Welcome to Our 3rd Newsletter!
Hi everyone and welcome back! Thanks for following along and reading our newsletter. In order to continue to do what we are doing, we need your Support. Make a donation. Share our content. Follow us on social media. Continue to Show UP.
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UPlift Black Art
Black Artists You Should Know
In an ideal world these artists would be considered stellar; the label Black would then not be necessary. Their sheer talent, bold representations of powerful and subtle themes, that uplift, empower, and inspire us.
Their quiet rise in a very white visual art world sadly, and by in large has not been supported by their own communities.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, American artist of Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage, took graffiti off NYC streets and brought credibility and a new uncanny beauty to fine art. His early death like so many artists meant the gavel swung down on one of his paintings (Untitled, 1982) for $110 million at auction in 2017. Giving him the notoriety of the highest price ever paid for a Black artist living or dead.
His family may not have fully appreciated or supported his art or lifestyle – from homelessness, drug addiction and a few moneyed years of fame; now are the very wealthy benefactors of his estate. The films, books, catalogues, and hunger, for this prolific artist whose pseudonym was SAMO has not died down.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1984 acrylic and mixed media on canvas
Black visual artists are creative storytellers no matter what medium and subject they choose. From abstraction to realism, from collage to canvas; contemporary black artists are breaking out of the marginal mold that is the white box of fine arts.
Their work is a powerful and often positive reminder that the representation of our lives matter. We who stress the importance of seeing ourselves and hearing our stories would be wise to remember, everything begins with art.
Who designed the home you live in, the clothes you wear? That hairstyle that took 3 hours to weave and yet we forget that creativity is embedded in so many of us. It’s telling in our consumerist, materialistic, drive thru society that forgetting the effort, imagination, and skill that are often required in art, means we dismiss our own ability to create.
It’s time we took the strength of the cheering section from the basketball courts, the enthusiasm and fandom, we bring to music and begin to support the visual arts…..and the art that surrounds our everyday lives. It’s time we ourselves create and enrich our lives with the imagination that we all have.
COVID 19 made so many of us pick up our dusty hobbies, crafts and refine them enough to showcase them on social media. It’s time we refine and reward the work of those who do visual art as their full-time job.
Presented here are two contemporary artists one emerging and one at the pinnacle of his career. The rest deserve your time, just research one a week – it will be as exciting and more rewarding than Netflix and chill, and way cheaper than Amazon!
Kerry James Marshall – b 1955 – Birmingham Alabama USA
Bold colours, animated, yet subtle themes, figures that emphasize that coal black is indeed beautiful!
Marshall elevates the everyday lives of black people, suggesting that how we live is as important as who we are.
Next time you visit Sean Combs see one of his works in person. Combs paid $21 million dollars at auction; the most ever paid for a living African American artist. To learn more about this artist check out link below.
Kerry James Marshall, Past Times, 1997, acrylic on canvas
Sethembile Msezane – b 1991, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
Sethembile Msezane, The Day Rhodes Came Down, 2015 multi media performance
Msezane is an interdisciplinary artist, who is comfortable in any medium she chooses. An articulate performer who weaves aesthetics, with African history, traditions, juxtaposes them against the politics of the here and now.
To see her performance art is to witness the strength of Miriam Makeba, the power of Angela Davis and the spirituality of Sojourner Truth, however she brings her own sense of self to her artistic practice.
Msezane creates unique and timely works that empower black women to be more than beautiful, but to be their best selves. To learn more about this artist – check out her website.
Kara Walker – American – Walker’s large scale black silhouette cutouts beat the sxf!* out of the Antebellum American South. Her scissors create a deep satire that cuts through the history of African American slavery.
Walker is not a one hit wonder. She fashions Black history into every month of the year. There’s always something fantastic to experience and learn from her work. Moving beyond the cutouts into multiple mediums she crafts history into fantasy making representations that are both mythic and painfully real.
Wangechi Mutu – Kenyan – Mutu creates ephemeral drawings where ink and collage collide, bringing forward the history of earlier black artists like Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden.
Then you witness her sculptural work and you begin to gain an understanding of the meaning of presence and volume in design.
Stan Douglas – Canadian – Douglas’ filmic work is epic in nature, and dense, with unanswerable plots. His trajectory covers Canadian stories of the west, jazz, and the impact of urbanism.
His work reminds us that art films are aesthetic, complicated, and way ahead of their time. Like Steve McQueen whose direction of 12 Years A Slave, foregrounded bold cinematography, Douglas uses the camera as a visual tool first, your viewing brings the narrative to life, through the power of your observation.
Laylah Ali – American – Ali’s skinny animated figures traverse her monochromatic canvases. Her representations seem like pages ripped out of comic books with the word bubbles left for you to write – you almost miss the often heavy socio-political themes this thoughtful artist paints.
Nick Cave – (not the musician) – You don’t need to know what he looks like! Cave is the Daft punk of fine art. His sense of colour and playfulness comes alive in his textile/performance/sculpture…. you’ll easily forget the other Nick Cave.
Cave could put every major Parisian fashion house out of business. Each unique piece is worn by him, never revealing his Blackness, he showcases his extreme ability to craft fun, and deliver an original work of art.
Curtis Talwst Santiago (not the musician, that’s right search with middle name) – Canadian – Santiago has a CV that is almost encyclopedic. This Edmonton born artist now resides in Lisbon, Portugal. Known for magical and exquisite dioramas, created inside very small boxes. Remember how long it took you to colour in that page in your adult colouring book…. Santiago makes exhibits his big and small scale artworks all over the globe.
Kehinde Wiley – All on his own Wiley brought back the baroque style of painting, and yet his portrait of Obama is anything but Rococo. He gives his Black figures a heroic presence, centering them mid-canvas with a lush, decorative backdrop. His sculptures are worthy of discussion given our present cancel culture moment with heroic figures.
Demond Melancon– American – Melancon’s painstaking and patient art making is all about Mardi Gras, and yet it’s all about materials, Native and African American history. Marie Antoinette would readily lose her head for this artist of beads, textiles, feathers and finesse for fine craftsmanship.
Cyrus Kabiru – Kenyan – Kabiru recycles found metal into otherworldly eyewear. Each piece becomes more outrageous than the last. The cost of his materials would put our spending on the new to shame. It is a true artist who can take the old and make it uniquely new.
Zanele Muholi – South African – Muholi’s searingly provocative black and white portrait and self portrait photography is arresting and profound. What she conveys in a portrait might be interpreted not as the struggle for further female liberation, but a statement of female rights, and right in your face!
•Sean George – Black Art and Aesthetics Coordinator
Are you a local (Simcoe/Muskoka) Black artist or do you know one that should be featured? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terms to Know
Misogyny is often simply thought of as the hatred of womxn; however, there is a bit more nuance to the definition of this word. Misogyny is actually the ingrained systems that rewards womxn who do not challenge the dominance of men, and punishes those who do.
Let’s see how misogyny may play out in the workplace. The traits of men are more highly valued than those of womxn. Not having to be the parent that stays home so you miss out on job opportunities, for example, is a systemic privilege that men are often afforded because of cultural norms: really consider the last time you heard of someone taking paternity leave – why is that? Misogyny in the workplace. This misogyny can lead to womxn telling other womxn to just “lean in ” and you will get the job and status you desire (thank you Sheryl Sandberg, we never thought of that). While this is a solution that may work in the current system we have to work within, however this inherently tells womxn that it is good to be a man or act like a man, and shows that the traits of womxn are not valued.
Back in 1989, philosopher and scholar, Kimberlé Crenshaw, first coined the term intersectionality to describe the unique intersections of race and gender that Black womxn have to go through, above and beyond the experience of white womxn. From this, a term that helps to define the systems that oppress Black womxn uniquely was birthed, called misogynoir. Because of misogynoir, Black womxn are more likely than white womxn to be sexualized and violently harmed because of their identity. As an example, because of the ‘strong Black womxn’ stereotype, Black womxn suffer a higher mortality rate during childbirth.
Just as Black womxn suffer unique forms of misogyny, transwomxn also exist at a unique intersection that makes them especially affected by misogyny, known as transmisogyny. Transwomxn are not only more likely to be the victim of violence especially with firearms, 80% of the murders of trans persons are under the age of 35. This statistic is unique to transwomxn and results in a significantly lower lifespan for transwomxn, especially transwomxn of colour. For more information continue here.
Adultification is the process by which our minds artificially age a person above their actual age and into adulthood. A major example of adultification is in the case of the Central Park 5. All of the CHILDREN the cops framed as the culprits were under 18 years old. The media and society often frame young Black children as older than they are, which helps to justify why these people are the “bad guys”.
In the case of Black girls, the ‘strong Black womxn’ stereotype leads teachers to assume they are fine and can handle their own selves, when they are often relegated to struggle silently. This is actually one of the contributing factors to the school-to-prison pipeline for young Black girls: they do not get the attention they need in school, act out, and are more severely punished and punished more often than their white counterparts. Leading to suspensions and more severe consequences. Check out “Pushout” by Monique W. Morris for more information about this phenomenon.
UPlift Black The Web Series
Thank you to everyone who took the time to watch our very first webisode for UPlift Black The Web Series. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, click here. Your support is vital for us to continue to bring this incredible content to you. Continue to share, support and show UP.
Our next webisode will be released next week! Stay tuned, you’re in for a real treat! The tables have turned and our host becomes the interviewee. In this special episode, our Director of Operations, Courtney Peters, interviews our Founder and President, Shelly Skinner.
UPlift Black’s online web series focuses on members of the Black Community living in Canada, particularly outside of urban centres. Our platform makes space to tell their stories and share their work. The show creates a call for change within each episode, offering ways for ending Anti-Black Racism and supporting economic development for Black people living in Canada.
Once again we couldn’t have done this without our show sponsor Multi Tech Audio Visual Inc! MTAV.ca. Thank you Karen and Vanz for your continued support for your community!
Good news everyone! UPlift Black is hosting its first contest!
UPlift has two copies of each of the books we are reading to giveaway! Two copies of The Black Kids and two copies of Born a Crime.
In order to be entered to win a copy of the book you must sign up to be a part of the book club, which you can do here. That’s it! The draw will include existing names of those already signed up and names of those who sign up now until September 22nd.
For extra chances to enter the draw, check out our Instagram! We are asking that you do each of the following things:
- Follow us on Instagram.
- Like the post regarding the contest. (one entry)
- Tag one friend in the comments. (another entry)
- Share the post to your story and tag us! (another entry)
We will announce the winner of the contest on September 23rd. Good luck!
The sporting world continues to lead the way in bringing race to the forefront of our political debates. With all due respect to the Reverend Al Sharpton and his well-organized and well-attended rally in Washington, it has been George Hill of the Milwaukee Bucks, Ryan Reeves of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Jackie Bradley Jr of the Boston Red Sox (among many others) leading conversations.
Now, let’s be honest, that’s because white folks are far more likely to listen to a sports star than a revered civil rights activist, but that’s beside the point today.
Friday, 28 August was Major League Baseball’s most important day of the year. Jackie Robinson Day, which usually occurs in April, was rescheduled to align with the new season schedule. Like every year since 1997, the MLB celebrated “Jackie” as the man who broke the colour barrier. (Space should be made here for the innumerable African American ball players who would have been stars, but were resigned to barnstorming teams and later the Negro Leagues from the Gentleman’s Agreement in the 1890s until 1948 when Jackie Robinson finally broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers). By the early 2000s, with Ken Griffey Jr. leading the way, the MLB allowed players to don Robinson’s iconic #42 on Jackie Robinson Day to acknowledge his sacrifice, his career, and his life. It is now obligatory. His story was portrayed on the silver screen by the late great Chadwick Boseman.
This year, the date fell only days after the Kenosha Police Department shot Jacob Blake 7 times in the back. The NBA players withheld their labour, with the MLB, and, much too late, the NHL, following suit. Several MLB teams decided to wear #42 all weekend in solidarity with their Black teammates. But something else stood out among all the support, plaudits, and action.
While NBA players, led by Lebron James, demanded concrete action from their owners (securing their arenas as voting stations for the US election in November), Kevin Pillar – the acrobatic, former Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder – felt he needed to object. It was not the time, Pillar surmised, to “uplift particular groups” in our society. In a statement that mirrored All Lives Matter rhetoric, Pillar – now a member of the Boston Red Sox – threw his Black teammates under the bus.
Was Pillar meaning to do harm? Probably not. But every time Black players activate their socio-economic power to change their communities, they are reminded that they are “just athletes.” In fact, many times their successes become examples of how Black individuals can transform their own destinies, not by removing systemic barriers to equity, but by climbing the economic ladder through the merits of their “hard work.” Those who are unable to do so are simply too lazy to work for success or too stupid and talentless to get ahead.
But Black folks – Black communities – have to work harder to get ahead. That Kevin Pillar – a well-off, privately educated, SoCal product – can deride the hard work of NBA and MLB players is a microcosm of the challenges Black communities face. Whether here in Simcoe/Muskoka, or in the professional sporting community, there’s always someone there to tie your shoelaces when you aren’t looking.
Know Your Hxstory
Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum
Have you heard about Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum? If you haven’t here is your chance to learn about it. Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum is located in Clarksburg, ON serving Grey County and Simcoe County.
At the museum you will learn about Black communities of Oro, Collingwood/Owen Sound, Artemesia (Priceville Black Cemetery) and surrounding settlements, plus so much more. The museum is currently closed but don’t let this stop you from learning more. Check out their Facebook page Sheffield Park Black History Museum to stay up-to-date. Information can also be found on their website here.
UPlift Book Recommendations
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison
- A is for Activist – Innosanto Nagara
- The Colors of Us – Karen Katz
- This Book is Anti-Racist – Tiffany Jewell
- Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
- The Undefeated – Kwame Alexander
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? – Beverly Danial Tatum
- We Want to More Than Survive – Bettina L. Love
- Pushout – Monique W. Morris
UPlift Black 2SLGBTQ+
Gender Reveal Parties are Damaging
You walk up to the receptionist at a new dentist you have found. They give you a form to fill out, and it asks your gender, as follows:
Gender (please check one):
If you are versed in gender lingo, you know that none of the options are correct, because male and female are not actually genders – they are sexes. And they are not the only two sexes.
So, gender and sex are not the same thing. So what is the difference, and why does it matter?
Sex is made up of your chromosomes, your genitals, reproductive parts and the sex hormones. Traditionally we think of XX and XY as the two options for determining our sex, but there is a lot of variety in between and outside of those combinations. Firstly, you could have XXX or XXY, or perhaps even an XY where the Y is so small it is not expressed fully. You could have a chromosomal set of XX and a hormone balance that more highly favours testosterone and not estrogen. You could be born with part of a uterus as well as a penis.
As we can see, sex is a bit more complicated than just two options. Male and female are part of the spectrum of human sexual biology, but there is also another option: intersex. Did you know that redheads make up the same percentage of the human population as intersex people?
So what is gender if it has nothing to do with your parts? In simple terms, gender is the way you identify your role in society as well as the way you express your identity to the world. Gender is a performance. In a society, we collectively decide what roles, attributes, clothing, behaviours, and opportunities are appropriate for which people. Your gender is based on what roles, attributes, clothing, and behaviours you would like to participate in, which you identify with, and how you express this. See how genitals aren’t mentioned at all?
So then what’s up with gender reveal parties? By now, you probably see that gender is the social stuff that has nothing to do with genitals and everything to do with how the individual identifies. Perhaps you could have a sex reveal party, but I am unsure of what you are celebrating here. Are you excited when it is one or the other? Disappointed? Am I, as the guest, supposed to feel something with regard to the biological parts of this unborn child? Why are we so worried about it?
Not only are gender reveals problematic because of the social impact they have on unborn children, but because of one in California and another in Arizona, gender reveal parties have now caused more damage than all #BlackLivesMatter protests combined (not that they were really causing much damage, but there is a point to this contrast – think critically, which of these is actually destructive?).
A pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party in El Dorado, California this past Saturday started a wildfire that has consumed more than 10 000 acres of land. In 2017, a fire was started in a similar manner at a gender reveal party in Arizona that destroyed 47,000 acres and the person responsible was ordered to pay $8 million in damages. For more information click here. How important is it that you tell your friends what kinds of reproductive organs your kid has before they even get a chance to tell their own story? Is it important enough to burn down a forest? Is it important enough to pay $8 million?
Although these stories are extreme, consider the actual impact of so-called gender reveal parties. These parties are harmful to the environment and to unborn children. What does the popularity of these parties say about what we value in society? And how do they influence our cultural understanding about gender?
For a very interesting listen, consider checking out the Podcast “Decoder Ring”, episode “Gender Reveal Party” from November of 2019.
Keep love in your minds and logic in your hearts!
•Christopher Fee (he/they) – 2SLGBTQ+ Coordinator @mixter.fee
How We Got Here
A bi-weekly thought piece on the state of race relations in 2020. #Howwegothere focuses on the history of the African Diaspora, the Global Colour Line, and Transatlantic connections.
#1 – On Slavery, History, and the Complexity of How We Got Here
The last two months have been exciting, tumultuous, and foundational for UPlift Black. We’ve been incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, established our website and newsletter, released our first web series episode, rolled out our first program supporting #BlackYouth, and taken concrete steps to turn our aspirations of social equity into a reality. But for Black activists and their allies, every moment of visibility also means vulnerability. Every day we are reminded that for every step we take forward, others want to #takeCanadaback.
Early in July, just as our website and social media groups were starting to gain steam, one of our members received an inquiry – really an accusation – about when we were going to start teaching real history. This individual asked specifically about slavery and the role that Africans played in keeping the system moving. Well, ask and you shall receive! Let’s talk about #howwegothere.
A quick skim through the literature on colonialism and slavery will yield some important conclusions. First, early colonialism – let’s say prior to the 19th century – required consistent support from collaborators. Slavery, likewise, capitalized on extant systems in Africa. Put shortly, Europeans couldn’t do it all themselves, and there were willing participants at the ‘sharp end’ of colonialism and the slave trade seeking to capitalize politically, socially, and economically. That brings us to our second point: humans will do heinous things to each other for social gain, no matter their identity. Finally, Africans, Indigenous peoples, Indians, and other colonized folx, were active agents in history. They were not passive victims; they were collaborators, resistors, workers, thinkers, and doers. We’ll get back to this final point a bit later.
So, yes, systems of slavery existed in Africa prior to the Transatlantic Slave Trade (capitalized, always). Yes, Africans helped enslave other Africans and sold them to European slavers. But those facts are bound up in a complex political history of Africa, much of which exists in oral traditions only recently accepted as legitimate history. This was part of the political state of affairs in parts of Africa, and, as historian Patrick Manning has argued, the demographic changes that slavery wrought were likely imperceptible to collaborators on the ground; it was not an assembly line wherein a small number of individuals funnelled a constant stream of slaves to Europeans over a short period of time. Slavery was a complex system.
What was that system? It was what historian Philip Curtin called the Plantation Complex. Europeans – with the assistance of their collaborators – brought slaves across the Atlantic Ocean, worked them to their deaths, and ensured that the population on the plantations could not reproduce at a level that maintained an adequate workforce. That produced a system wherein – knowingly – slavers ensured a constant need for more slaves. In turn, the process needed to be – or at least appear to be – more efficient in procuring, transporting, and working slaves. While Africans played a role – in Africa – in maintaining this Plantation Complex, they did not conceive of it, analyze it, and seek to extend it. Europeans did that.
So, how did we get here? We got here because the confluence of European colonialism and the emergence of capitalism produced the Plantation Complex. Many Africans, Indigenous Peoples, and colonized folx practiced slavery in some form or another, but no system of slavery – not even the Arab slave trade on the East Coast of Africa – ever rivalled the Transatlantic Slave Trade in its design and violence. The roots of dehumanizing the Black body, of conceiving the Black body as a product to be consumed, and of deracinating Black individuals from their communities is the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Yes, Africans played a part in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but Europeans conceived of it, executed it, profited from it, and extended its lifespan. That’s #howwegothere.
UPcoming Important Dates
Date: Monday, September 14th 2020 at 7pm
Event: Barrie City Hall General Committee Meeting to Support Shak’s World
Location: Online – watch here through Rogers tv
Reminder to come on out and support Shak’s World presenting to the City of Barrie during their next general committee meeting on Monday. Shak’s World is asking for support with rent for a space downtown Barrie, the space was designed and has been used as a community centre in the past. For more information on Shak’s World go here.
Date: Wednesday, September 23rd 2020 at 12pm
Event: Book Club Check in
Location: Online – check your emails
For the first book club check in, you will receive an email that will have a number of helpful things in it. This will include: some questions that help provoke your thoughts about the books, a reflection about the book by one of the book club facilitators or UPlift Black members, other resources to find if you are interested in learning more, and other fun facts about the book or author. There will be two check ins, and one final online discussion.
Have any UPcoming Important dates? Email email@example.com to help keep the Simcoe Muskoka community informed!
as Mooshfood Supermarket African/Caribbean Groceries and Beauty Store
Located at 19 Hart dr, Barrie, ON, Mooshfood Supermarket is “the first African grocery and fashion store in the city of Barrie and its surroundings.” They also ship across Canada!
Like Mooshfood supermarket on Facebook here and follow them on Instagram here. For more information visit their website here.
Terrell J. Parris
Y’all need to check out our local artist Terrell J. Parris! Not only are his paintings incredible, he’s also giving back to the community with every painting he sells! 45% of all paintings sold goes to Shak’s World – an organization that is helping to bring workshops and motivational talks to our youth, empowering them to stay humble and kind to each other. New artwork is posted as paintings are completed, custom paintings are also available upon request.
Thank you Terrell for sharing your creativity and your passion for painting on canvas while supporting a fantastic community organization. Check out Terrell’s Parris Paints & Custom Arts facebook page, call 705 500 1845 or email him at parrispaintscustomarts@gmail.
Help us support the community! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to UPlift and spotlight a Black owned business or Black individual within the Simcoe/Muskoka area.
Congratulations for a job well done. I am shocked at the amount of content and projects your organization has already accomplished and continues to offer in such a short time.
This hard work is not going unnoticed and our community is better for it.
Fantastic content! Thanks so much for all the interesting and important information. I learned a couple new terms in this newsletter, that gave words to concepts I knew about but could not have articulated so clearly. And how fantastic to profile the Sheffield Park museum — I visited as a teenager but haven’t been back in years — I will check out their website and plan on an in-person visit when they reopen.
One suggestion — the format can be a bit hard to read. I wonder if there might be another way to layout the newsletter — even repeating the overview on the website would be enough to be helpful, so I can check that I have seen all the boxes to expand.
Thanks again for this fantastic resource and bravo on all your hard work!