructed, competed, modeled in: New York City, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Helsinki, Stockholm, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Manila, and throughout China. He has performed with dance companies and collectives such as: House of Dangerkat (NYC), MixMix Dance Collective (Toronto), W&M Physical Theatre (Calgary), Project Soul (Vancouver), Illfx Entertainment (Calgary), FakeKnot ( Vancouver), Riatoss Productions ( Toronto), and Joy Titan (China). Kevin is well versed in many street dance forms including; hip hop , vogue, waacking, dancehall, and house. Kevin has also trained in “classical” dance forms as a former student of Ryerson University's BFa Performance Dance program. During his time at Ryerson University he trained in: Ballet, Jazz, Modern, African, Contemporary Ballet, Improv, Voice, Drama, and Musical Theatre.
He has worked with International performance/dance artists: Mandy Moore (La La Land), Jillian Meyers (La La Land, Janet Jackson), Jeff Mortensen (Descendants), Louise Hradsky (Descendants), Kenny Ortega (Micheal Jackson, Disney), Fatima Robinson (Aaliyah) , Charm Ledonna (Kendrick Lamar), Jamal Sims (Micheal Jackson), Kelly Konno (Janet Jackson), Heather Laura Gray (Riverdale), Kaiti Dangerkat (House of Dangerkat), and Kevin has also been featured in performances for: MTV Canada, Much Music, Universal Records, Mad Decent Records, Major Lazer, Fool's Gold Records, Ed Banger Records, New York Fashion Week, Toronto Fashion Week, to name a few. Kevin is the founder and director of the dance/art/activist collective, IMMIGRANT LESSONS, as well as the Co founder of the collective, The Coven. Kevin Is also currently a recurring cast member on the new NBC television series, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.
As the creative director of art/activist collective, “Immigrant Lessons” and the Co founder queer art collective “ The Coven”, his mission and dream is to create more opportunities for marginalized and oppressed communities, giving youth platforms to foster their creativity, as well examining decolonial art practice to uplift, connect, and heal communities. His art practice, studies, and interests encompass: reimagining how different cultures and communities collide, the duality between the preservation and evolution of culture through movement, fashion, music, and discourse with cultural leaders/reconnecting to history/ and cultural immersion, investigating and dismantling Eurocentric ideas of creating work/ high art vs low art/ the body as a political vessel/the witnessing of art and work created by QT-BIPOC individuals and communities, as well as how do we reshape how we hold space for the lived experience in particular to marginalized and oppressed communities, Immigrant Lessons is currently taking part in the “ We Are Multitudes” creative residency a The Massey Theatre/The Anvil Centre facilitated by Jessica Schneider, Khari McClelland, and Justine A. Chambers. Kevin Fraser would like to acknowledge Justine Chambers as primary mentor to himself and the collective for this residency process and hopefully beyond!
Simran Sachar (she/her) is a multi-disciplinary dance artist, writer, actor and second generation East Indian/Punjabi immigrant born in Canada. Finding herself through the work of decolonization. She’s been dancing since she was 3 old: Ballet, tap, jazz and modern. At 18 she began Hip hop, heels, and started exploring other street styles such as: Waacking. With Simran’s understanding in various dance forms, she is a melting pot.
For Simran, the biggest responsibility of an artist in her eyes is: to honour every phase of herself with full honesty. Making Simran one of the most authentic and unique dance artists of her generation. Rather than labelling her movement to a single style, she recognizes the multiple places her foundation stems from and therefore never abandons foundation, but rearranges it. She believes there is always an underlying reason, beyond technique or training, to why people move the way they do, and that reason has to do with the lives they live, ancestry, and the openness in their hearts.
She has trained and performed in multiple shows across the Philippines, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. She is an alumni of various creative programs and collectives across North America such as the world-renowned: Gypsy Project. Her latest achievements include performing at Fringe Manila, with Immigrant Lessons as an interpreter in the latest work titled: Origins. Simran has created various commissioned full-length works. Her film entitled: “No Alarms” was chosen to be presented for “Isol-art,” by Teddy Tedholm and Sara Richman. Most recently, "LUNACY" premiered at FORM ( Festival of Recorded Movement), to which the film won the Official Selection of the 2020 Audience Choice Award.
Sophia “SOSA” Gamboa is a Filipina born and raised artist and a first-generation immigrant residing in the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil Watuth Nations. At age 13, she moved to Vancouver, Canada where she was discovered. From there, Sophia embarked on her journey of becoming a full pledged performing artist. Sophia currently trains in a plethora of styles including Hip Hop, House, Dancehall, Popping and Afro fusion. She is well versed in freestyle dance and has won and judged battles all over the lower mainland. In 2016, Sophia became a cast member of Vancouver’s first authentic Dancehall theatre production under the direction of Ketch di’ Vybz’ Mikhail Moris and Judy Madaraz. During that production, she was noticed by Kevin Fraser who invited her to become a member of Vancouver’s leading art collective Immigrant Lessons. With Immigrant Lessons, she has reconnected herself to her Filipina roots and explored what it means to be a POC artist in western society. In addition, Sophia has traveled and performed on international stages such as RAW Artist Emerge Fashion Show in Los Angeles, California and Manila Fringe Festival. Furthermore, she has traveled to New York City to learn from the originators and pioneers of Streetdance. Through her most recent work with Immigrant Lessons, Sophia explores identity and the complexities of coexisting. This has ignited her to unravel her purpose as an artist, student and leader in her own community by teaching dance to BIPOC youths for free. In her classes, she shares her experience of navigating through the arts as a woman of color.
Sophia is also the founder of a non-profit organization called “The Barangay Project Society”. The Barangay Project provides a safe and nurturing space for all marginalized voices to connect, heal and celebrate through the lenses of art. Sophia dreams to build a home for the street kids in Manila, Philippines where she was born and raised. She is determined to provide free education through dance and art to BIPOC youths while inspiring “love, peace, unity and having fun”. Her goal is to guide, raise and nurture the next generation of young artists to be brave. She hopes to inspire youth to speak out against marginalization and staying true to themselves.
Sevrin Emnacen- Boyd
Sevrin “Sevi” Emnacen-Boyd is a half filipino b-boy, all-styles dancer, and an enthusiast of all things rhythmic and expressive. Seeking to push forward the spirit of the youthful Vancouver street dance scene, Sevi’s style has become attuned to musical details and bizarre movements uncommonly explored in breaking. His keen eye for the outside and the overlooked has not only allowed him to expand on the conceptual limits of breakdancing, but also to help build bridges with dancers and artists emerging from a variety of different styles and backgrounds. He is an active member of the Vancouver street dance community, eager to play a role in building what is quickly becoming a prominent force in the local art scene. He has organized a number of youth dance battles with the City of Surrey and currently judges, performs, and teaches across Canada. Sevi is a philosophy major at the University of British Columbia, hoping to merge the creative aspects of freestyle dance with the works of late 20th century continental philosophy. Sevi is also a renowned competitor in the international breakdance scene and has traveled to many creative corners of the world including Amsterdam, Tokyo, New York City, and Manila. He is currently an active member in the Now Or Never Crew, Scndrlz, Immigrant Lessons, and Think Twice Japan.
Josh Cameron, is a 4th generation settler born in Vancouver, BC on the unceded territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqat, and Tsawwassen First Nations. He began his dance journey as a bboy in 2008, able to pursue Breaking and a wide variety of street dance as a hobby and then career thanks to the Black and Latinx pioneers who created these styles. With his interdisciplinary street dance background, energetic style and keen ear for musicality, Josh has earned titles at All Style and Breaking competitions across western Canada and the United States. Josh is currently focused on pursuing more multidisciplinary stage and film work, using these as a vessel to investigate themes of identity and social justice. He is an active member of Immigrant Lessons, and under the creative direction of Kevin Fraser, the collective is developing a full-length production entitled “ ORIGINS/ How Do We Coexist”, set to premiere in 2021.
Hayden “Mammon” Pereira is a Indian experimental street artist and has been cultivated towards movement as his primary form of expression. Born and raised in Surrey British Columbia, Hayden has trained in the street dance styles: krump, hip hop, and b-boying, where he is primarily a battle dancer. He is affiliated with Immigrant Lessons, a professional dance collective created to promote cultural pluralism. He joined in 2020 and thus was mentored by Kevin Fraser. Through immigrant lessons, Hayden has been exposed to art in many art mediums such as dance, theatre, music, fashion, media and video production. Hayden is also the creative director of his own collective PYRE arts where they explore a plethora of art mediums and prioritize giving youth the opportunity to explore the art world. Furthermore, Hayden has taken classes from Arash Kapoor, Nicolas Ventura, Omari Newton He strives to educate himself on the culture he is a guest of and finds new ways to express himself through art. He is really focused on trying to make art that is organic to him . Hayden is a young dancer that is just looking for an education in art.
Vanessa Lefan Yuen(樂凡)is a multidisciplinary artist born and raised in rural northern Taiwan. Inspired by Taiwanese folk lore, Chinese literature, Japanese anime, and the natural world around her, she began exploring music, visual arts, writing, and movement as forms of storytelling and expression.
She immigrated to Turtle Island in 2006, where she became fluent in english and started to write poetry, essays, short stories, and songs to express and process her experiences. Art has always been a source of healing and comfort for her, and this realization was amplified when she experienced the profound power of icaros and shamanic music during plant medicine ceremonies. After having the opportunity to share songs as prayer in medicine circles in her travels, she is inspired to create art with the intention of personal and collective healing. She further explored this path of healing modalities by completing a diploma in holistic counselling at Rhodes Wellness College.
In 2019 she toured Taiwan, British Columbia, then Japan with Buckman Coe for the album “Gathering Storm” as a vocalist and flautist. After returning to BC in the fall of 2019, Vanessa performed with artists including Corrina Keeling, Tonye Aganaba, and Dey Rose. In 2020 as planned tours and live shows were postponed and cancelled, Vanessa began exploring ways to combine her various artforms in multimedia short films featuring spoken word poetry, dance, music, and visual arts. In her work “do you understand?” she uses this interdisciplinary mode of story telling to recount her connections to her Taiwanese ancestry and her immigration story. She is currently in the process recording her first album, and also working with the artist collective Immigrant Lessons directed by Kevin Fraser.
The following paragraph contains information taken from an information slide created by Amneet Bali (Director of Outreach for Jagmeet Singh), found here.
In the 1960’s Indira Gandhi in collaboration with the Ford Foundation enacted the Green Revolution. Ever since this, a domino effect created a series of violence targeting farmers. “The Green Revolution forced Punjabi Farmers to abandon centuries of knowledge for capitalist profit-driven ideals. Punjabi Farmers that spent generations feeding a nation, were now treated as a commodity to exploit for profit.” The Green Revolution caused farmers to invest into technology with nothing but debt in return. For Punjabi farmers, this is their livelihood, there is no other option, no plan B, and no second look. Meaning, they sell their land or commit suicide. With a rush to exploit Punjabi farmers, The Green Revolution had no means of environmental or health and safety standards leading to cancer and irreparable damage to the land. In 1978 Punjab declared The Anandpur Sahib Resolution (ASR) which opposed powerful capitalists and supported “socialistic concepts of Guru Nanak Dev and Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.” India’s response to the ASR was a widespread of arrests and atrocities now known as “The 1984 Sikh Genocide.” This brings us to today, the Kisaan Rallies. The Agricultural Bills passed by Modi’s Government are the latest steps in capitalist exploitation of farmers in Punjab and across India.
Seva. Seva is a word in sanskrit, meaning “selfless service.” The motion of providing without the thought of a reward or anything in return. Seva is the core of community, which is something that was valued in ancient India, and valued by the Sikh community across the world today. Seva is something I remember as a child in the Gurdwara. I grew up in a traditional Punjabi, Hindi, and Gujarati speaking family on both sides. My dad is Sikh and my mom is Catholic. I remember going to the church with my mom, and going to the Gurdwara every Sunday with my Dadi and Dadoo (grandma and grandpa). I would always ask my dadi: “In the Gurdwara, why do we get to eat daal, roti, paneer, keer. But in the church we eat a small piece of bread?” It was confusing to me as a small child trying to understand where I belong, who I should follow, and why these two communities looked so different when my mom was from Mumbai and spoke Hindi. These curiosites came innocently and fostered as I grew up. Although in Sikhism there is a belief that we are all one, and no community is all that different - I do know, there is something that separates Sikhs from the rest of the world and that is Seva. You will never be turned away from the Sikh community, especially if you are in need. It’s something I learned at an early age from my Punjabi, Sikh grandparents and father.
I fast forward to today, in my 23 year old body, and here I am watching the protests from far away. Through a screen that shows so vividly all the farmers who look just like my Dadi and Dadoo, except they are being abused. I am shown time and time again the strength of my elders, my lineage, and how far it may seem sometimes. I mean that with everything I am. Throughout the diaspora, our grandparents will do anything to fight for the future of their grandchildren. We see it first hand, many of us in Canada live with our grandparents or have at one point. This unconditional love shows me that we are not as far removed as we think.
This past week the peaceful protests took another dark turn because of Modi. We are shown the truth of what’s happening to peaceful protestors and citizen-journalists. Modi and his far-right party are labelling protestors and farmers as “terrorists” and even encourages police brutality against them. Calls to “shoot” protesting farmers rang loud in the trending section of India Twitter on Tuesday.
These are our elders, and they are fighting till their dying day. Here in our western world, we are encouraged to rest, relax, and be taken care of. At home in India, our elders are fighting tooth and nail, with no choice at the front lines with tear gas to their face, water cannons to their body, batons to their legs, and guns to their heads.
The response to these protests has been to cut communication and the internet, so the government can keep up Modi propaganda. This propaganda is not so far from us, we see it in the way a news outlet like The New York Times spreads coverage with Modi motives and language. In the diaspora, we have the power to correct these false narratives through social media, our own research, conversations, education and planned protests in our own cities. I share this with you, because a small post is not as fabricated as we make it to be, in fact it does more for our elders back home then we could imagine. All they want is to feed the people, and to fight for the truth. The least we can do is spread the truth.
But, please, don’t get it twisted. Even through all this pain, unjust, and disgusting Modi propaganda, our people are high spirited singing kirtan while India violates their human rights.
Some days in the diaspora we have moments of disconnection, but if there’s one thing I’m being shown, it’s unity. An old friend of mine said “even if you take a tour through Punjab’s main areas it's all farms and fields, without words this is their livelihood and identity.” And he’s right. That is enough to understand the weight of the rallies. That is enough to be unified, no matter how many generations we are separated from our home. The unity of our people is something that goes well beyond the borders of Punjab and India. We know that it doesn’t take blood for us to be family. This sense of unity called upon me to add sentiments, thoughts and stories from the diaspora around me in Canada. Please take the time to read these, sit with them, and plan your steps of action. This is the biggest protest in all of history, where will you fit in?
Where do I start? I could tell you about the amount of tears I’ve shed watching my people suffer. I could tell you the burden I feel watching my elders fight instead of me. I could choose anger and talk about the awful news coverage, the world hiding away from the biggest protest in history, the inhumanity, and how social media chooses to make human rights issues a trend and forgotten within a second. While all fair topics to discuss, my heart wanted to talk about something else. I remembered when I was young my dad taught me Mool Mantar Sahib. It says “Nirbhau, Nirvair '' which translates to “without fear, without hate”. It wasn’t something I ever really fully thought about but always tried to embody. It made me remember how much peace I find in Paht ( prayer ) and how much it grounds me. I believe Kisaans find a similar feeling working with god’s simple creations, water, soil, and weather. I never saw Punjab as just a place where my parents and grandparents were born. Punjab has run through my family's veins for decades. I see my grandparents' childhood in the rivers, I see where my dad first drove a tractor at seventeen, I see Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the Keht. I truly believe being a Kisaan is god’s work. One thing I always found beautiful about being Punjabi is that family reaches beyond blood. When one of us falls, we all fall. In Sikhism we emphasize in understanding that everyone in this universe is connected, we are all one. Watching this protest take place I noticed how quickly the agriculture states embodied that belief.
I spent a few years living in Punjab when I was younger and I vividly remember the elders in my family waking up at 4am to get started with the days farming (Kheti). It is sheer blood, sweat and tears. They are the first ones to wake up and the last ones to go to sleep. The people that feed the world are now protesting for their right to eat. No matter how many times the narrative with the farmers protest is twisted, it is up to us to continue to correct it and educate those who do not quite understand what is happening. We are so fortunate to live in a country like Canada and receive the education/opportunities that we do. Let’s use our knowledge to help others understand what is happening. We would not be here living the life that we do if not for the countless sacrifices and hard work of our ancestors. This is the least we can do.
March 17, 2019
On a sunny afternoon in our pind Manuke, my Papa approaches me and says:
“Chal loombarda, tenu keth dikha ke lehayi ae”
(come on little fox, let me show you around our farm.)
And so we went, just a small drive away on a beaten road made out of pressed mitti (soil). Stepping onto the mitti sent a surging wave of humility through my core and I had never understood the depth of what it meant to feel ‘grounded’ until that moment.
The mitti felt apni (familial), a connection that is beyond labas (words) to explain. As if what was carrying me was grains of the past and whispers of my puravaja (ancestors). Time had slowed down and each speck being illuminated by the sun, kuch bol reya si menu
(was saying something to me).
Perhaps it was my pardada (great grandfather), Sardar Kunda Singh telling me vi ketha vicho kamai hundi ah (these farms are where you will earn your livelihood). Perhaps it was my late Bibi whispering somewhere between the tall crops while she collected her roohi (cotton).
The crops stood as tall and proud as my Papa on this day- shoulders back, tuhi sidhi (spine straight) and arms leisurely hanging off the side. He turned to me and began reminiscing about his youth and kisaani. About how him, his brothers and his son would make this land go from barren to bearing all the fruits of their labor. I remember thinking:
“Papa mitti de naal rale paye ne”
(how united Papa and the mitti are)
How being with Papa in that moment cosmically explained every fiber of my being to me. I was meeting exactly where I came from for the first time and what my identity is in its purest form:
“Kisaana di dhee”
(daughter of kisaans)
This day, I stood in front of God, my Aan Data (Giver of Livelihood) and I stood as tall and proud as my Papa and his crops– shoulders back, tuhi sidhi and arms wrapped around my Papa.
Kisaana da Panjab, te main iss Panjab da.
Door tahk veh kho, ae saab hai Panjab da.
Aan teh kethi, rabh ae Panjab da.
Jini marzi koshish karlo
Jigara ni thordh sakde tusi Panjab da.
Apne Kisaana nu: “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, tera bhanaa Sarbat da bhala”
Kevin Fraser @vagabondsaloon
Sophia Gamboa @sophiaa.sosa
Joshua Cameron @jamncamrn
Simran Sachar @simziez
Sevrin Emnacen - Boyd @thepeoplestyrant
Tegvaran Singh @tegvaran
Hayden Pereira @im.mammon
Vanessa Yuen @van_lefan