November Vol 1, Welcome!
We wanted to take this time to do a quick little check in. It’s the end of the first week of November, how is everyone adjusting?
Many of us are feeling the effects of the days getting colder (minus these last few), days feeling longer and being darker with the clocks turning back. This is your reminder to be gentle on yourself while you adjust. 2020 Pandemic life has not slowed down or let up, now is the time to truly listen to your body. What does it need? What do you need? Take a moment, take right now and breathe.
1 – 2 -3 – 4
4 – 3 – 2 – 1
Do that as many times as you need. Look outside, let the natural world be a mirror for you right now. Slow down, release what you need to let go of and rest. Rest, recharge, refuel yourself, this movement isn’t going anywhere and it won’t be over anytime soon.
Enjoy the warm weather while it lasts. Remember rest, joy and self-care is revolutionary!
In this edition of the UPlift Black Voices Newsletter you’ll find Art, Project UPdates, Terms to Know, How We Got Here, Current Events, Book Recommendations, Important Dates, 2SLGBTQPNIA+ and UPlift Spotlight!
UPlift Black Art
For this volume of our newsletter we wanted to spotlight Caribbean women in the Toronto dance industry. We wanted to showcase the multiplicity of Black female artists. These three women are teachers, performers, choreographer’s, mentors and trailblazers in their own right. They have all had much success in their careers and it is beautiful to see that much of that success has come from championing Caribbean dance and Caribbean culture. And in the face of all of the stereotypes attributed either to women, women of colour, women of colour who are also dancers they have continued to push through and to be an example of resilience. Caribbean culture is all about celebration and community and these three ladies embody. Culture, knowledge and community.
There is much from these interviews to be shared at a later time but here are some gems from these powerful women.
The first is Cheyenne Chante.
Cheyenne began her dance journey at the age of 3 at York University, and later trained at Joanne Chapman School of Dance in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, modern, contemporary, and acro. At the age of 12 Cheyenne was featured in the motion film “Honey”, working with knockout choreographers Luther Brown and Laurie-Ann Gibson.
Cheyenne has competed all across the world in various dance competitions such as Dance Canada, JUMP, CAN Dance, Dance Masters of America, and American Showstopper Nationals where her acro group won the Teen National Championship title with “Our Prayer”. Cheyenne had completed numerous ballet exams in RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) in levels from Pre Primary to Advanced Foundation. Cheyenne received her B.A.T.D teaching certificate in stage at the age of 16. Cheyenne’s been given the opportunity to work with many choreographers such as; Luther Brown, Tabby “Rockstar” Donaldson, Jade “Hollywood” Anderson, Tasha “Tazz” Ricketts, Shavar Blackwood, and Leon Blackwood. Cheyenne continued her training in the industry with “Girls Club”, “Eye Candy”, and “Footnotes”.
With training and continuing to better herself as a dancer. Cheyenne continues to build herself and resume. Cheyenne is featured in the Netflix series “Self Made”. Most recently danced in the music videos of dancehall artist Sean Paul (Buss A Bubble) and Buju Banton (Trust). Cheyenne’s long term goals are to be a role model for her students, and to continue to learn and grow as a dancer and a choreographer.
Cheyenne Chante @cheyennechante
Q:What do you have to say about the stereo types cast onto dancehall and Caribbean dance forms and culture?
A: I think in the dancehall world there will always be stereotypes. In dancehall and hip hop but especially in dancehall. It can sometimes be deemed as in appropriate or too much. But this is a way for us to chant our freedom. To show the power of being an individual human being, regardless of gender…
With how polished and commercial the industry is trying to be, Dancehall comes across as too rugged but that is what makes it authentic. That is what makes it so organic. I think people need to have more of an open mind to dancehall. And we just need push through it and we need to knock on these doors…..and let ourselves in. It takes talent, athleticism, it takes courage and boldness just like I do when it comes to ballet or other styles.
The second is Tasha Tazz. A vet in the dancehall world.
Tasha was born to dance. As the former principal dancer for Blaze Entertainment (Canada’s premiere urban dance company), she was sought after by directors and choreographers alike. Tasha is not only an extraordinary dancer, but she also is a talented choreographer and artistic director. She has toured and performed alongside many of the world’s most recognized artists including: Sean Paul, Ciara, Shaggy, Flo Ryda, 50 Cent, Rolling Stones, Akon, Beenie Man, Jully Black, Fabolous, and Kardinal Offishall to name a few. With Tasha’s unique style, she has provided artistic direction for music videos, film, and live performances, working with artists and actors. Tasha accredits her choreographic style to the dancehall culture from her birthplace, the beautiful island of Jamaica. Tasha ’s choreography has put her in high demand in the overseas market, doing workshops in places such as Japan, New York, and Mexico. Her insight on the music and culture lead her to assist on the hit show So You Think You Can Dance Canada for two consecutive seasons. Tasha comes from a community center dancing background (Driftwood Community Center, Northwoods, and Rockcliff Rec program). If it wasn’t for those resources she wouldn’t be where she is now. Giving back to the community and reaching young children is a lifelong goal of hers.
Q: At this point in your career, being the veteran that you are. What do you feel is needed at this point in the Caribbean/dancehall community in Toronto?
A: I feel like I need more credible teachers. I feel like the credible teachers that are around get over shadowed by the hype that comes with social media. And I feel there is a lot of in fighting. I need more unity so that we can actually create a great bond and credible teachers can come from that unity.
The 3rd is Shakera Martin.
“Shakera Martin is a Canadian Movement Coach and Wellness Entrepreneur. Through her passion for dance, she has graced the stages of The Marilyn Denis Show, The Canadian Olympic Committee, the Toronto Marlies and more. She is the founder of Carnival Spice fitness and entertainment. Here aspiring artists of colour are welcomed to a platform where they can further develop their talents through Caribbean dance. Shakera and her team have been featured on CP24, CTV, Breakfast Television, and most recently Season 12 of the Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Q: What do you feel dance can do for the movement. Or what is the power that dance has in social/cultural change?
A: Dance has the power to shift the atmosphere. It welcomes participants from all sizes, styles and ethnicities. It unlocks emotional barriers needed for human connection. It can also positively impact the spirits of those responsible for social & cultural change.
There is much more that was said in these interviews that we could not do justice in one piece and we look forward to sharing more about these forces to be reckoned with in the near future.
Jessica ‘Lily’ Maharaj
Movement Artist| UPlift Black Project 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.
UPlift Black YouTube Channel
Did you hear UPlift Black has a YouTube channel?! Well you have now! Subscribe to our channel here, you can catch up on all the episodes of the Web Series. New episodes will be released soon, make sure to like, comment and share!
UPlift Black Merchandise
Have you got your UPlift Black Merch yet?! What are you waiting for?!? We have hoodies, t-shirts, toques, face masks and water bottles. Keep your eyes on the site, travel mugs coming soon! Get all your merch needs fulfilled here, supporting never looked so good!
The November/December run of Book Club will be Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer (Adults) and The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Youth). Sign up for book club here! Thank you to everyone who made our first run successful, we had fantastic insightful conversations in our virtual discussions!
Pay it Forward – The Good Food Boxes
Each month UPlift Black has the opportunity with the support of Urban Pantry Barrie to participate in the “Pay it Forward” Barrie Good Food Boxes. What does this mean? It means that every 3rd Wednesday of the month, based on availability, we have Good Food Boxes filled with fresh, high-quality, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The amount of boxes to give each month depends on donations that come from the community. If you and/or those within your household are members of the Black community in Barrie and Innisfil please register to receive a Good Food Box. Boxes will be given out on a first come, first serve basis – one box per family, every 6 months. Your privacy is important to us, all information remains confidential. We all deserve delicious fresh food, please fill out the form here to receive your box. To purchase a pay it forward box for UPlift Black visit www.barriegoodfoodbox.com.
Terms to Know
A wide range of different opinions, ideas, backgrounds, cultures, sexualities, genders, religions, or abilities. This list is not exhaustive. Diversity is an important aspect of any situation to consider, because more diverse workplaces and environments are far more productive and successful.
The idea that everyone should get what they need in order to be successful. This is not to be confused with equality, or the idea that everyone gets the same thing. A person who is able to walk does not need to use a wheelchair, so not everyone needs to be provided with one; however, in order to have an equitable environment, all people should be able to access all public spaces. If a person who can’t walk or has limited walking ability needs a wheelchair to access a space, they should have it in order to maintain equity.
Being invited to participate. This means that existing systems include people who weren’t included previously. For example, when Black womxn gained the right to vote, they were included in the decisions of the nation.
Often, the systems that people want to include marginalized people in have been created without them in mind. When we are included, the shoe doesn’t fit. In order to make a space that is suitable for everyone, the original system has to be deconstructed and then reconstructed in order to serve the community more appropriately for their needs. Abolition is a gradual process of replacement with more suitable systems.
How We Got Here
Next week, Canadians will unite to remember the sacrifices of members of its armed forces. As important as the date should be – those massive conflicts of the 20th Century are worth remembering – Remembrance Day all too often slips into a veneration of the nation. As an imagined entity, the nation is what we make of it and, since Remembrance Day features heavily in Canada’s image of itself, it is an important day to reckon with how we got here.
Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day in its previous iteration, dates to the cessation of the First World War. As most graduates of the public school system will know, that great cataclysm of 1914-1918 came to a halt – at least in Western Europe – on November 11th 1918. It was a war that took the lives of 67 000 Canadian men, but also saw the ostensible Birth of a Nation on the slopes of Vimy Ridge, where the Canadian contingent took a strategic point that augured well for Entente Forces in France. But what did this imagined nation look like? Who did it remember and empower?
It is worth remembering that the First World War was conceived from its outset as a White man’s war. Until 1915 non-white subjects of the British Empire were barred from joining the fight. It was only after the scale of the war became clear that Indigenous and Black subjects were actively recruited for service, predominantly as labourers. This aligned with prevailing scientific thought, which claimed that only those with white skin could undertake civilized warfare. It also stemmed from fears that armed Indigenous peoples and Africans might take lessons from fighting whites, turning their arms on their rulers. Of course, Indigenous and Black folks the world over would not get their due at the end of the war, with Imperialism emerging stronger after 1918.
At the state level, the war encouraged the Canadian state to play its distinct role on the world stage, somewhat apart from Britain. Internally, the period from 1914-1918 also saw the increased control of Indigenous peoples through the Department of Indian Affairs, and the confirmation of settler domain over the land (if there was still a question in this regard). As such, the First World War was as much about affirming the global colour line as it was maintaining the balance of power in Europe.
While Remembrance Day in recent years has made improvements in acknowledging the roles of Indigenous veterans and, to a much lesser extent, Black and Asian veterans in the World Wars, the celebration of the nation is still very much an assertion of white supremacy. Invoking the memory of Vimy Ridge and Dieppe, for example, without questioning the deep seated racism at the heart of the First World War asserts a simplistic story of national birth that underpins inequality.
So at 11am on November 11th, please do pause and observe the minute silence. It is an important acknowledgement of the tragedy of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. But also use the day to problematize the stories these days tell. It’s a solemn day and it is essential we do not let it slip into celebration.
The entire world, whether we like it or not, has honed in on the American election this week. While this referendum on white supremacy is still undecided, though headed in a favourable direction, there is not enough wood to knock on before a final result becomes clear.
Here in Canada, two racially motivated violent incidents went mostly under the radar this week. Barbara Kenter’s assailant, who threw a trailer hitch from a moving truck in a deliberate attempt to hurt someone, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, but not guilty to manslaughter in Thunder Bay this week. Meanwhile, one of the Theriault brothers who assaulted Dafonte Miller was sentenced to 9 months in prison, even as his brother walks free.
Brayden Bushby, Barbara Kentner’s murderer, will likely get off with a far lesser sentence than he deserves. Whether he is convicted of manslaughter or not, Indigenous folks have been rightly indignant that the Crown decided not to pursue murder charges. Eventually, this man will prowl the streets of Thunder Bay again, where Indigenous lives are constantly under threat.
Michael Theriault, a police officer, will serve a laughable 9 months in prison. Dafonte Miller will live the rest of his life without sight in one of his eyes. Christian Theriault, who was also involved in the assault, was acquitted on all charges. While there is some justice for Dafonte, the Canadian justice system is coming up short for marginalized folks once again.
These cases should be a reminder that while this country may not be as starkly divided as the United States, we do have a problem with racially motivated violence. Our narratives of Canada – that multicultural bastion contrasting its Southern neighbour – often makes it more difficult to acknowledge our current issues (even if we’re starting to reckon with our past). It is hard to imagine that we will have our own referendum on white supremacy in Canada, at least until enough white folk are willing to push the issue. It is far too easy to look at Trump and American politics for comfort, but we cannot let that distract from what’s happening at home.
- Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes
- Schomburg: The Man Who Built A Library by Eric Velasquez
- Miami Jackson Gets It Straight by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
- With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
- When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris
- The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore
Date: Friday November 6 at 6-7pm
Event: Community Vigil for Siem Zerezghi
Location: BWG Public Library, 425 Holland St W, Bradford, ON
Information reshared from @ileadyouthcentre
“Please Join us Friday November 6th, @6pm-7pm At the BWG library. This vigil is another opportunity for people in our community to come together to remember Siem Zerezghi, grieve, and support each other.
The vigil will include a prayer and a moment of silence for Siem, as well as speeches and drumming.
We welcome community members to bring candles for the vigil (battery-operated preferred).
COVID-19 Safety Precautions:
– Please adhere to 2 metre physical distancing.
– Please bring and wear your own mask. Limited disposable masks will be available.
– Please stay home if you are feeling unwell, show any COVID-19 symptoms, or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19.
We will attempt to live stream on the event page for those who cannot attend.
Organized by iLead Youth Centre, BWG Diversity Action Group, Bradford Women’s+ Group, Aurora Black Community, and caring community members.Community Vigil for Siem Zerezghi.”
Date: Saturday November 21st 12-4pm
Event: The [East End] Shop Local Market Christmas Edition
Location: Sonder Studio + Events 132 Penetang St, Barrie ON
Come visit us at our table alongside other local vendors! Get your hands on some UPlift Black merch while chatting with us to find out what we’re up to, plans for the coming year(s) and all the ways you can Share, Support and Show UP! See you there 🙂
Have any UPcoming Important Dates? Let us know, email us at email@example.com
2S stands for Two-Spirit!
This week, I reached out to one of my friends in order to get their perspective, journey, and understanding of two-spirit and indigeneity. Read below to get to know them!
Hello, my name is Eli, and my pronouns are they/them. I am a Two-spirit creative writer who enjoys spending time outside with my sister, or spending time reading and listening to music with my animals.
I grew up in the foster care system having the Children’s Aid Society deny my Indigenous heritage because of how pale my skin is. My journey to claiming my Indigenous heritage has been long in some respects, but easy in others. I’ve always been aware of my Mohawk ancestry, and would claim this off-handedly while growing up in a small town. It wasn’t until I moved to a bigger city that I really understood what claiming my identity meant. When I moved to the city, I started to go to an Indigenous doctor’s office, where I was able to meet Elders. Through that connection, I was able to truly begin my journey of reconnecting to a heritage and culture that was lost when I entered foster care and was no longer allowed to see my mother, (the person who passed down the heritage). It’s been a long three years of learning the history I never got to learn in school, and I’ve been blessed with the ability to create connections with other Indigenous professionals that have taken me under their wing, and allowed me to create a friendship with them.
When I first started to come to terms with my gender identity, I knew nothing of the term Two-spirit, and felt that the term nonbinary fit perfectly. It was through building a social media platform that I learned what Two-spirit was, but I still felt uncomfortable using the term when my skin is pale, and I don’t fit the stereotype of what an Indigenous person should look like. It was when I decided to go to therapy, that I was able to connect with a Two-spirit peer support person at my doctor’s office. It took five minutes of speaking with me, for them to tell me “I have no doubt in my heart that you are a Two-spirit individual.” Hearing those words come from someone so deeply connected to the culture made me feel more at peace with myself, and that is when I started to use the term. I’ve been using Two-spirit as my identification for two years now, and it has taken almost that long to build the right kind of relationship with my gender identity. One thing I’ve learned is that the meaning of the term will vary depending on who you speak with. For me, being Two-spirit means holding both a male and female spirit within my human vessel. I feel the connection to both parts of me, and I only feel home within myself when I remember to acknowledge both parts. I’ve only recently started to use they/them pronouns, because it allowed me to feel a closer connection within myself. Gender is a spectrum, and it needs to be respected regardless of whether someone agrees with it or not. I usually tell people that they don’t need to understand me or my identity, but they do need to respect that I will be 100% unapologetically myself.
I feel a stronger connection to my Mohawk heritage now that I’ve been able to learn the things that have happened to the Indigenous peoples in Canada. When I first started to claim the identity as an adult, people would shame me for it because in their minds I was white, and nothing else. I struggled extremely hard to find my place within the community, because I was afraid that I’d be turned away for being too pale. I still feel out of place a lot of the time, I feel like I don’t count, and I hate that feeling. This is the identity I’ve claimed for most of my life, and it’s something I’ve clung to despite everything else in my life changing because of foster care. I never knew who I was growing up. I didn’t realize I was bisexual until I was 16, came out as pansexual when I was 18 because I felt that label fit better. I had to come out to my dad again, this time as nonbinary when I was 20 years old, and then came out again as Two-spirit at 21. The only thing about my identity that’s been consistent throughout my life was being Mohawk.
I began my journey with beading a year ago in January 2019 while learning to bead a loom bracelet. It wasn’t until January of 2020, that I made my first pair of earrings. They weren’t great, but I felt so happy and at peace while beading. In February, I made my second pair, and in that moment, I knew that it was a craft that I wanted to continue with. Once the pandemic hit, and I was out of work, I decided to begin making more earrings, trying different styles, and see what I could accomplish. I’ve taught myself three different styles of earrings to bead, and I will spend upwards of five hours working on a pair depending on the type of earrings they are. I know beading is a strong part of Indigenous culture, and it’s allowed me to continue my healing journey from the trauma of my childhood. I began selling my creations after I had to spend all my service dog fund on an emergency vet visit for my cat. The proceeds from beading is going towards being able to afford a service dog for myself so that I can take the next step in my healing process. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made with beading, and I love that I can combine it with creating things related to the LGBTQ2S community. When I can bring the intersections of my identity together, it makes me extremely happy.
Christopher Fee – 2SLGBTQPNIA+ Coordinator
What it’s like running a GSA in a small community.
To run a GSA* in a small yet diverse community is like trying to run a 100-metre race in 4-inch tall high heels: You can definitely reach your goal, but it won’t be easy. The community in question is made up of recent immigrants and 4th generation citizens, incredibly homophobic people and incredibly accepting people, and students from hundreds of different cultural & moral backgrounds. In this concrete jungle, the GSA faces microaggressions and dirty looks aplenty. On the other side, we have raised pride flags and rainbow stickers on every laptop in sight. Compared to the big cities, how do our smaller communities differ?
The GSA tends to be one of the more background clubs, with limited day-to-day attention or student engagement. There are a few occasions during a normal year where the GSA is front and center – most obviously Purple Day and Pride Week. We set up our booth in the school’s main foyer, and people flock to play our games and paint their nails. Pulled by the idea of free stickers and prizes, even those who would normally avoid our meetings and smaller events bring their friends to the booth during a free period. These little bribes seem to work quite well. In the weeks after a big event like these, our rainbow heart stickers can be spotted on phones and lockers all around the school, much to the dismay of the cleaning staff. They’ve become a symbol of the normalization of our community. A little bit of food for thought is the difference in how each grade responds to these little stickers.
Each grade has a different attitude towards the GSA, but things change with every batch. Recently, the lower grade will typically avoid the GSA at all costs, which isn’t surprising considering most come from schools without a prominent queer community. This is where the freshmen get acclimatized to the normalcy of the LGBTQ+ community and their presence around the school. Pretty soon they forgo their preconceived notions of the flamboyant group of rainbow flamingos they once thought our community to be, and grow to subconsciously accept seeing the pride flag on the flagpole every June, which they’d previously ignore. The older students are accustomed to the GSA, and will occasionally attend one or two large meetings and participate in the events hosted year-round. They’ve already moved past that initial hurdle of experiencing high school culture, and therefore are more likely to dress up during pride week and support the club.
No matter where you are, people will always respond differently to queer people and their spaces. The availability of these spaces is what really matters. Whether club posters are ripped from the walls or not, whether rumours spread faster than a Californian wildfire or not, GSAs are here for those 2SLGBTQ+ kids that need it most.
*GSA – Gay-Straight Alliance, also now referred to as Gender-Sexuality Alliance or Queer-Straight Alliance
**Thank you and congrats to Tia for being UPlift Black’s very first youth submission piece!!**
Hearts of Gems
Hearts of Gems “is a children’s apparel brand that represents diversity, equality, kindness, and optimism. We believe it’s never too early for children to express themselves through fashion or start learning how to spread positivity and inclusion. The pieces are meant to spark conversations with our children about tough but important topics like race, self-love, compassion, and more.” Hearts of Gems is based in Bradford, ON offering various sizes between baby up to age 12. For more information and to shop visit their website heartsofgems.com, make sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram @Heartsofgems
Discount Granite Plus
Discount Granite Plus located at 756 Huronia Rd., Unit 1, Barrie, ON offers beautiful stone countertop or surface for less with a completely transparent process. As fabricators they build your stone projects at their site, offering templating, custom fabrication and installation services. To view products and get more information visit their website discountgraniteplus.com. Don’t forget to follow and like them on Instagram and Facebook.
Do you know a Black individual or a Black Owned Business that should be Spotlighted? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.