News / Winnipeg

#Pride30: A Cree musician's journey through sobriety and Pride

Wanda Wilson has strummed before many Pride audiences, but one particularly struck a chord with her.

Musician Wanda Wilson at her home in Winnipeg Manitoba, May 15, 2017.

Lyle Stafford/For Metro

Musician Wanda Wilson at her home in Winnipeg Manitoba, May 15, 2017.

Cree musician Wanda Wilson has strummed before many Pride audiences, but one particularly struck a chord with her. 

The self-taught singer-songwriter from Opaskwayak Cree Nation – more than 600 km north of Winnipeg – took to the stage at the first Pride North of 55 Festival in Thompson, Man. in 2014.

“It was an important turning point for that community and all of northern Manitoba. For me, seeing the youth was very inspiring,” she said. “To see northern youth in a safe place just being who they want to be was phenomenal.”

“We all have so much to learn from the youth. They have so much heart and they are fierce,” she added.

Wilson first attended Pride Winnipeg in 2000 when she performed on the main stage in Memorial Park with her rock band the Help Wanteds.

Over the years, Wilson has played for Pride Winnipeg multiple times, the most recent being in 2015.

“It has been so wonderful to see people out and proud in public - all people celebrating and sharing the day. Performing and being part of that is just so much fun and important,” she said.

These days, Wilson also plays solo, writing music that touches on themes of independence and racism – but with some humour strung throughout the heaviness.

“I’m grateful for my path - I have come a long way. I have been clean and sober (from alcohol) for 11 years now. Music, writing and performing have helped me to keep busy and creative in a healthy way.”

Favourite Pride memory?

I loved when the route used to go down Portage Avenue. It was so out there - Winnipeg’s main avenue. The centre of frickin’ Canada. It was kind of cool, making folks stop and wait. They had to see us. We were taking up the space.

Why do you think Pride was important 30 years ago?

It was the seed of change. Those courageous people helped to create the rights, freedom and acceptance people have today.

Why do you think Pride is important today?

There is already so much violence and negativity out there. It is important to encourage and celebrate who people are and who they want to be. This is freedom. It’s okay to be gay, straight, bi, lesbian, queer, transgender, two spirited, non-binary or asexual. Live, love and please continue to learn.

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