Every February, Canada and the US recognize Black History Month; honouring and celebrating the efforts of the Black race from the past and present. We talked to a few of the brightest of Toronto’s Black community about, race, humanity and everything in between.
“I’ve met countless ambitious youth that have taken the right steps towards achieving their dreams. There are thousands of young African-Caribbean youth in Toronto that are taking the initiative to fulfill academic, artistic and entrepreneurship endeavors. The issue is the media rarely highlights the positives happening within our community. The government spends millions of dollars on criminal activity, but can barely spend a fraction of it to aid the roots of these criminal activities. It’s a shame to know so many promising youth in our communities that have zero to minimum recognition for their achievements. But I do feel there is a wave happening. There is a wave of conscious-loving individuals who have experienced enough downfalls to know that the only way out, is up.” – Randell Adjei
“Hip Hop has reinforced knowledge of self to the black community. However, we have been mentally conditioned not to have knowledge of self. The roots of Hip Hop are Peace, Love, Unity, as well as having fun; that will always remain. Yet currently, we as blacks in Hip Hop have given the world permission to disrespect us because we disrespect ourselves every minute of the day.” – Maestro Fresh Wes
“The portrayal of black women in the media and on screen as either a vixen, a mother figure or a finger snapping ‘independent woman’ needs to end. From my teen years until now there are countless times when people who I have interacted with at events or work that have expressed their surprise at me not being an accepted definition of being ‘black’. They are surprised that I don’t listen to rap or hip-hop by choice, that I articulate my thoughts without ‘attitude’ and I find men of many different cultures attractive. These roles reinforce stereotypes that are ignorantly imposed on me without conscious choice by otherwise extremely intelligent people and that is what I want changed.” – Elaisha Green
“I think we embrace other cultures much better than we did 30, 20 and 10 years ago but there is still at times an underline of prejudice. As younger generations grow up in this city they are more accepting to other cultures and actually want to take part. Cultural festivals definitely help with that. But then at times there’s the ol’ skool race mentality. Mayor Rob Ford is a good example of that when he says he doesn’t want to take part in Pride celebrations or caught on video pretending to speak as if he’s Jamaican and not see that that is a problem.” – Rudy Blair
“Hatred diseases us all to believe that there is a hierarchical value system in defining peoples humanity. Visionary love dismantles any dynamic defined through exploitation and violence. Peace gives us balance and stability to foster equality in our lives. Critical consciousness forces us to think and question our entirety who we are constantly. There is no room for hatred with this.” – Yusra Khogali
“Systemically, “Institutional Racism” as coined by the homie Stokely Carmichael exists in many forms. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t be such a major need for equity rights. Women are making less money compared to the male counterparts and black women are making less money compared to the female counterparts. Young black males are being victimized and profits are being made off the murder of folks like Trayvon Martin. Racism exists. But we have the capacity to empower ourselves to free our minds from it. It’s a proactive act.” – David Delisca
Posted by Community Contributor Samira Zia Reham
Jonathan Nathaniel is a Toronto-based television and film actor who is best known for his spot on the panel of MTV Canada and Logo TV USA’s groundbreaking hit “1 Girl 5 Gays”. Recently, we got the chance to speak with Jonathan about his role in the new web-series “Other Men”.
Describe the conception of “Other Men”; how did you get involved?
Stephanie and I actually, grew up around the block from each other and graduated from the same arts high school a year apart. We’ve always kept in touch via Facebook. I had just finished working on a short film project I created and produced when we really started talking about a project she was creating and producing. Both projects circled around similar themes and subjects. We decided to catch up, in person, with her creative team over bbq at ‘Rose and Sons Big Crow’ and I was offered the part.
Why was it important for you to be a part of this web series?
I’m thankful and proud to be part of ‘Other Men’ because of what it’s about, what it stands for, where it’s based and shot and the impact it’ll have. I’m all about involving myself in projects that are progressive with a purpose and a message. As a gay black guy, I often ask myself, ‘What is this for?’ and ‘Who are we helping?’ before signing onto a project because there’s TV and film auditions out there for productions that have either been done before or is an inaccurate representation of individuals who are already underrepresented. ‘Other Men’ is neither of those things.
What do you hope viewers take away from watching?
I hope viewers, regardless of sexual orientation, will be able to watch ‘Other Men’ and relate.
What were some of the toughest challenges you encountered while shooting “Other Men”?
There haven’t been any…yet. We’re still shooting so, we’ve really only just begun. But, I think the challenge for myself is to bring honesty, vulnerability and truth to ‘Odie’. I want to offer something real and refreshing.
How has the “Other Men” experience impacted you (personally/professionally/artistically, etc)?
Personally, I love that this kind of content is being made, seen and received so positively. Professionally, I’m just grateful to be working.
For more info: facebook.com/OTHERMENseries
Posted by Community Contributor Samira Zia Rehman
The rumours are true…
It’s official, after 10 years in Toronto’s Queen West Arts District, Magic Pony will be closing it’s Queen St West location on February 23rd, 2014. You can still follow Magic Pony online (Twitter, Instagram, Shop) and in person at their new Pop-Up Shop at The Design Exchange, as part of the “This Is Not A Toy” exhibition, running until May 19th, 2014.
Colin Boyd Shafer is on a mission to photograph the world, one Torontonian at a time. That means he plans on photographing someone born in every country of the world, now residing in the Greater Toronto Area. One portrait depicts each person in a place they feel at home in Toronto, and another photograph shows them holding an object that connects them to their past.
After photographing people from over a 140 different countries, Colin has come to understand that LOVE is an emotion that clearly has no boundaries. Each individual’s encounter with love – whether for another person, idea or place – has found its unique expression here in Toronto. Here are a few examples from the Cosmopolis Toronto project:
Tjidzani (Born in Zimbabwe) and Edgar took a walk one day and stopped at this midtown parkette bench to talk. By the end of the conversation, they had decided to get married. This bench will always hold a special place in their hearts.
This beautiful sculpture of two figures embracing was made by Margaret’s (Born in New Zealand) father, and sat at the front College Street United Church the day she was married.
Paul (Born in South Africa) lost two siblings and parents at a young age. His older sister Alice, a practicing Muslim, is the only sibling he has left from his immediate family. Paul explains how he is a practicing Christian, but while they are different in the sense of ‘faith’, Paul’s love for Alice runs deep.
Melvyn (Born in Botswana) says he is grateful knowing that each morning when he wakes up, his mother – a woman who fought for him to come to Canada after he lost his brother – is around.
Dulce’s (Born in Portugal) late maternal grandmother who, despite her age and lack of education, was the only person in the family with the vision and belief that Dulce would realize her dreams.
Whenever Stephanie (Born in Madagascar) smells cloves she is taken back instantly to the place where she grew up in Madagascar. She hopes one day she will be able to share those memories with her son.
Jamie’s (Born in Barbados) wedding took place here in the Steam Whistle brewery, with over 200 Canadian and Bajan friends and family together in celebration.
Catalina (Born in Colombia) is holding a photograph of her best friends from Colombia who she calls her “chosen sisters”.
In 1962, Eli (Born in Austria) began teaching guitar lessons to a student named Anne. For 40 years now, Eli has been living happily in this house with his beloved wife, Anne.
This photo has a special meaning to Marta (Born in Poland) because her parents sacrificed their own happiness, their friends and their life, in Poland in order to pursue better opportunities for their children.
Vytas (Born in Lithuania) and his wife decided to replace their lawn with all kinds of flowers, shrubs and trees. He says their “garden changes in appearance throughout the seasons, warming [their] hearts”
The strong opinions of Lorena’s (Born in Ecuador) mother often differed from hers, but she always knew that her mother had her best interest at heart.
While in the Masjid Darus Salaam in Thorncliffe Park Paivastun (Born in Afghanistan) prays for his war-torn country, and “his people.” He wants to gain “knowledge, power, patience and abilities to serve [his] country, and… help as many people as [he] can.”
Inna (Born in Bulgaria) feels lucky to have been raised with the love and support of her grandparents, they taught her many valuable lessons that helped shape her into the woman she is today.
The Women’s College Hospital holds significance for Marko (Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina) as he spent a great deal of time there with his mother before losing her to ovarian cancer. He says this experience made him want to be a better pharmacist and focus on women’s health.
Jennifer’s (Born in Ireland) Grandmother Mary was a strong and central figure in her childhood and she likes to be reminded every day of her life and face through keeping this memorial card on her fridge.
Rebecka (Born in Sweden) fell in love with Matt last summer, and is now a regular at Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, where Matt has his boat and on weekends she is learning to sail.
This photograph of Hiba (Born in Iraq) and her sister in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia illustrates the relationship they have and how they have always been hand-in-hand throughout life.
Since having her son, Valeria (Born in Argentina) has had many happy moments in Trinity Bellwood’s Park playing, picnicking and seeing her son grow happy and strong.
Previously: Cosmopolis Toronto
Jane/Finch – Those two words together, say volumes. Depending on where you live, the message varies.
A lot of people have grown up with the belief it’s an unsafe, menacing place to be without even having stepped foot into the area. It’s judgments like that which fuels the fire of activist and filmmaker, Paul Nguyen. “‘Jane-Finch is dangerous’ or ‘the area is full of gang members’; it’s funny how these stereotypes can be put to rest with just a simple visit,” he says.
While he was growing up, Paul says he and his friends felt “blacklisted” by people automatically making negative assumptions about him just because they’re from Jane and Finch. “Even a city councillor once said that 80% of people in Jane-Finch don’t pay to get on the bus. Like WTF?! I got tired of my community being stepped on so I decided to show our positive side by creating Jane-Finch.com.”
The website is a platform which produces stories about the Jane-Finch community by the Jane-Finch community. “We make lots of videos about life in the neighbourhood. We like to focus on the good stuff, but we won’t shy away from serious issues. Residents can speak out against social injustice, crime or just about any hot topic.” It serves as a creative vessel for the youth who help produce the content as well as a forum for discussion. “We aim to give people the real story without any censorship or bias. It’s been our hallmark to give it raw.”
Paul has mentored countless kids who have in turn given back to the community. He has made it his mission to break misconceptions about his neighborhood and empower its kids. “I wanted to show youth that they can reach their goals no matter where they come from… We want to prove that you can achieve your goals with heart and determination.” Paul recalls an unforgettable moment where Canadian Rapper, Maestro Fresh Wes, came to the area and sat down with them to shoot an interview. After that moment Paul says, “We got kids thinking they can be reporters, producers, whatever they want. Anything’s possible.”
He says that the website is just a small example of how easy it can be to break down prejudice and racism which are all born out of fear. “If we want to live in a peaceful and prosperous community we need to embrace our differences and work together, not against each other… Get to know your neighbour and you’ll be surprised how similar we all are.”
To learn more visit: jane-finch.com
Posted by Community Contributor Samira Zia Rehman
We’re proud to present an exclusive release by Toronto’s very own Mustafa The Poet, entitled, “PEACE”. This release is in anticipation for his debut poetry project EP and special event at Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St E), on Wednesday, February 19th, at 7PM.
For ticket info CLICK HERE
If you’re unfamiliar with Mustafa’s work, he’s an extremely talented young man who’s words hold great power. We’ve been fortunate enough to see him speak on numerous occasions, including back in 2011 at the Camden File Project, which we featured here on 1loveto.com. He’s also spoke at TEDxToronto, Manifesto Festival, Nelson Mandela Park Public School, and many more. Listen up and pay attention to what this poet is preaching.
For more info: mustafathepoet.com
Follow @1LOVETO #PEACE
The Toronto Love Lettering Project, created by local artist Lindsay Zier-Vogel, has partnered with Pattison’s Art In Transit program to fill our underground walkway (PATH) from February 3-28, 2014. The Love Lettering Project is in its 10th year, with Torontonians sharing their handmade missives in response to a public call for love-letters. If you get the chance to take the PATH, be sure to check this out!
For more info: artintransit.ca
Previously: The Love Lettering Project
We were honoured this past weekend to take part in a special event to celebrate the efforts and spirits of some very special athletes.
Motionball 2014 brought together people from every sector of the city to raise funds for the Special Olympics Canada Foundation (SOCF). This year’s festivities took place at Liberty Grand which was transformed into an enchanted evening of music, fashion and art. When people weren’t breaking it down on the dance floor, you could find them upstairs bidding on the silent auction, which dispersed all proceeds directly to SOCF. The highlight of the night was Carmen Electra’s high-energy, feel-good performance which needless to say, took everyone’s heart-rates up a notch or two!
The Special Olympics Canada Foundation focuses on promoting healthy and active lifestyles for those who face an intellectual disability. They do this through the power of sports which creates that amazing sense of belonging, teamwork, sportsmanship and pride. Divisions have been created pertaining to specific levels of ability in order to ensure all eligible athletes are able to play. SOCF differs from the Paralympics in that it deals with intellectual disabilities versus physical. Both are separate organizations and are both recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
The powerful message that SOCF sends of acceptance and fairness is one that Canada has echoed while we went into Sochi this year. Regardless of your ability, race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation, we all have the right to be treated as equals and be given a fair chance to reach the peaks of our potential.
To learn more visit: specialolympics.ca
Posted by Samira Zia Rehman
Photos by Andrew Palmer
The Art Gallery of York University in collaboration with Success Beyond Limits presents “If We Ruled The World”, a multi-media art installation put together by 8 youth artists from Jane & Finch. The exhibit is FREE and runs from February 5th – March 2nd at the AGYU, Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Success Beyond Limits is an after-school educational support program and The AGYU, through this collaboration, are offering youth in Jane and Finch the opportunity to participate in stimulating and enriching arts and cultural workshops led by the city’s leading artists. If I Ruled the World, is providing youth in our community with the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart and The M.A.D Poet, to create art works that explore and develop an urban spatial imaginary.
Looking at the architecture, landscape, and urban plan of their neighbourhood, youth artists are employing visual art and spoken word poetry to explore the impact that spatial inequality and injustice has had on their lives. Moreover, they will use painting, drawing and spoken work poetry as a means of envisioning urban transformation that will result from a more socially just and equitable neighbourhood and spatial structure.
For more info: theAGYUisOutThere.org
A new video has surfaced featuring some of Mayor Rob Ford’s most notable quotes appearing around the city at familiar spots like Honest Ed’s, The ROM, Chinatow, and more. Leave a comment letting us know – how do you see Toronto?
The 2nd annual Over the Rainbow “Love Denim Drive” returns from February 1 – 16th, encouraging customers to share the Valentine’s Day love by donating a pair (or two!) of previously worn jeans in-store to receive a 20% off discount on their purchase.
All pre-loved denim will be donated to the United Way to support their efforts of strengthening our city and supporting people in need who are living in poverty, whether it be individuals, families or entire communities.
BONUS: When in-store, customers who tweet or post a photo tagging @Rainbowjeans416 #LoveDrive will receive an additional 5% off their purchase!
For more info: rainbowjeans.com