Plump Sessions

What are the hallmarks of wellness and vitality to you? 

To me, a certain glow and ripeness can always be found in the healthiest of us — whether that be in our familiar human counterparts or our ever-so-slightly-different plant brethren.

Much like our distant vegetative cousins, we are constantly taking things in. Our lives are sensual ones, and we learn and enrich ourselves through the physical senses. It’s up to us to decide what input will best augment our output. And, like our floral neighbours, we must strive for the highest quality of sustenance, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

If you water me, do I now grow? If you feed me, do I not flourish?

We are PLUMP! is a platform for alternative arts and cultural programming in London, ON, founded in 2019 by two Black London community members, Harina Mokanan and Alecia Bryan. 

This past spring, PLUMP! launched Plump Sessions, a set of community-driven showcases sharing the voices, accomplishments, and art of people of colour throughout the forest city. Hosted by the effervescent Alecia Bryan, the first series of Plump Sessions’ Community Conversations contains all the high-quality nutrients your mind, emotions and spirit require. 

An orange square with the words "PLUMP SESSIONS SERIES 1: Community Conversations" with 7 small photos.
Plump Sessions are community-building events that highlight the voices of people of colour. Series 1: Community Conversations launched earlier this year. Image courtesy of We are Plump!

“People are so hesitant to call themselves artists, to highlight the work they’re doing no matter the scale. We hope that, with this first series, our community can see that their stories, their art has great value,” says host Alecia Bryan.

“The people featured in this first series are our community leaders, our friends, our local barista, our local zine trailblazers and educational entertainers but like with most things in London they are hiding in plain sight.” 

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A beautiful accomplishment, it is only made more shining by its completion during a time of upheaval and uncertainty, requiring much more logistical consideration and all-the-more planning and coordination. But it also presented something desperately needed during this period — a sense of community, connection, and celebration. So let’s dive into what you can expect!

Episode 1 – Jenna Rose and Jill’s Session

The premier session introduces us to Jenna Rose and Jill, who run Community Radio Distro, southwestern Ontario’s only distributor of locally-made zines. This first installment hits the ground running with Alecia allowing Jill and Jenna Rose to muse upon their accomplishments, histories, and feelings about what zines are and why they’re important. Having two individuals being interviewed at once makes for a captivating ebb and flow keeping the viewer engaged, informed and entertained.

One word that kept popping into my head during this installment was contrast. Contrast between grit and fine touch, hard work and pleasure, angst and joy — but also, seriousness and humour. Commiseration being expressed by anything from furrowing one’s brow, to laughing out loud.

 

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I also didn’t know I needed to see Jenna Rose as a Hayao Miyazaki character, but now that I have, I can’t imagine a world where that doesn’t exist. Alecia provides an excellent point of stability, asking thoughtful questions, and allowing the interviewees to fully express themselves. I found myself mirroring their enthusiasm and their genuine delight in getting the word out.

Episode 2 Saidat and Kristina’s Session

The second installment of the Plump Sessions begins with a burst of colour — both in Alecia’s eye-catching fuchsia toque and in the gorgeous background that pops onto the screen as soon as we’re introduced to Saidat and Kristina. This colourful and bright visual appetizer sets the mood for the rest of the high-energy interview.

Saidat has the distinction of being Canada’s #1 youth entertainer, where her high-octane and engaging presentations, whether they be in assembly or show format, teach children the value of loving themselves and those around them. Kristina, Saidat’s partner in both business and life, provides the technical prowess necessary to proclaim Saidat’s philosophy of self-love, encouragement, and good times. 

 

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Another duo, the contrasts provided have a string of complementariness about them, showcasing the collaboration present (and necessary!) in running both of their professional and personal lives. Saidat is the Yin to Kristina’s Yang, and Kristina is the Jay-Z to Saidat’s Beyonce (their words, not mine!). I can honestly say I was smiling the entire time. Again, Alecia acts as a guide through these different realms they’ve chosen to present to us, prompting the jovial time along with thoughtful questions and ever-present enthusiasm.

Episode 3 Anthea’s Session

This episode strays from the world of business and delves right into the deeply personal gender journey graciously shared by Anthea. From the get-go, you can see how serious Alecia is taking this episode, and the infectious personal interest they have in exhibiting such a profound part of one’s existence. I know that the aesthetic is not the meat-and-potatoes of the entire thing — but as an added bonus, both of these lovely people present a fantastic and just-plain-cool style. The hat! The shirt! I can’t. I love it.

Anthea recounts the events and obstacles leading to them undergoing their top surgery. Literally baring all, this episode doesn’t tip-toe around taboos. Instead choosing to walk proudly through the knee-high undergrowth of society’s preoccupation with gender, biological sex, and sexual orientation. 

 

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Anthea is as captivating as they are vulnerable, as authentic as they are hilarious, and as accessible as they are informative – which is to say A LOT! Taking apart different definitions and understandings of some key terms, Anthea states “These labels are foundations to help you better express yourself.” As opposed to direct taxonomical states that much of our society would have you believe. Acting as authentic representation, Anthea truly is a “gender-pirate,” and all I can say is Aye Aye!

Episode 4 – Jessy’s Session

Almost as a reminder that this entire series was done in a time where we could rarely be face-to-face, episode four begins after a brief technical oopsy-daisy. Instead of allowing it to put a damper on the proceedings, Alecia and the thoroughly engaging Jessy power through, not letting a beat be missed. 

Jessy is a multi-disciplinary dynamo, involved in everything from managing models and being an accomplished duathlete to helping to run one of London’s best health and wellness operations, Quarter Master Natural Foods.

Jessy is an endless font of useful information and has made it her duty to share this information. She also possesses an amazingly dry sense of humour that I couldn’t tear myself away from – essentially, I just want to listen to her speak. And luckily, I can! A regular fixture on Quarter Master’s Instagram, she continues to share valuable information.

 

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This episode leans practical and informative, and as already stated, Jessy is a thrill to witness. When asked about the future, she responds sometimes it’s a good thing to be able to say “I don’t know,” and instead, focus oneself on the present moment. Alecia maintains composure throughout but can’t hide a telltale delight.

Episode 5 Mariam’s Session

The first thing I noticed in this episode was the electric energy between host and interviewee – and that’s saying something considering Alecia is nothing but 100% lovely and engaged during every episode. They both are elated to share this digital space, and thusly, I, as the viewer, am as well. A brimming emotionality is present throughout. Enter Mariam.

Mariam is an emotional powerhouse, immediately displaying her vulnerability with a light-hearted (but earnest) joke about water-proof mascara. Not only do we hear about Mariam’s impressive CV – Board Member with Urban Roots London, her role with the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network, being an accomplished and talented artist — but we are privy to a reading of a piece of her particularly impassioned poetry. With a prefacing contextualization, Mariam shifts from soft to serious only after making an almost ritualistic introduction of “I wrote this.” I am captivated.

 

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Alecia continues to be the ever-consummate host, maintaining a beautiful balance between being professional and being enchanted. The pointed and thoughtful questioning is a treat to watch. And Mariam draws one in, enticing them to want to know more about her many facets.

Episode 6 – Cedric’s Session

The first Series of Plump Sessions comes to a close with the enthusiastic, winsome, and bright-eyed Cedric. Cedric edits and distributes LAPS magazine (an acronym for London and Port Stanley), a solo venture displaying his love of biking and all things local in London, Port Stanley, and beyond. On top of that, you may recognize him from your early morning quests for caffeine in Wortley Village.

Cedric is genuinely enthusiastic about what he dedicates his time to, and as always, is unabashedly himself. There’s a definable alignment between his words, his thoughts, and his actions. Alecia probes to find out his motivations, current activities, and next steps, while allowing him the space to reflect aloud and display his robust self-belief.

 

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Cedric strikes me as the opposite of a gatekeeper — he stands by the threshold, waving his arms and inviting you in. This is evidenced in his hair-flipping nonchalance at having accomplished a bike ride that most of us only dream of, as recorded in his mini-series “The Greatest Bike Ride Ever.” I respect good self-promotion, and his humble yet straightforward tack is refreshing, charming, and effective.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Watching these stories be told through the vulnerability of the subjects, and the genuine curiosity, excitement, and effortlessly coolness of Alecia, I can’t help but find myself emotional. 

The Plump Sessions are many things — informative, entertaining, connective, authentic. But above all, Series 1 is a celebration of the accomplishments possible when we rely on our inherent will as human beings. Of beautiful people doing and making beautiful things in our community.

Having had the pleasure of taking these episodes in, much like a succulent after a rare and thorough watering, I found myself being fuller, standing taller, and feeling quite healthy and rather — you guessed it — PLUMP!

Connect with We Are PLUMP!

This post has been powered by We are PLUMP! We Are PLUMP! is a platform for alternative arts and cultural programming in London, Ontario.

Feature photo courtesy of We are PLUMP!

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