Criticism levelled at #MakeitAwkward, metropolis over upcoming anti-discrimination occasion

In February, local actor and entrepreneur Jesse Lipscombe is holding a summit, meant to get attendees talking about standing up to discrimination, but there are questions about the funding the event has received.

Lipscombe’s company, Make It Awkward, is hosting its MIA Summit at the Westin in early February – but the event has faced criticism online for the cost to attend: $89 for a youth chaperone ticket, $300 for a student pass, and $445 for an adult pass.

One critic pointed out that organizers had created financial tiers for attendees, calling it “the opposite of inclusive.”

 “The criticism about the price point, I think, has more to do with a lack of knowledge of how much things cost,” Jesse Lipscombe said.

The criticism has also been aimed at the event’s sponsors, among them, the City of Edmonton. The city contributed a cash sponsorship of $30,000.

CTV NEWS was told the money came from a branch of the citizen services department; multicultural relations.  Mayor Iveson called it a "one off" in terms of how often they do this.

City officials would not agree to an interview with CTV News, but a spokesperson issued a statement saying: “The funding will support the cost to have 100 youth/students attend the summit.”

The city’s own policy states an organization must have been a registered not-for-profit for at least a year before applying.

While Make It Awkward appears to behave like a non-profit organization, with an aim to snuff out discrimination, it is a private company.

The company was created after Lipscombe was targeted by a passerby as he shot a commercial – the individual shouted a racial slur at him while the camera rolled – Mayor Don Iveson, who is slated to speak at the summit, helped brainstorm the idea.

“Other than being asked to speak at this event I’ve had no other involvement with him, the organizing of this event or with the financial decisions made by our community services department,” Mayor Don Iveson said when asked about the event and its funding.

 Lipscombe is promising financial transparency when he tallies up the cost of the summit, currently estimated – he tells CTV NEWS – at $140,000.  

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