Colten was a 22 year old man who was murdered on Tuesday, August 9. He was out for the day with friends. On the way back home they got a flat tire. They drove down a farmer’s lane to get help. They chose the wrong farm. While sitting in the back of the car Colten was shot by the farmer whose laneway they drove down. In one article I read the farmer’s wife was reported as saying “that’s what you get for trespassing” to the surviving friends.
Last week the farmer, charged with second degree murder, pleaded not guilty and was let out on $10,000 bail.
After Colten’s murder was released in the news social media was full of people posting in support of the farmer, Gerald Stanley.
1 person posted “In my mind his only mistake was leaving 3 witnesses.” That person was Ben Kautz. Kautz is (was) a councillor for Regina. He was not fired for his post that advocated for the death of 3 people. Rather, he “offered to resign” after social media responses to his post put pressure on him. Kautz’s wife was reported as saying “My husband removed his comment. I wish we could just leave it at that.”
Kautz himself said “It was a stupid thing to say. It wasn’t serious, (but) the damage is done. I’ve got to live with it.”
Why the callousness and such disregard for the lives of these young people as well as lack of grace for what the mourning family, friends and community of Colten’s must be going through? Because Colten was from Red Pheasant First Nation. Colten, as an Indigenous male, was in the wrong place at the wrong time looking for help from a bigot.
Another city councillor was reported saying about Kautz’s comments ““I think everybody says something sometimes that they regret 10 seconds after. I don’t think you’re human if you haven’t.”
Equating hate speech as something we all do? Only people with bad hearts say things like this and don’t consider the weight, the impact and the hurt those words have.
I have been in arguments with people that say Canada isn’t racist. I have had one person concede that that racism is well – “benign racism.” I am not really sure what that means as racism is never benign. Maybe it means that if that person doesn’t have a weapon that the person on the receiving end of the racism won’t be injured or even worse killed, that racism in Canada is different because the gun laws here differ from the States? Maybe Gerald Stanley’s Canadian brand of benign racism might have had different results if he wasn’t holding a gun that he felt justification for shooting because they were on his “property.”
I’ve tried to write this post many times. Every time another man or woman is killed by the police and the news comes up on my feed. Another friend, usually a Black friend, sharing, yet again, a sickening story.
I am going to try and write about how it makes me feel as someone who isn’t black but has loved ones who are. I am going to breakdown what happens to my body – the taste of fear that starts to hit the back of my mouth, the hot tingling that runs from my feet up my spine. My mind goes to a place that I can’t explain, it’s primal, and my ability to offer myself some sort of logic ceases. Even inside my own head there here is no passage out. I stop thinking and my body takes over. I panic wondering how the hell I am going to protect my loved ones.
What if they have a moment where they are pushed too far and that tension breaks costing them their life? Will others be around to intervene on their behalf? As we have already seen that often doesn’t even matter.
That’s my body’s reaction. And so what is the reaction of the parents, wives, husbands, and children who find out, that at the hands of someone whose job is to serve and protect, their loved one’s life has been taken? Their bodies must sink into a spot they will never fully recover from. And if they are Black themselves, they have to continue to go out into a world that has proven it’s hostile. There is no way they can reconcile this. Not everything happens for a reason and has a silver lining if you just look hard enough. Things happen because there are systems in place that allow for racism to continue despite the fact that slavery, in North America, has legally ended. Things aren’t in the past because the mechanisms, social structures and economic drivers that positioned slavery as acceptable are still in place.
Andrew Loku. The most heartbreaking thing I read was a friend of Andrew’s who cried out that he survived war in Sudan to be killed by police in Canada.
It’s happening here folks. Close to home.
Do you have someone in your family who is Black? What about your favourite teacher? Or your high school sweetheart? A good friend, your dentist, your therapist, the great neighbours you grew up beside? If these people matter to you what will you do to protect them?
I brought my body to the Black Lives Matter Toronto Die-in for Eric Garner back in December. And who did I see there? Black people.
For all the talk of how Multicultural our society is and for all the families I see that are multi-racial I wondered where were all the people whose cousins are Black, whose friend or lover or business partner is Black? Where were all the people who don’t have to carry skin colour as a burden? Why aren’t they here to help share lighten that burden for the people they care for?
How does this craziness end? By non-Black bodies saying enough – by standing their embodied with a physical presence in the moment to say I am here committed to this cause. Let those being targeted know that you get it that there is a hatred for Black bodies and that even in saying BLACK BODIES it allows a way for us to distance ourselves. Yes, all lives matter but at this time Black Lives are the ones at risk. So what are you going to do?
Because I want you to help protect my loved ones. I want you to help be the buffer that creates a circle of safety around the people I care about who need to be protected.
I want you to show up to Black LIves Matter events because when everyone shows up, not just those who are targeted, that will be how we change this thing.
This just came through my feed:
“For all you crying about this damn lion while it’s open season on black people but remain silent… I see you.” ~ Dayna Danger
Don’t be that person.
#BlackLivesMatter Tonight in Ottawa
Friday, July 21 at 8:22 pm
Vigil for Sandra Bland
More info on the Facebook Event Page
Looking at the typography of a city through an Indigenous lens can fracture what we think we know. Chorography is the act of “describing or mapping a region.” The chorography of our cities effectively maps multiculturalism but underneath the Little Italys and Chinatowns original place markers have been trampled under the foot of many a newcomer.
Recent headlines have pointed to Winnipeg as being one of the most racist cities in Canada. For the urban Indigenous population in Winnipeg the city, whose name is derived from the Cree word win-nipi, is marked with anxiety. Marvin Francis was a playwright, author, visual artist and poet from Heart Lake First Nation and his experience of living on the “Urban Rez,” as he referred to Winnipeg, formed itself into a book titled City Treaty: a long Poem.
I was being followed
so I took my usual back alley route
trash can trails
make ’em get their feet dirty
but it was no use
you cannot shake a clown
that mask sees all
we begin the treaty project
we needed money we wrote
on the back maize flake boxes expensive
knows ever since sky ripples
mingles clown city native
write new treaty cost heap big money
the clown surveys post/city/modern/after treaty/after
lawyer = life
finds the reality:
As a teenager, moving off his reserve to the city, Marvin developed a complex relationship with Winnipeg.
“The urban Aboriginal experience is dependent upon the circumstances of the individual, and speaking in general terms is always dangerous, but I think it is a fair statement that, for the average Native who comes from the Rez, the city contains a spectrum that ranges from new possibilities to that social monster, crack.” Read more…
It’s hard to know where you are standing when the original place markers become impossible to find. But they are still there for those who are tenacious enough to search. Sometimes names hint at the histories that lay just below the surface of maps made for our ‘modern’ times.
tkaronto (Kanien’kehake), onitariio (Wyandot)
Where the trees are standing in the water, the beautiful lake
Counter-mapping is a term used to refer to the intentional use of mapping methodology and technology such as GIS, cartography and geomatics to make visible how dominant power systems have used maps as a way to assert control over territories often for the purpose of resource extraction and/or settlement.
Beyond the legal applications counter-mapping combined with visual ways of expressing space are being used by artists as a way of marking places with counter-narratives.
Sarah Yankoo “is Algonquin, Irish, Hungarian, Romanian and Scottish and edge walks between the bush and the city that gathers in Toronto.” While in York University‘s Environmental Studies program she discovered the poetry of Marvin Francis in a class titled Indigenous Literature, Survival and Sovereignty and for her, the earth moved. Her response was to become one of the tenacious ones who seeks to uncover what some have tried to make us forget. Her photographic work is about creating an image bank demonstrating that in urban spaces a counter-mapping movement is taking place – graffiti tagging, arts activism, and even random formations seem to be giving us a message.
In underpasses, subway stairs and skyscrapers Sarah finds markers that signify we may be at the moment before a seismic shift is about to go down. The ‘Urban Rez’, as Indigenous populations explode, can become a place of renewal and a city, like Toronto / Tkaronto is capable of flexing intuitively – as though it remembers. The shape of the map may not be changing, but the rigid borders of colonial mindsets shift to create a dynamic that will forever change the emotional contours of a city.
Top image of Haida artist Corey Bulpitt’s mural. Bottom image Métis symbol replicates on subway stairs. Both by Sarah Yankoo.
Sarah has also found a way to continue the work that Marvin started by “writing her own treaty poems while exploring the piece [City Treaty] as an installation work and political engagement piece.” For the University of British Columbia’s exhibit Claiming Space: Voices of Aboriginal Youth at the Museum of Anthropology she contributed City Treaty Manuscript. (view City Treaty Manuscript image above)
“Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth looks at the diverse ways urban Aboriginal youth are asserting their identity and affirming their relationship to both urban spaces and ancestral territories.” Read more…
KIMIWAN ‘ZINE‘s SIXXX edition featured Sarah’s treaty poem push that bush as well as her work titled your X mark (pictured below)
KIMIWAN ‘ZINE is a quarterly publication that showcases words + art from emerging + established Indigenous, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit writers + artists. Kimiwan is independently published by a collective of Indigenous artists, writers, students + community members.
Kimiwan was started by Joi T. Arcand and Mika Lafond in summer of 2012.”
Top image X marks an urban spot. Bottom image peace and moccasins. Both images by Sarah Yankoo.
The Revolution will be Indigenized.
Marvin, who passed away in 2005, wrote of Toronto:
“Winnipeg, with its high Aboriginal population, is one place where you can walk downtown and meet other Aboriginals. Regina is like that, too, but a city like Calgary or Toronto has few Aboriginals visible downtown.”
In Toronto First Nations, Métis or Inuit populations can become invisible, absorbed into the multicultural mix but as the city becomes more inquisitive about Indigenous histories and contemporary realities after the earth moved during Idle No More, the Toronto of Marvin’s recollection is rapidly changing. A growing Indigenous presence comprised of artists, activists and academics is drafting a new city treaty with their work. This isn’t just taking place behind the institutional walls of universities and museums – their work spills out into the streets.
During the summer of 2013 Ryerson professor Hayden King (Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchimnissing) along with artist and educator Susan Blight (Anishinaabe from Couchiching First Nation) embarked on an intervention under the name Ogimaa Mikana (Leader’s Trail in Anishinaabemewin). In different locations in downtown Toronto street signs and memorial plaques were subtly counter-mapped by placing Indigenous names and text over the ones put in place by the operating Governments of Canada. Spadina was changed to Ishpadinaa and a plaque was covered at Queen’s Park with the words:
With round dances taking place inside shopping malls and pow wows outside on University campuses even the rhythm of the city has changed.
Sarah also uses music as a way to infuse urban streets with Indigenous vibrations. She makes mouth bows out of branches she searches for when out in the bush. Inspired by the music of Buffy Sainte-Marie as well as A Tribe Called Red she also performs and is often remixing the recordings of her mouth bow on her iPad.
This coming Saturday she will performing alongside Skookum Sound System for Native Women in the Arts Catalyst Series hosted with the BOLD As Love Collective at the Musical Gallery, Toronto. Collectives like BOLD As Love, with their spoken word and musical performances, showcase the plurality of Indigenous voices fleshing out a deeper meaning of diversity.
The words of our lost languages have hidden meaning And while business talks a level playing field Native landscapes can contain asphalt back onto our feet As the land itself invents our soundscape (read Sarah’s full treaty poem Edgewalker Remix below)
Counter-mapping and marking alternate meanings into the urban space becomes a therapeutic act. Time to dig down into the bedrock to excavate those solutions.
We all walk these edges uncertain
On border slippery
Between dirt poor
And filthy rich
Between the bush and city
Between sandy hot beach laughter
& heart breaking tears crying in the snow
We point out the edges that cut off our mind
Invisible borders stronger than barbed wire
Cement our paths to our edge walking ways
To lost children
& a Trail of Beers
When all you really want is to do is just go home
Play in a garden where pedals do not bite
Where the fingers fold in prayer
Where the smile heals eyes
Burnt by too much evening
For the young
& The old experienced love that still dares
The smoke is white and the crackle is electric
So pull your thoughts of others from history into today
And we all emerge from
Actual treaty lines
into the native-aboriginal- First Nation- last chance Indian status- cuz you went
trapping that day universe
The words of our lost languages have hidden meaning
And while business talks a level playing field
Native landscapes can contain asphalt back onto our feet
As the land itself invents our soundscape
What words describe agony of kids torn away
Language ILL legal
Of a circle of a people with their hearts in the fire
spirits in the electric smoke
& Minds in the crackle with knowledge for
To those treaties smouldering and collecting our dust
To loop the difference in times zoned
Flash present to a disguise that fools nobody’s god
Flash back again and again over and under and through the flashing
To the territory as large as the land itself
Reach the borders and the sounds that fit the land contours
And while the rivers wash from the inside and the prairie undulates from the Canadian
Shield up one side of the Rockies and down the Mackenzie. Remember there is no
linear in the bush, and the city only thinks it does. so you can finally figure out that the
land is owned only by our children and never by us
Argue/bitch/question/probe/tear apart/challenge/discuss until everyone is sick of it
Then do it again
For you must remember what the people went through
Above images of Sarah Yankoo by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sarah is rocking a jacket by Toronto based Dene designer Sage Paul and boots by Métis owned company Manitobah Mukluks. You can support Indigenous designers by signing a petition against DSquared’s #DSquaw collection from Milan Fashion Week at Change.org. The petition asks that Dan and Dean Caten apologize for their actions and as Canadians donate the profits from their collection to an organization that supports the rights of Indigenous women here in Canada. Click here to sign.
Listen to Sage Paul speak on the issue to Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway here.
In the wake of Michael Brown’s murder the world needs words of grace as an antidote to the hate.
The first time I heard Jamaal Jackson Rogers (Just Jamaal) was while I was busy waiting for a bus. His words made me pause, maybe even let a bus or two go by, because they were too beautiful to ignore. A crowd gathered and stayed in place. More people stopped and stood still. Magic.
People may think they ‘know’ someone based on a quick assessment while sizing up clothing, body language and skin colour.
The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown twitter campaign is about demonstrating that you may not get the full picture of another human being in one quick glance, especially if that glance is informed by racism and media who continue to hype stereotypes and feed the beast.
Below I include Jamaal’s photographic choices for #IfTheyGunnedMeDown along with the first words I heard drop from his lips, mesmerize a crowd and inspire a gathering of souls. I have also included Jamaal’s poem to his young nephew, his own words in response to the slaying of Michael Brown.
Left – Jamaal performs. Right – Jamaal puts his arm around his late mother.
BE by Jamaal Jackson Rogers / Ali Alikhani / Nathanael Larochette
You are told in so many subtle and discrete ways that you are not worthy of love, of joy, and after a while, you begin to believe it
And you tell yourself that you are not worthy of being loved, of living each moment on the cusp of joy, and the brink of possibility
That you are worth more than a sea of diamonds or any earthly treasure
That you are worthy of love
Of being loved
Copiously and unapologetically
You are the flowerbed, love is the water, so drink, and dance and sing
For you are the only being in the history of existence to have traveled your uniquely specific journey
No other soul has, or will ever experience what you have
When the universe opened its eyes, it made every effort to save a sacred spiritual voyage it was certain only you could navigate
From birth canal to a canvas you came to be
Like the thickness of earth-green oil pastels on a white blanket
Marking the world with marvelous strokes that hold no mistakes
Because every stroke and every pose that you chose is an act of faith
Like a child colouring their dreams into existence
To create understanding through the precision of persistence
In that first cosmic breath, a microscopic adventure of galactic proportions began
And in this world of consequences and physics, smoke and magic
You are walking, talking mirrors
Majestic reflections that do not need the power of the sun to illuminate perfection
So flow strong, but flow light
And bathe in the beauty of a new day
Tomorrow is a breathe away so inhale each moment
Come home, but come whole
Be the place where mind, matter and spirit become grown
Truth is the only existence. Love, the only power
Because love can only exist in truth
For truth is inarguable
As love is infallible
For you are impeccable
As life is invaluable
So be the drops that make up the crest of ocean waves
Be the blessing of shade in the sun’s hopeful rays
Be the words to the greatest story ever told
On the scale of infinity, be the impossible notes
Be the light immeasurable
Be the endless fields of pre-eternity tasting this one moment of now
Be the breath
Abandon all limitations of being
For they are of your own weaving
Explore every crevice that is your very own chasm of opportunity
And be in awe when at last you discover
That this life was tailored to suit you alone
And no other
And even if you forget that all of this is true
I will always remember
To say this prayer
NEW POEM ONE DAY ISHMAEL | August 12. 2014 by Jamaal Jackson Rogers
As the children flooded my home to play.
Right before it began to rain. I had a moment.
It was with my nephew.
He looked at me.
With his busted lip from taking a trip in soccer.
I asked him how it happened.
Just to hear his kind voice speak.
A sound I don’t hear much of in the world anymore.
And he told me.
He fell down trying to trap a ball.
At his other uncles house around the way.
I looked into his gentle eyes.
And he stared right back.
The way only he does.
I didn’t respond.
Cus his eyes trapped me.
With much more success than his failed attempt.
I swear to you he is the sweetest child.
And his parents are just as good.
But in that moment.
The moment I had taken to break from reading news about the murder of #MikeBrown.
The moment I had taken to engage my home full of beautiful brown skinned children.
I realized that.
For all the kindness that is part of my teaching.
In my safe space.
In my home day care.
Will still grow up victims.
Targets of rage.
For the colour of their skin.
The simple fact of melanin difference.
And for the first time. In my peaceful home.
I felt as if it had been invaded.
By an evil so frightening that it could destroy my faith in humanity completely.
I knew that there would be no place for him to run away.
No safe space for him to find peaceful stay.
His eyes told me more than I hoped for.
It told me that one day he may not come to my house with a busted lip from playing soccer.
He may lie in front of this house with a busted lip from running into coppers.
I looked at him.
And then at the picture of a slain young man on my newsfeed.
I closed the computer doors so that he could not see the image on my screen.
And all I could say was, “Ishmael, you’re going to be okay.”
Another young black man shot, Ferguson, Missouri, America, home of the free.
This post is about the love of my life, my nephew, and my fears for him as his aunt. My nephew and I don’t have the same colour of skin. His DNA is the sum total of multiple ethnicities but he will grow up to viewed as a Black Man. His cousins, those who are “mixed race,” may not be viewed the same. His pigmentation gives him away though. As a grandson of Jamaican immigrants it is an unspoken fact that part of his genetic makeup has come from ancestors brought to the Caribbean, from long established nations in Africa, as slaves.
Last year, as the Travyon Martinverdict came out, this little soul, that I love so deeply, moved to America. He is far from me. Although I know he has good and loving parents I wonder how much they can protect him if he is to grow up in a place that is hostile to young black men.
I wonder how having to be ever-conscious of his skin colour will change him psychologically – even spiritually. He can’t hope or dream the same way a white boy can. Or even the same way a boy, whose physical appearance is less contentious with dominant culture, can. How is that ‘passing for white’ is still necessary as a social strategy to ensure that you won’t be the one targeted?
In urban centres like Toronto we have entered a time where several generations of racial / ethnic mixing has occurred. Children with a daddy who is white and a mommy who is black or any other combination are no longer visual anomalies. We take it for granted and forget that in my parents’ lifetime, in parts of America, interracial marriage was illegal. In my own lifetime apartheid existed in South Africa and in this lifetime I witnessed it being dismantled. Change was a long time coming but when it did interracial marriages happened fast. You can almost believe racism, like making mixed marriages illegal, is a thing of the past.
Until you read the news. Another black boy murdered. Another body upon which violence seemed like an acceptable, justifiable, even heroic act. Here in Canada, in Toronto, we have a city leader who feels using racially charged language is an acceptable form of humour.
I haven’t found anything out there that talks about how multi-racial families deal with the reality that within a family some individuals will face discrimination – discrimination that can even lead to their death.
And with children, speaking about life lessons becomes complex and fraught with anxiety. It’s just not going to be the same game for everyone. And how do we ensure that some family members are not acting, even subtly, with racialized behaviour?
The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown twitter campaign is reaction to the image the media chose to use for Michael Brown. The images that were selected pander to white fear – ‘the kid looked thuggish.’ In the social media campaign people tweet the image they think would be used if they were gunned down by cops and pair it with another image of themselves in service with their uniform on, graduating from college, happy poses with their family, etc.
For young white boys, the clothing they chose to wear and their choices of hand gestures in photographs may only be viewed, at worst, as a typical teenage phase they are going through. For young black men, clothing choices and body language become an indicator of criminality – a justification for murder.
After the Travyon Martin tragedy I started to notice that I watched my nephew more closely. How is he being socialized? What traits in his personality are becoming more pronounced? Will those traits put him at risk? What about the way he walks, the music he likes, his lifestyle choices? What if one day he makes the wrong choice?
Not only do I not know how to protect him from this I don’t know how to talk to him about this. As he grows into a man I may not have the right words.
I dread a future moment when I have to say to him that where he lives white men can make mistakes but he, being ‘Black’, can’t.
Change can’t come soon enough.
RECOMMENDED RESOURCES ON RACE & BLACK MASCULINITY:
Black Girl Dangerous “Black Girl Dangerous is the brainchild of writer Mia McKenzie. What started out as a scream of anguish has evolved into a multi-faceted forum for expression. Black Girl Dangerous seeks to, in as many ways possible, amplify the voices, experiences and expressions of queer and trans* people of color.”
Colorlines “Colorlines is a daily news site where race matters, featuring award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis. Colorlines is published by Race Forward, a national organization that advances racial justice through research, media and practice. Colorlines is produced by a multiracial team of writers who cover stories from the perspective of community, rather than through the lens of power brokers.”