Here, Better, Now | Organizing Our Grief

Here, Better, Now
Four-part public program and publication launch

April 19–20, 2023
The Blackwood, University of Toronto Mississauga

Contributors: Erica Cardwell, Rhiannon Carruthers, Theodore (ted) Kerr, Marcus Kuiland-Nazario, Brianna Olson-Pitawanakwat, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Darien Taylor, Jarrett Zigon, Carlyn Zwarenstein

Programmed by Fraser McCallum

Here, Better, Now is a four-part program that details forms of solidarity, art, activism, and policy change emerging from the overdose crisis.

Over two days on University of Toronto campuses in Mississauga and Toronto, Here, Better, Now serves as a concluding chapter of WISH YOU WERE HERE, WISH HERE WAS BETTER (WYWH, WHWB), a mobile public event series that made space for people impacted by the ongoing overdose crisis, and its cascading systemic issues of precarity, houselessness, and criminalization. Organized by the Blackwood with Zoë Dodd, Theodore (ted) Kerr, and Ellyn Walker in October 2022, WYWH, WHWB provided opportunities to mourn, while imagining and working toward a more just future.

Through a screening, keynote speaker and panel discussions, contributors to Here, Better, Now share wide-ranging perspectives on the overdose crisis, informed by its differential effects across local sites and their histories.

Here, Better, Now Schedule

Opening: Precedents and Predecessors
Wednesday, April 19, 12–2pm

Virtual panel discussion with livestream on UTM campus, Kaneff Centre room 132
Panel discussion with Marcus Kuiland-Nazario and Darien Taylor, moderated by Theodore (ted) Kerr
Register to attend online or in-person using Eventbrite.

This discussion will situate the overdose crisis in relation to recent histories of harm reduction, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and artist-led activism by people who use drugs and their allies. To open Here, Better, Now, this conversation posits that creative resistance to the overdose crisis exists within a continuum whose roots span decades.

Accessibility: For in-person attendees, Kaneff Centre is a physically accessible venue. Accessible single-gender washrooms are available on the main floor.

Here: Meanings of Empathy
April 20, 12–2pm
Innis Town Hall Theatre

Screening of Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ KIMMAPIIYIPITSSINI: The Meaning of Empathy
Register to attend on Eventbrite.
Light lunch will be provided.

Awarded Best Feature Length Documentary at the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards, KIMMAPIIYIPITSSINI: The Meaning of Empathy follows filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as she creates an intimate portrait of her community and the impacts of the substance use and overdose epidemic. Witness the change brought by community members, first responders and medical professionals as they strive for harm reduction in Kainai First Nation.

Accessibility: Innis Town Hall is a physically accessible venue. The theatre has power-assisted doors with four dedicated spaces for assistive mobility devices at the rear. Assistive-listening devices are also available. An accessible gender-neutral washroom is located next to the café.

Better: What We Need to Be Well
April 20, 3–5pm
Jackman Humanities Building, room 100

Panel discussion with Rhiannon Carruthers, Brianna Olson-Pitawanakwat, Carlyn Zwarenstein, moderated by Erica Cardwell
Register to attend on Eventbrite. Attendees are asked to wear face masks at this event.
Snacks and refreshments will be provided at 5pm.

In this panel discussion, local contributors will discuss the impacts of the toxic drug supply, criminalization, and stigma across varied contexts in the GTHA: Brianna Olson-Pitawanakwat of Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction describes her experience working in parks and shelters; Rhiannon Carruthers shares their expertise working on safer drug use and partying with youth; and Carlyn Zwarenstein discusses the personal and political stakes of the overdose crisis and its connections to prescription opioids. Moderated by writer and educator Erica Cardwell.

Now: New Ethics of Community
April 20, 6–8pm,
Jackman Humanities Building, room 100

Keynote speaker: Jarrett Zigon
Register to attend on Eventbrite.
Snacks and refreshments will be provided before the event, beginning at 5pm.

Having theorized alongside people who use drugs for over a decade, Jarrett Zigon considers the ways anti-drug war organizing enacts what he terms “nonnormative, open, and relationally inclusive alternatives to such key ethical-political concepts as community, freedom, and care.” Focusing on his 2018 book A War on People: Drug User Politics and a New Ethics of Community, Zigon will discuss the expansive possibilities he sees emerging from resistance to drug criminalization and stigma.

Accessibility for Better and Now: Jackman Humanities Building is a physically accessible venue. Accessible single-gender washrooms are available on each floor using the elevator from the lobby.

For full program descriptions and contributor bios, visit the Blackwood’s website.

Publication Launch: ORGANIZING OUR GRIEF: A Collaboration in Response to the Overdose Crisis

ORGANIZING OUR GRIEF circulates strategies, reflections, and organizing principles that emerged from WYWH, WHWB, a mobile program held by the Blackwood in October 2022. As another chapter in the Blackwood’s Working with Concepts series, this publication seeks to promote knowledge-sharing in the arts sector. Readers who are interested in working with the themes or communities engaged in WYWH, WHWB will find some starting points to guide their thinking.

ORGANIZING OUR GRIEF will launch April 19–20 during Here, Better, Now as a free print publication and PDF download on the Blackwood website.

Print copies will also be available at the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre and Library, UTM. Contact the Blackwood at to request additional print copies.

Publication Contributors: Zoë Dodd, Dan Gibson, Nat Kaminski, Theodore (ted) Kerr, Karie Liao, Fraser McCallum, Lea Rose Sebastianis, Jacqui Usiskin, University of Toronto Harm Reduction Collective (Jann Houston, Andrea Bowra, Tenzin Butsang, Harsh Naik), Ellyn Walker, Blackwood Gallery work study students (Nyah Cadogan, Isabella Iacoe, Abigail Kohut, Gladys Lou, Natalie Ng, Suki Wong)

The Blackwood gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga. Additional support provided by the Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

The Blackwood
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Road
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
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Image descriptions: (1) Program title and dates on a gradient background with shades of green, yellow, and blue. (2) Publication title overlays a graphic featuring the silhouette of a van, tent, and table in shades of pale yellow.