Local activist Melody Ma talks being a catalyst for social engagement

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      An evening at the ballet transformed Melody Ma into a catalyst for social engagement.

      During the past five years, the Vancouver woman has been making a mark in the arts, technology, education, and politics. Ma recalls attending a contemporary ballet performance when she noticed that she was probably the only young person in the audience.

      “I started looking around in that theatre and questioning why there aren’t more young people,” Ma told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      She got in touch with Ballet BC and later cofounded a young-patrons program to get out younger audiences.

      Ma soon discovered artsScene, a national network of young professionals who support the arts, eventually becoming its cochair. Now in her mid-20s, Ma is a member of the Arts and Culture Policy Council, a civic body that advises the City of Vancouver on matters relating to arts and culture.

      As a web developer with extensive experience with software, Ma knows technology. In 2015, she organized the Hour of Code in B.C. event as part of the global movement to teach young people coding skills.

      Following the coding event, Premier Christy Clark announced that the government would provide coding training for students from kindergarten to Grade 12. Ma recalled that she criticized the move at the time because no resources were allocated for the program. Then in June 2016, the government rolled out a $6-million investment to support coding in schools.

      After that experience, Ma said, she started thinking about how politics affects people’s lives. She got together with friends and launched Imagine X B.C., an online platform that seeks to engage people on the issue of good government.

      Last year, Ma took a walk in Chinatown, where as a young girl she’d gone to Chinese school on weekdays after regular school and also learned traditional Chinese dance on weekends. It struck her that many of the places she knew were disappearing. That realization led her to start the #SaveChinatownYVR campaign to advocate for better urban planning that respects heritage.

      Reflecting on much of what she has been doing since that night at the ballet a few years ago, Ma said that citizens have incredible power.

      “If you put your mind to it—and if you’re strategic about it, if you’re passionate about it, and if you’re willing to take risks—you can shape the world,” Ma said. “You don’t need to sit back and, you know, let people dictate how the world and society should be created. You can actively participate and…mould the world, especially if you see that there is an opportunity…as a society to move forward in a positive way, or that we’re going off-track and we need to be brought back in line.”

      This week, Melody Ma is featured on the cover of the Georgia Straight alongside Theodora Lamb and Samaah Jaffer.