School – to – Prison Pipeline

illustration of the school to prison pipeline complex

How does the education system and the school-to-prison pipeline contribute to the over representation of black people in the Criminal Justice system?

by Chinwe Nwebube

The school to prison pipeline is a term used to describe the push of students out of schools and into prisons and represents a failure in our current education system. Black students are disciplined more harshly and often achieve lower marks due to disparities in teaching and treatment. Therefore, the school to prison pipeline can be considered a leading factor in the overrepresentation of black folks within the prison system. At its core, the school to prison pipeline is a result of the education system’s inability to meet the needs of its students. Specifically, the presence of anti-black racism in the education system has resulted in the large flow of the pipeline. Anti-black racism is global, insidious, and pervasive. It is the hate and fear of black people which in turn, drives national politics. This increases the representation of black people in prisons. Due to a system that is fundamentally driven by the dehumanization and exploitation of black bodies, there is a lack of effective and unbiased systems within the school. Ultimately there is a disparity between the degree of discipline between white and black students. A school system rooted in anti-black racism, discriminatory discipline and discrepancies in quality of education are factors that will be further examined in order to understand the role the pipeline plays in moving black youth directly to juvenile facilities and prisons.

School System Rooted in Anti-Black Racism

Critical race theory states that racism is a “normal and ingrained feature of our landscape” because racial privilege and related oppression are deeply established from both our history and our law (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). The legal formation of race has produced systemic economic, political and social advantages for whites (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). The abolition of slavery did not abolish the hidden racism in the law, but rather, created new methods of redirecting the law in favor of whites (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008).

The ideal instructor in society is one that has the ability to teach without bias or influence from the educational systems; One that would provide equal and substantial instruction to all students. Evidently this is not the case, as societal hierarchies and power dynamics based on race play too strong of an influence. The majority of instructors today in the United States are white women. These instructors often enter the education system with preconceived notions regarding students of colour and of low socioeconomic status (Irizarry 2010). Their curriculum reflects this idea and reinforces these stereotypical identities rather than challenge concepts of discrimination and oppression (Irizarry 2010). Due to this traditional Western mindset, many teachers are aversively racist. Aversive racists claim that they do not hold prejudice based on race however subconsciously feel unease towards people of colour (Irizarry 2010). Since instructors are unaware of their ineffectiveness in the classroom, it is difficult for change to occur in these institutions. The products of aversive racism in the classroom are disparities in the discipline and teaching of white students compared to students of colour.

Discriminatory Discipline

The school to prison pipeline flows in one direction. When black students are involved in the criminal justice system, it is difficult for them to re-enter the education system. There are policies set in place that encourage police presence at schools as well as harsher tactics, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions (Teaching Tolerance 2015). These “tough on crime” policies are large contributors to the flow of the pipeline (Teaching Tolerance 2015). Studies show that African Americans have a higher chance of suspension, expulsion and arrest than white students (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). Black students only make up 16% of the overall juvenile population in the United States yet make up 45% of juvenile arrests (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). When students of colour and white students commit the same offence, students of colour have a higher chance of being suspended, expelled or arrested for committing the same act (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). For example, in 2006 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Native American students claiming discriminatory discipline towards these groups of students (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). They alleged that it is was three times more likely for a Native American student to be suspended and twelve times more likely for them to be reported to the police, than a white student (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). The ACLU found many instances in which discriminatory discipline occurred (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). For example, a Native American student was arrested for putting a white student in a headlock and stating “he would break his neck”. However, a white student told a Native American girl that he wanted to “kill Indians” and see her “blood all over” and was not arrested (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). In another example, regarding the case of Sherpall v. Humnoke School District No. 5, the federal court found that the Arkansas school district discipline system was racially discriminatory (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). Teachers in Arkansas referred to black students as “niggers”, “blue gums”, and “coons” (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). It has been argued that higher rates of expulsions for students of colour may correlate to high rates of bad behaviour in school (Skiba et al. 2002). If so, the disparity in punishments would not be of racial bias (Skiba et al. 2002). Since there have been no such studies investigating this theory, one cannot argue that high rates of disruptive behaviour is valid reasoning for the disproportionality in punishments (Skiba et al. 2002).

The aversive racists placed in a teaching position, though subconscious, feel unease towards students of colour. These teachers have preconceived notions of blackness being threatening and dangerous due to an inherent fear of black people. This has been reinforced through a singular narrative that describes a monolithic black experience. They have a deep rooted fear of black students: a result of our country being built on the foundation of anti-black racism. In order to eliminate the threat of black students in the school permanently, they are lead into prisons by any means possible. As previously discussed, this includes more tough-on-crime policies and harsher disciplinary action. The close surveillance of poor black neighborhoods by police is a strategic way to target these communities and schools. As a result of white supremacy, black folks live in conditions that have made them more vulnerable to criminal activity and arrest. Discriminatory discipline can be considered a leading contributor to the school to prison pipeline ultimately resulting in a higher incarceration rate of black individuals. Discriminatory discipline is only a factor because of the creation of aversive racists due to an anti-black racist rooted education system. If anti-black racism could be eliminated from the education system, it is possible to greatly decrease the overall flow of the pipeline.

Discrepancies in Quality of Education

Higher incarceration rates are a combination of “tough-on-crime” policies in the criminal justice system and a lack of quality education that provides needed skill for employment (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Hirschi’s control theory states that society is a set of institutions that act to control and regulate rule-breaking behaviour (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). If an individual is bonded to society and conventional activities, they will not engage in crime (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). People abide by the law because they are tied to conventional society by social bonds; Social bonds are the degree to which an individual is integrated into the ideals and social ties of the community (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). The weaker the social bonds, the more likely an individual is to engage in crime (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). The lack of involvement in conventional activities results in a higher chance of crime participation (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). Unemployment due to a lack of education will decrease the degree to which an individual is involved in these conventional activities (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). As a result, one is more likely to engage or be exposed to criminal activity (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). Studies have shown that schools with large populations of black students have fewer resources than schools serving mostly white students (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Minority students are often segregated within schools and are targeted more as a result (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Many of these schools are so overpopulated that they have a more complex schedule that shortens school days and school years (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Exclusion from the classroom disrupts the student education and removes them from a structured environment, which can increase the likelihood for deviant behaviour (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). The most unequal education system lies in the United States as it provides students with significantly different learning opportunities based on social status (Hammond-Darling 2005). For example, Goudy Elementary School in Chicago which served mainly African American students, used fifteen-year-old textbooks, did not have any science labs, art or music teachers, and had two working bathrooms for 700 students (Hammond-Darling 2005). In the neighbouring town of New Tier that is 98% white, they provided its high school students with superior labs, up to date technology, multiple gyms and an Olympic pool (Hammond-Darling 2005). Also in 2001, students in California’s most segregated minority school were five times more likely to have under qualified teachers than those in predominantly white schools (Hammond-Darling 2005). Attention to these systematic differences is vital to improve the overall education system. If people do not recognize that students have different realities based on their social status, policies will continue to be created on the notion that it is the students, not the school circumstances that are the root of the unequal education.

White supremacy is the belief that white people should control society due to the belief that they are superior to all races. It is critical to also note that this belief of superiority is upheld by different systems of oppression such as patriarchy, capitalism and heteronormativity1. As mentioned previously, racial privilege and related oppression are ingrained features of our history and therefore are ingrained features of our present. White people dominating our society includes them dominating our education system.

1. A worldview that promotes heterosexuality as normal or preferred sexual orientation. The way in which gender and sexuality are separated categories based on a hierarchy.   

As a result, it is predestined that whites should have a better education than all other races. This includes better teachers, teaching facilities and materials. Education lays the foundation for the direction of people’s lives; it is necessary for social, political and economic participation. Since the system is created in order for white people to have the best education, they are technically the only race “fit” to participate in society. That leaves the rest, namely the black population, uneducated and therefore unable to participate. With this criteria, only one system is deemed “appropriate” for black individuals to contribute to: the prison system.

The school to prison pipeline is a main contributor to the over-representation of black people in the prison system. There is a discrepancy between the degree of discipline and quality of education between white and black students. Programs are being put in place in order to abolish the structure of the education system. For example, the Cradle to Prisons Pipeline is a campaign to reduce detention and incarceration by increasing support and services that are a necessity for children (Children’s Defense Fund 2015). This includes access to quality early childhood development, education services and accessible health and mental health programs (Children’s Defense Fund 2015). The Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC) also aims to dismantle the pipeline through education by expanding programs like Freedom Schools designed for black students (Children’s Defense Fund 2015). The Black Lives Matter movement also inspires communities to fight against the school to prison pipeline as an example of structural racism (Rethinking Schools 2015). When oppressive power structures that are structural and institutionalized are ignored, the over representation of black people in prisons is normalized (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). When the law ignores racism, black people continue to be abused, manipulated and exploited while the structural persistence of racism is ignored (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). In society it is important that we aim to establish equity as opposed to equality. Equality disregards power dynamics that are prevalent in society (ie. white supremacy, anti-black racism, etc.) and seeks to treat everybody the same. We must learn to recognize and navigate through these relationships. Ultimately the school to prison pipeline is rooted in anti-black racism. This must be fully addressed and eradicated to fix the system permanently.

References

Brewer, Rose M., and Nancy A. Heitzeg. 2008. “Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice, Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex.”American Behavioral Scientist 51(5): 625-644.
Children’s Defense Fund. 2015. “Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign”. Last Modified November 2015. http://www.childrensdefense.org/campaigns/cradle-to-prison pipeline/?referrer=https://www.google.ca/
Gender and Education Association. 2011. “What is heteronormativity”. Last Modified November 2015. http://www.genderandeducation.com/issues/what-is-heteronormativity/
Hammond-Darling, Linda., Joy A. Williamson., and Maria E. Hyler. 2007. “Securing the Right to Learn: The Quest for an Empowering Curriculum for African American Citizens. The Journal of Negro Education 76(3): 281-296.
Hammond-Darling, Linda. 2004. “The Color Line in American Education: Race, Resources, and Student Achievement.”Du Bois Institute for African American Research 1(2): 213-246.
Irizarry, Jason M. 2010. “Redirecting the teacher’s gaze: Teacher education, youth surveillance and the school-to-prison pipeline.” Teaching and Teacher Education 26(5): 1196-1203.
Kim, Catherine., Daniel J. Losen., and Damon T. Hewitt. 2010. The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform, 34-50. New York: New York University Press.
O’Grady, William. 2011. “Classical Sociological Explanations of Crime”. In Crime in Canadian Context: Debates and Controversies, Second Edition, 88-115. Oxford University Press: Toronto.
Oxfrod Dictionaries. 2015. “Heteronormative”. Last Modified November 2015. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/heteronormative
Rethinking Schools. 2015. “Black Students’ Lives Matter: Building the school-to-justice pipeline.” Last Modified November 2015. http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/29_03/edit293.shtml
Skiba, Russel J., Robert S. Michael, Abra C. Nardo., and Reece L. Peterson. 2002. “The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment.” The Urban Review 34(4): 317-342.
Teaching Tolerance. 2015. “The School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Last modified March 2013. http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-43-spring-2013/school-to-prison

Black and white Headshot of Chinwe smiling

Chinwe Nwebube is a second year Nigerian-Canadian student majoring in Human Kinetics at the University of Guelph. She currently acts as the Communications and Promotions Officer on the CJ Munford Centre Collective, a center for racialized students on the University of Guelph campus. After witnessing the outburst of racism that took place after an on campus rally in the fall, she was motivated to further investigate institutionalized racism. This resulted in her writing this essay about anti-black racism within the education system and its contribution to the over representation of black people in the prison system.

Re-envisioning Our Communities

blue, black and white illustration of 3 brown kids happily eating cupcakes

Facilitated by: Shabina Lafleur-Gangji 

Why are so many of our QTBIPOC (queer and trans black, indigenous and people of colour) spaces so often inaccessible to parents and kids? What do we need to do to change that dynamic? How do we build community and movements of inter-generational voices that don’t just simply leave people behind when they have kids? These were the questions I was asking myself and so I decided to explore these questions in a roundtable discussion with a few racialized queer/trans parents.

Shabina: Can you introduced yourselves?

LeRoi: I’m LeRoi and I’m an educator at Africentric Alternative School and an organizer for BlackLivesMatter Toronto. I have a two and a half year old whom I’ve single-parented since he was born…although I recently decided to start co-parenting with someone who has always been FAM to us.

QueenTite: I am QueenTite, owner of Natty (natural mobile salon), Co- founding director of PFFD inc, and creator of QTPOC – Toronto. I am single mother to 18 year old Ayomide and 7 year old Iahnijah of Nigerian/Jamaican Roots.

Akio – I am human rights activist and  a Mother of 8 year old multiracial child of Black and Métis heritage with one on the way

Amandeep: My name is Amandeep Kaur and I have two kids aged 2 and 4 years.

Shabina: How do you find navigating queer/trans spaces as a parent? Do you find most spaces are accessible to you?

QueenTite: I find navigating queer spaces as a parent kind of challenging. I am still new to the city, so I haven’t had much opportunity to explore…but I don’t find [queer spaces] really available. Finding events that are family-friendly have been challenging.

Akio: Navigating queer spaces as a parent is hard, as it often feels like I have to create the spaces for myself or fight to have the space accessible to me and my spawn. Which I often don’t have time or energy for.

LeRoi: I find navigating queer/trans spaces as a parent to be challenging sometimes. There are some queer Black events and spaces that I’ve gone to that have been really dope for bringing kids, but I feel like there’s a lot of emphasis on creating queer/trans spaces for youth and not much for older people…I think lots of times people don’t think of making events accessible to parents if they haven’t grown up with lots of kids in their life. Also in terms of community organizing spaces sometimes there is just no effort to accommodate parents. I’ve brought my kid to meetings before when he was really little and spent the whole time chasing him around the hallways of Flemington Park Community Centre while everyone just continued their conversation.

S: What have you found really helpful in making community spaces accessible to you?

QueenTite: I have found having ECE (Early Childhood Education) educators present to engage the youths is helpful and a room equipped with fun stuff.

Akio: Most spaces aren’t accessible to me nor any of my intersectionalities.

POC spaces aren’t sex worker positive, queer spaces too white and all of them are very clique-y and no one considers that parents have value and therefore they should have accessibilities for us. So Basically I have to A) create my own, or B) work with/fight with the organizers to create space that’s safe and accessible (found this easier in queer white spaces than queer POC spaces)

LeRoi: What helps to make spaces accessible to me is parties in the daytime. They have this dope party for BIPOC queers in Oakland where people turn up from like 2 to 8pm. I really wish we had that here. Cuz even if I get childcare to go out at night, nobody’s tryin’ to wake up at 7am with my son.

LeRoi: Yea, childcare being offered is helpful to me, but I also like when people just find ways to make spaces engaging for kids, like the other day I went to the book launch for “I Love Being Black”. They had a bunch of play-dough set up in one corner of the rooms for kids to sit and play. There was food like samosas and cupcakes…and there was a big chalkboard for kids to write about what they love about being Black. So in that way it was like kids were invited to be part of the event and to contribute. That was dope.

QueenTite: I’d like a community of willing affordable sitters also.

LeRoi: Yes to affordable baby sitters…cuz sometimes you can’t bring your kid to childcare at an event. If they have to nap or something and they wont sleep in a room full of people. Also I like when I bring my kid somewhere and people explicitly tell me not worry about him making noise or crying…then I feel like I can relax a bit more

QueenTite: Sometimes I don’t want to beg my child – I want me time to network and such. But affordable sitters are not accessible to me. Charging nearly fifiteen dollars per hour with no masters in parenting.

Amandeep: That event sounds amazing! and I wanted to agree with the point about more affordable sitters..

LeRoi: I feel like what actually ends up making events more accessible to me when there’s no childcare offered is friends taking turns kicking it with my kid..taking him outside to go crawl all on stuff or into the hallway to be loud…Other parents I know end up being the ones to do that lots of the time.

Akio: yeah, always.

LeRoi: Also people in my life who spend time with my son ‘cuz they want to build a relationship with him and ‘cuz they have privilege and time…

QueenTite: I know nobody so I don’t have that option… I haven’t entered any cliques, it’s just me. But yes what a blessing – and a necessity.

Akio: Yep, the folks that usually want to help with my child are usually white people.

LeRoi: Yeah, I’ve had that experience too…

Amandeep: Having more folks want to make the trip to where I live cuz they want to spend time with my kids doesn’t happen often enough. I am fortunate to have my mom and my sister on occasion but feel I don’t have any other friends to rely on now.. the dayjam idea sounds too good though..its being intergenerational, being able to connect in different parts of the city with other queers of colour and parents and knowing who is close by through friends of friends would be great to try and build this in more local and accessible ways.

Akio: I like to keep my circle small and tight cause I’ve seen how folks treat their own and I’m not trying to have my private business out there for the local queer 6 o’clock news. So often I go it alone and for the most part I’m okay with that. Hired help when it can be afforded works for me.

LeRoi: Yeah, I love that. There’s a queer Black BBQ during Pride that is pretty dope like that…there’s also Queer Black FAM JAM that has lots of kids roll up usually.

S: What do you find are common problems with things like child care at events?

QueenTite: Problems with child care – not enough variety in the space for the age ranges – emphasis on the very young – older kids get slightly less attention. No, disability based thought put into spaces to accommodate a variety of abilities/disabilities.

Akio: They are subpar, not age appropriate and often boring.

LeRoi: Sometimes I have found that there aren’t enough people working in the childcare room and the childcare room is kind of just like mayhem. People need to realize that for babies/young toddlers the ratio should be 1 adult to two babies. The other thing is I feel like there isn’t respect for childcare being a position that requires a lot of skill and experience. Sometimes the people doing childcare aren’t trained properly and they’re just like “winging it”. Like my ex put her son in childcare at this event once and the person doing childcare let him tape his mouth shut with duct tape

Akio: Duct tape!!!

LeRoi: hahahahaha

Akio: See I’d need bail money. But I digress…

Amandeep: omg yes LeRroi.. haha..

LeRoi: I think this points towards….for those of us who are Black …sometimes when childcare is offered by white people there is a bit of a cultural disjunct. Like, I don’t want my child running up and down, doing any and everything.

S: What do you think people need to address in order make community space accessible to parents and children? How do we build intergenerational spaces?

QueenTite: More family based activities – co planning with the expectations of including youths. Create the activities we aim to see. Ensure that we see family based activities for all. This convo and thinking proactively is apart of it. Create solutions to the problems. Remove obstacles. Break the cliques apart…collaborate and connect – get kids together at BBQ family based days etc..

Akio: Advance planning, Invest in resources (money, activities etc), engage parents, age-appropriate child care.

LeRoi: What we need more of I think is an effort to make events accessible…we need people (not just parents) to clap back when you see events posted that don’t offer any childcare. We need people to value us…so for example if you are doing community organizing and you are used to calling your meetings with no notice, during the evening you are not gonna get parents out…especially single parents. Daytime parties. People who are not parents being like…okay let’s tag-team. I’ll go to that event for the first two hours and then I’ll watch your kid so you can go.

Akio: We can’t even…Folks barely recognize intergenerational folks much less. The thought or actions to make spaces. We gotta break it all down and build up from scratch with accountability and transparency.

LeRoi: That can be true so much of the time. I have seen some really dope things in practice though. Like I saw this daycare one time that was housed in an an elderly care facility which was really, really cool. And the kids got to interact with elders all the time at “school”. I would be really interest in working on a project like that/creating a space like that.

Akio: If I had a dollar for eeverytime I took my time and energy to help start something only to have the jancrow them fly over and either shit on it or take it as their own but LeRoi that would be amazing. Depending on the space. Old people can be unapologetically racist. Speaking as a nurse.

LeRoi: I would be envisioning something specifically for Black community. I feel like BIPOC in Canada have a lot issues finding appropriate care for our elders and appropriate education for our youths. Both need dignity and programming that is Black centered. Also we need more things like the Radical Monarchs, BlackLivesMatter Freedom School…programs for kids to be engage in what we are building in our communities

Akio: Toronto Child Care collective here in Toronto But it didn’t have the right clique to gain momentum But the more we create spaces for us by us the better we will be.

LeRoi: Childcare collectives are really dope though. I remember there was one in Montréal that offered free childcare for families without status and for events and ting. Also, they would do a March Break camp that was really cool where kids would learn to DJ and stuff.


LeRoi Newbold
Leroi Newbold is an artist, community organizer and an educator at Canada’s first public Africentric school.

QueenTite
I’m a winnipeg born, west coast grown, toronto based multidisciplinary artist. I AM; a black, proud, queer, Hybrid. My roots are laid in art, activism, education, black liberation, poetry, love, and in constant pursuit of more love. When I’m not busy changing the world, you can find me devoted to my personal projects which include; Co – Founding Prosthetics For Foreign Donation & owning Black Heir.

Instagram and Snapchat: @missqueentite

Akio
Akio is a Single mom, Human Rights activist, Educator and Community Organizer.

Illusions of Access

blue and grey sun ray

A conversation about ASL, interpretation and inclusion.

With Kylie Brooks, Alex Lu, Sage Nobel facilitated by scout huston

           As someone connected to queer/trans communities, social justice communities, disability justice communities, and Deaf/Hard of Hearing communities, I am often in conversations about “the right ways to hire ASL (American Sign Language), interpreters”. Finding interpreters for events can be a tough process, however building connections with Deaf people/communities is about so much more than booking interpreters! The following conversation is meant to complicate the narrative around access, inclusion and ASL interpretation. The transcript has been edited for the purposes of length, clarity, and flow- with the permission of all involved.

scout: my first question was: what does the idea of “accessibility” mean to you both?

Sage: From my own perspective, genuine inclusivity and accessibility looks like this: Recognizing that each individual may have a different set of access needs and may have various types of accommodations. The best thing is to do, is to simply, ask the participants what their access needs are. Like being Deaf-centric and ASL-centric can be two different things.

For me – Accessibility means the freedom to navigate the world with minimal barriers with the necessary accommodations.

Alex: Well, for myself, the one thing that I’ve been trying to really push back on in my accessibility work is that, I think accessibility has been distorted to mean a checklist of physical accessibility items. Which is to say, when I worked as the accessibility director for BCRAD (British Columbia Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf), every time I had a collaboration, the same question would pop up over and over again – “What is X, Y, and Z that we have to do to be accessible?”

And it’s the mindset that tends to be a bit toxic. You can go through all of the physical motions of having accessibility, but unless you foster a space where people feel like they’re included, it’s not really accessible. I try to look at it more holistically. For instance, culturally, what do people need? Socially, what do we have to do to make people feel like they’re part of a community? How do people feel like they have a voice and say? Do they feel respected in a space?

These are all as important to accessibility as having an interpreter or a ramp.

I think it sometimes goes against conventional ideas of event planning, which is structured and supposed to be very dogmatic in how you follow out a plan.But in practice, the advice I give is – event planning really isn’t like that, it’s super organic. Especially when you’re dealing with the Deaf community, word-of-mouth is really the best way to get people to your event, for instance.

scout: Sage, would you be into talking a bit about what Deaf Spectrum is and why you started it?

Sage: A little bit about Deaf Spectrum – our goal is to bring greater accessibility for Deaf locals in the Greater Toronto Area who use American Sign Language. Right now, we are producing sign language videos that contain event promotion information and grant information. We are planning on expanding our sign language translation video services. In the future, we are planning to host a series of workshops to provide sign language interpreters training to be competent in their field. There’s more to this but I don’t want to give all my ideas away yet.

We also started up tutoring services – and hopefully, some Deaf interpreting services.

Basically, our goal is to have an all Deaf team and to empower each other. One of our goals is to providing training programs in ASL and teach members of the Deaf community usable skills that can increase employment.

Kylie: I work with them re captioning (on hold for now) and booking stuff.

scout: Awesome! So, is there any advice you would give to someone who is trying to make an event more inclusive to Deaf folks?

Sage: To make an event more inclusive – I would suggest hiring interpreters and Deaf interpreters. Providing captioning whenever possible. Scent free spaces. Wheelchair accessible. Gender Neutral bathrooms. And actually reaching out to the Deaf community – produce vlogs and etc. It’s important to distribute the information as much as you can. Get in touch with Deaf folks who have access to networks/community.

Alex: Personally, speaking from experience – sometimes, even at events that have interpreters, I don’t feel totally engaged. A lot of the time, the reason you’ll go to an event is to feel connected to the community and to involve yourself with other people – but I feel like a lot of hearing people aren’t willing to take the leap to bridge a communication gap. It may be experimental, but one thing I would like to see event organizers do is decenter spoken language as the primary mode of communication. Maybe have notepads around, encourage people to approach Deaf people, etc.

Sage: That’s an amazing idea, Alex.

Also, I find myself more comfortable participating in events where I know there will be signers there. It doesn’t matter if they are not that fluent, but it’s nice to have someone to chat with, rather than just wandering around, looking as if I’m lost.

Alex: Yes! This is also why it’s important to engage at a community level, rather than just at an individual level. If there’s a group going, I’d feel a lot more comfortable. But still, it’s important to address how to break down these communication barriers, so it’s not just the Deaf people sitting in a corner all night and talking between ourselves – as enjoyable as that might be still!

Scout: totally- Kylie, you’ve talked about this before- but there is an idea that once you hire interpreters deaf people will feel totally included and welcome, which isn’t always true.

Kylie: Right.

Sage: And – often, I noticed that sometimes when people try to hire interpreters, they don’t ask you who’s your preferred interpreter is. they just refer to the queer & trans friendly list… which is kind of out dated and has heterosexual interpreters. this shouldn’t be the default in queer & trans spaces.

Kylie: Yeah, it’s important to match the right kind of terp to the space. I think it’s important for interpreters getting into this to… well, not just know their stuff but actually take reasonable risks and learn from mistakes.

scout: what are some ways that people can navigate finding an interpreter that is a good fit?

Sage: I think the first step is to ask the deaf people interested in the event, ask them who their preferred interpreters are.

Alex: It’s a little tough because I understand sometimes people don’t have the resources and connections just to directly ask Deaf people. I think that’s one issue actually – that the burden always falls upon Deaf people. I don’t know the schedules of interpreters or all their specialities and everything.I feel like ultimately, people just need to do more research in general. Like, instead of hiring the first interpreter you find, can you try to look up some testimonials? Have them elaborate more about their expertise and experience?Mostly, I think the key issue that people aren’t aware they need specialized interpreters for queer/trans events. I feel like it’s actually a pretty easy thing to verify – look up who’s interpreting for other events, for instance! Ask the interpreters themselves. But it just gets glossed over because people assume all interpreters are the same.

Sage: Like, there are some events where there are poetry and songs. That is more suitable for a Deaf interpreter, I think. Like, performances, in general.

Alex: Definitely. But there also isn’t awareness that Deaf interpreters are a thing. That’s part of the reason why I want to push back against the “accessibility checklist” idea – there’s so many subtle distinctions that it fails to make about the complexities of accessibility. The other thing I want to add in is that – I think we need to be mindful of cultural issues in interpreting too. For instance, poetry or songs have traditionally been handled by hearing interpreters, and I think a lot of Deaf people put up with it because of access – but at the same time, the language, at that level of abstraction, metaphor and expression, really belongs to Deaf people. Sage previously mentioned hiring Deaf interpreters, and I think that’s something people need to do more often. Not only do they do the source material more justice, but it’s just a matter of cultural reappropriation – it has to come from someone inside of the culture.

scout: are there some specific questions that you would recommend asking interpreters to see if there are a good fit?

Alex: I’d say ask them about the previous events they’ve done.But also, just ask them to be honest about their experience, and ask them if they can pass the job to another interpreter if they don’t feel up to it.

Kylie: I’d ask specific questions. hmm, “do you know what pronouns are?”

Sage: maybe, if they have taken some kind of anti-oppression training?

Kylie: Also, I think it’s maybe a good idea to ask the interpreters what they know about disability. Not as in, “do you support disabled people?” Specific questions.

Alex: Yeah, that’s important too. I remember once attending a BLM panel, and there were white interpreters. So I was like, “okay”, because I mean, access, right! But then I started feeling really uncomfortable watching the rage of black women being articulated through white people. That’s another issue here, isn’t it, that we really don’t have a lot of BIPOC interpreters. Again, part of that is the discriminatory nature of the interpreting program. I feel like it’s racially unbalanced too. Actually, that’s a major issue – I remember surveying the Deaf community in respect to HIV healthcare, and part of the reason why STD transmission rates along Deaf- queer men are so high is because they’re embarrassed to bring interpreters to medical appointments due to the demographics – male and queer male interpreters are just so rare. As a result, they don’t get proper medical intervention and counselling. I think interpreter demographics and diversity is at the root of a lot of social problems in the Deaf community

Sage: We need to feel supported as a whole, not just because of our deafness, but as a whole person.

Alex: Sometimes, I feel like people don’t even notice me at an event, lol. Like, I’m in my own bubble with the interpreter, and it’s the hearing people operating in their own world.

Sage: Sometimes, I’m wondering, if they see us chatting with the interpreter, that we’re busy. we’re chatting with the interpreter because we have no one else to talk to!

Alex: Yeah, I feel bad doing that sometimes because I’m like “Oh, do I seem uninviting?” But what am I supposed to do? Stand around and stare at the wall until some hearing person is generous enough to talk to me?

I mean, okay, I would be totally cool with approaching people, but keep in mind I’ve been socialized to literally not know how hearing people start conversations with each other. Like, I don’t have that experience at all. So when I’m in a majority hearing space, I’m suddenly hyperconscious – oh god, what if I violate some kind of hearie norm or something?

Sage: Hearing people have been oppressing us since forever. so we do have some kind of innate fear of dealing with hearing people.There have been some situations where hearing people think that we are so hard to communicate with, that we are not important enough for their energy to try to communicate with us.

Alex: I think it’s less an innate fear for me, as much as it is a bunch of gaps in my knowledge of how hearing society works.

Kylie: Like I’ve had experiences – and others have seen – where I try to ask to clarify but they refuse. Or, people refuse to type on my communication device after being told – for various reasons but still.

Alex: I fake it a lot since I’m oral Deaf, but when it comes down to it, I sometimes have no idea how to behave in a hearing environment. It feels like there’s all of these rules and stuff that I’m not aware of. Because I’ve been missing that context since birth, since no one bothered to include me in things, right? And then the other issue is that sometimes Deaf folks don’t have the language to deal with things right? I’m lucky, but come on, sometimes we have ridiculous standards of language in social justice spaces. It becomes inaccessible. If you don’t know the right words, you can’t fit in.

Kylie: Also, the kind of normative language in the SJ community is my normal way of thinking – my native dialect. So yeah, I think also important to help each other if struggling to explain stuff

Sage: We are soooo excluded from the mainstream community already. I feel that we have a greater need to focus on community building, to gain knowledge about our rights – to be included in more mainstream spaces. It honestly feels like people don’t care.Sometimes, I have those followers on facebook who like my statuses when I post about audism… that’s all they do. they like the status. but they don’t do anything about it. why don’t they learn sign language? Why don’t they invite us to hang out with them one on one?

Alex: Yeah, that’s one other thing. One-on-one interactions are so much easier for Deaf people, in my opinion, if it’s a hearing person. I feel like the one big thing I love about Deaf groups is that is someone goes to the washroom or something, someone else will tend to fill them in the conversation. But I’ve rarely ever seen that happen with a hearing group. It’s more like, they expect you to blend in, rather than ensuring everyone’s on the same page before moving on. I think the other thing is that I just feel so tokenized in these spaces, actually. Like, I’m oral, and a lot of places like to invite me because I can give presentations in formats that hearing people like. And then I’ll be the only Deaf person, and I’ll give like, this presentation on accessibility and it’ll be an annual thing, but then I’ll never ever see Deaf people attending other than me. Even though they’re like “oh, we’re learning! We’re improving!” Where’s the improvement? It feels like they’re using me to pay lip service to accessibility because “hey, I’m the lone Deaf person there! It’s accessible!” When really, it’s not.


Sage Lovell
Sage Lovell is a twenty-something Deaf queer multidisciplinary artist and community educator who likes to work their magic. In their work, Sage reflects about their lived experiences of struggling in an ableist, sexist, capitalist and oppressive society that only welcomes those who fit their standard set of expectations and norms.  Through sharing stories and lived experiences, Sage discovered a beautiful loving supportive community full of folks of all identities.

Kylie Brooks
Kylie Brooks is a Black Deaf Disabled queer trans woman, using she/her pronouns. She is an online social justice activist that focuses on the interconnections of oppression.

Alex Lu
Alex is a graduate student studying computational biology at the University of Toronto. He also serves as a director-at-large for OPIRG-Toronto and for the frank theatre company, where he addresses Deaf/queer issues and advocates for accessibility from an intersectional perspective.

My Gender is Sacred Femininity

Illustration of a women looking at a moon text reads "she asks me not to get rid of monsters, she knows the interruption of love by trauma, is inevitable like a sun that sets the orbit of planets a moon illuminating the unseen certain as a body ready to heal move and be moved from orpheus and eurydice"

reflections on community, astrology, healing, and the universe

by Shaunga Tagore

         I was born in the sparkle of a Gemini Sun, just as it was setting on the horizon, and the constellation of Scorpio was Rising on the horizon. I was born on the eclipse of a full Sagittarius moon. I was born carrying wounds that ancestors never got to reconcile in their lifetime. I was born to be a storyteller, to create magic out of madness. 

              In the Fall of 2015, my friend Hisayo and I made a date to drink wine and chat about trauma (because what else would two Scorpio-types do on a Tuesday night?). 

     We chilled in my old apartment over-looking Wallace-Emerson park in the west end of Toronto; a cozy run-down dwelling that held me during a year of many changes and learnings: a shocking, painful break-up; the weekend I burnt writing from dozens of journals I had been carrying around with me for over ten years; and where I learned to talk to ghosts and cast spells for the first time in my life. As the evening went on, Hisayo and I chatted and ranted about community, relationships, and how trauma and power dynamics impact how we build these things. We talked about whether we found differences between dating people on feminine or masculine spectrums, as well as how we experienced our own genders in relationship to that. At one point I blurted out in a tipsy stream of consciousness, you know, maybe my gender is just actually just Sacred Femininity! Thank you to Hisayo for their wide eyes and finger-waggy encouragement: Shaunga, that is brilliant. You need to write that shit down!

     My gender, my healing, my art and my sense of being are all expressed through the Sacred Feminine. This is the place where I ground myself, move forward from, and access my intuition, intentions, actions, and decisions.

     Sacred Femininity is my connection to the universe, my relationship with my ancestors, my trust in Spirit. The Sacred Feminine is evident and glistening everywhere around us – inside the memories of rocks, the medicine of plants, the rhythms of ocean waves, the transformation of ocean depths, the surrender in riptides. It is in the wisdom and interdependence of trees, the growth and lessons of mountains, the destruction and creation of volcanoes. Sacred Femininity is in the cycles of planets, the inspiration of stars, the mysteries and unknowability of our galaxies. Sacred Femininity is our universe, our Mama Earth. She is the home that holds us all. Without her, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have bodies or breath. We wouldn’t have anywhere to live.

     It has taken me 31 years (the age I am now) to re-remember my relationship to this sacred knowing, to Spirit. It’s taken me this long to work through enough trauma related to displacement, violation, memory-loss, and denial that hindered my relationship to spirituality since childhood. Now I am finally able to create a clear channel between myself and Spirit, and honour the Sacred Feminine in myself and around me in a new way, and many old ways.

    And I feel like a weirdo. It’s hard to explain to people how and why I live the way I do when conversations about trauma and Spirit are not valued in many queer communities; when they are often seen as separate from activism, justice or politics. Especially over the last year as I have been embracing this part of me more fully, I have been witnessing my relationships changing with people who don’t quite know what to do with it.

    Spirit and Femininity have always been the central target of white masculinity (or in long form, the Colonial, Capitalist, Ableist Patriarchy Cis-Tem). White masculinity is confused by Sacred Femininity. Terrified of her. Always in attempt to control, harness, deny, minimize, belittle, erase, suppress, violate, exploit, interject into and mansplain away.

     White masculinity’s laws are directly in conflict with Spirit Law embedded in the universe, Mama Earth, and her guidelines of how we should respect the home she offers us. Spirit Law is governed through sustainability, balance, mutuality, consent, self-determination, personal agency, interdependency, collective growth and ongoing change.

     White masculinity’s cis-tem is not sustainable or balanced; it creates luxury for some at the expense of others, it doesn’t think about the future, it uses and exploits without regard for the consequences, it takes without consent. It denies our relationship to Spirit, to our soul’s purpose for being here on this planet, to the unique configuration the stars and planets formed the minute we were born and that gave us a story in our bodies to fulfill.

     White masculinity knows that if you violate Spirit – our relationship to an awesome life force, our connection to creation, to existence itself – and if you deflate the people on the planet who most fiercely honour and embody this connection, then you can conquer the planet as a whole. This is why colonization has always and continues to centrally target Black and Indigenous women, 2Spirit, transwomen, gendervariant people, women of colour, healers, witches, caregivers, artists, and other channels of the sacred divine, including Mama Earth herself.

     When I think about when/how I have been the most hurt in relationships and community – whether romantic, friendship, work, within arts-collaborations, or activist pursuits – these are the times that my own Sacred Femininity has not been respected. When I have not given myself permission to respect the Sacred Feminine within a community, a relationship dynamic or in myself. These days I strive to make my moves and decisions by grounding in Spirit. This means I have been learning to recognize when the universe is talking to me. When she does, I trust the answer before I know the question. In my early 20s I made the decision to move to city half-way across the country in an instant, and now know that was Spirit talking to me. As an artist and creator, I receive visions for my plays and performances and I commit to those visions before I know what all the details look like. What I know for certain is that listening to Spirit never lets us down; the universe will never send us down a wrong path. Of course, none of this is “practical” according to white capitalist masculinity; none of this is “productive” or leads anywhere “successful.” It won’t be taken seriously by white masculine institutions or the people who uphold them. Even amongst community I can be treated like I am “flaky,” “irrational,” or others will attempt to control or devalue my way of being and creating. I’ve come to realize in the building of relationships and community – no matter where other people are at with their own trauma, journey, relationship to power, they need to at the very least accept and respect the Sacred Femininity in me.

     Here I come back to the confirmation that healing work is so important to pursuits of activism and justice, to change and liberation individually and out of collectively destructive global patterns. Healing is not about ‘fixing’ ourselves until we are not broken. Healing is about looking deeply inward and accessing the parts of our spirits and bodies that are so powerful, they have never been harmed. They are so divine, so sacred, they cannot be tainted by anything that attempts to destroy us. I believe this exists in everyone – a memory of the constellations that birthed us, a returning to an alignment with Spirit Law, a defiance of human-made cis-tems the universe was never meant to hold. As an astrologer, I learn a lot about this kind of healing, this returning, and about relationships and communities, from the 12 different zodiac constellations and planets. All the signs have different feelings about each other. They have different kinds of conversations: some may be supportive, some may be clashes or arguments, and sometimes signs can speak to each other without actually listening to what they other is saying (and how often do you see that happen in community…)

     When I do a reading for someone and analyse their individual birth chart, I see all the complicated and nuanced ‘conversations’ that happen all at once within an individual person. A basic example: we might be super reserved and cautious in new situations (Scorpio Rising, what up!), but playful and bold around who we consider family (perhaps a Leo Sun in the 4th house!). A unique combination of these ‘conversations’ surface when I do compatibility readings between two people, and they are definitely present when thinking about astrology as a whole (or if I were to imagine how community could function as a whole). The fact that the signs of the zodiac make a circle is significant to me. It tells me that in the midst of all these different kinds of relationships (where some signs are best buds, some signs are constantly in drama, some just don’t get each other) – everyone is needed to make the circle whole.

     In an art performance showcase, for example, you need all the signs to pull off an amazing show: you need the element of fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) to boldly express themselves on stage, put creativity, passion and beliefs all on display and energize the room. You need the earth element (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) to create physical accessibility and comfort for the space, to make sure there is food backstage and everyone who worked to make the show happen is compensated fairly for their work. You need air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) to create language expressing the politics underlying the event, to create avenues of communication and consent between audience members and performers, and you need water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) to open our hearts to give and receive, to know there is a deeper purpose to why we come together in this way – to feel, to be moved, to be transformed.

     In our individuals lives and communities, sometimes we go through times where it is important to be open to abundance and expansion (Jupiter), sometimes to learn about our own limits and boundaries (Saturn). Sometimes we might need to take risks and try something completely new to break free (Uranus), sometimes we are more in tune with our dream world, our hidden emotions (Neptune), and sometimes we transform ourselves entirely by letting go of deeply rooted patterns holding us back from our own empowerment (Pluto). When the lessons we need to learn might not always line up in harmony with our partners, friends, or the people we work, create or organize with, how do we keep room for each other? Respect each other? Be accountable to each other? How do we support each other and love each other while we may react differently in a crisis (Moon), find pleasure different kinds of relationships and romance (Venus), clash in the way we express our anger and sexuality (Mars), have trouble understanding the different ways we communicate (Mercury), and feel like we have really specific and unique purposes for being alive (Sun)? Healing is being curious about all of these questions. It is wanting to know ourselves in our unique story nobody else can tell. It is wanting to respect the divine, the Sacred Feminine in all of us.

     The Sacred Feminine implores us to ask of ourselves and one another: who are we in our genders, families, blood lines, ancestors, past lives, future lives, spirit karma? In our relationships to childhood, work, lovers, school, borders, displacement, immigration, police, violence, privilege, power? What are our joys and strengths? What makes us shine the most brightly, what is our best contribution to a good world? When are we doing our best, when are we acting in detriment to ourselves, and how does this impact our relationships and communities? It is having a conversation with ourselves and recognizing: this is a pattern I am stuck in, this is a habit I have, this is the impact on myself and others…and it no longer works for me. I no longer choose this. It doesn’t help me or the state of the world. It keeps me stuck somewhere I don’t want to be, and I am committed to change. Sacred Femininity, healing, community and justice is the opposite of denying our feelings, and hiding who we are from ourselves. It is thanking ourselves for surviving thus far, and wanting something more.

*Parts of this article have been previously published on www.shaungatagore.com


Shaunga Tagore
Shaunga Tagore is a performance artist, writer, astrologer, intuitive counsellor, arts-based educator and community organizer; a non-binary tenderqueer superqueero cat-lady magic-making weirdo. www.shaungatagore.com

Transformative Communities

A Conversation with Tina Reynolds

By: Savannah Clarke

Tina Reynolds was in Guelph on February 24th to speak on a Transformative Justice panel to explore the work that herself and other Black women are doing in their communities to keep each other safe, to resist police violence, and build alternatives to prisons. She took some time to sit down with our interviewer Savannah and share some knowledge.

Savannah: Can you start off with your name and some background on what you do and who you are?

Tina: My name is Tina Reynolds and I am a social worker, a junk-lecturer, I live in Brooklyn, New York. I teach at York College in New York City in the behavioural science department and I’ve been doing that for ten years. I have experienced being in prison and I have been an activist and advocate for over twenty years. Advocating for women, children and families and specifically changing the perception of women as they’ve been impacted by the criminal justice system

S: So what is the importance of meaningful relationships in the work that you do?

T: In 2004, we started an organization called Women on the Rise Telling Her Story (WORTH). One of the things that we did for our first strategic meeting was to make an agreement amongst ourselves that our relationships as women who have been impacted by the criminal justice system mattered and had to be put first. That we were stepping out and doing something that was very unique. We were collaborating with our sisters whom we had left behind. Within our own lives we were making a way for them to be able to have some stability once they returned. So, our relationships in establishing those conversations moved towards a co-creative, inclusive, collaborative vision of the organization and the way at which we would do our advocacy work. We knew many people working within the human services and criminal justice services. Some of us had gone back to school and received our degrees. We saw that the resources that were most valuable were ourselves and that we could actually leverage some opportunities for our sisters coming home through our positions in the work that we were doing. The relationships we established in these organizations and amongst ourselves became really important and vital in us assisting women and being there as a resource for when they came home. So relationships are really important.

S: It sounds like it sort of builds the foundation for your organization?

T: Absolutely. We built a foundation and moved through our relationships differently. We’ve all had our experiences that were different from our prison experiences. Within those prison experiences that we had, we came with our own individual passion around the impact and effects of our own prison experience. WORTH was never a mono-issue organization. We always held up and offered opportunities for women and saw that there was an need for dignity and for understanding for how every women served their time and how it is that they came home and what it was that impacted them the most and what drove them to do this work from a passionate place. Usually it was an issue that impacted them terribly during their incarceration that they fought really hard and adamantly for when they came home.

S: Earlier you mentioned your sisters and doing work for those that have been left behind, how do center the voices of those who have been most marginalized in our communities? More specifically from your perspective on working with women in prisons.

T: The organization is called Women on the Rise Telling Her story. It’s our her-story, it’s our linage, our story. Our stories are so important and they can mean different things for different people. What we’ve done with centering our stories is allow ourselves to be seen as experts and to see ourselves in dignity. We’ve been able to see ourselves as women who have had the prison experience and most importantly are not those experiences that we’ve had. We’ve taken our experiences, shaped and molded them to be shared with other people in ways that could be used for presentations, literature, journals, books and poetry. We make sure that we are in the centre of that and how we get that place is an understanding that it is necessary to be fully self-expressed. Full self-expression comes about in many different ways. We’ve centered our voices through full self expression, the dignity offered through others and it’s putting the story in the center.

When we use to open up our office in the morning, we would come in and the first thing we did was sit around a table that was in the middle of the kitchen, in our office in Manhattan. Now our office in is Queens but that Manhattan office was so special to the needs that we had as women. There were times when would come in and we would sit around the table and debrief from the day before of our organizing efforts or whatever it was that we were working on. Often times we didn’t start working until after noon because we just had the need to be in conversation, to hear each others voices and opinions. To find out about what mattered, our children, our challenges and barriers. From one issue to the next, we committed ourselves to doing better and dedicate ourselves to the issue and what is of our passion. They were really great times.

S: So, you mentioned earlier that you own your experiences and that you get to shape and decide how they are used. How do you work to change the narrative of how people see prisons in our communities?

T: For myself, I think that the narrative of prisons had to change from a place where I felt like I was being rescued when I sought out resources after prison. The idea that I had was that prisons were a place of punishments and that notion stands today. It is within our society that we rely on this particular environment to punish people, rehabilitate people and a place where it is politically entangled within various things in our society. It is part of a system that takes the freedom away from people. [However], it is also part of a system that takes the freedom and life of those that are in our communities. It makes [people in our communities] bound to that particular system. If there is a person they love within, they cannot live their lives as if it does not exist. The prison narrative, for me, is looking at it from the context of what has been done to brown and black people throughout our history.This is an environment, a place and a space specifically for those same things to happen under the guise of punishing because someone has committed a crime. Often times the idea of crime is one where there has not been a crime committed at all. There has been more of an issue of criminalizing of people. So, when we think about the things people do and the reason why they were arrested for things that they do is because we have not held our systems of the way in which we are policed, the department of corrections and other systems that prohibit us from being full human beings – have not been held accountable. We have not asked them questions, taken lead or held our power. As long as we continue to not take our power we have a narrative where we feel it is necessary to have prisons within our community and within our lives. I believe in prison abolition. I think there is a way for us to end incarceration. I believe there are ways for us to heal and have difficult conversations. I believe that there are people who commit crimes and I think we should have equality around that. If the rules bend for one, we have to understand that they are stronger and more stringent than the other. So we have those two paradoxes to look at. The conversation around punishment is more important in our society, I think, then the narrative of prisons and what they stand for.

S: What are some challenges that you’ve faced in the work that you do and how did you overcome these challenges?

Tina: The challenge of the work is being at peace with women. Working with women, for me, was the biggest challenge. It was one that I did with joy and I still do with joy. It is that humility that needs to be full and in the center. It is checking ones’ self and your intention. It’s the debriefing and being able to listen to others. As well as, truly being inclusive. It is being able to apologize, rededicate and recommit yourself to being a stand for what it is that you are doing and for those that you are doing it with. Knowing that you need to be a good follower as well as a good leader.

S: My final questions is, do you have any advice for our generation when working on this movement? We’ve talked a lot about exchange of knowledge, how do we build this movement that is intergenerational?

Tina: When I first started college, I always thought about the intergenerational impact of mass incarceration. Now I know that there is an intergenerational impact of mass criminalization of a people, on black lives specifically. When I first heard of #blacklivesmatter, I thought about how it was that all lives mattered and I was excluding myself again. [This is because] Inside, around the trauma that I’ve experienced it’s always been about exclusion of self and inclusion of others and not looking at myself, specifically as a black woman, as my life mattering. I’ve had to take that on in many instances that I’ve had to do this activism work where I’ve had this internalized fear. So, the intergenerational aspect of moving this movement forward, because it’s not a new movement, is including all black and brown people. It is the inclusion of all black lives. It’s the inclusion of all women, trans and queer women. It’s the inclusion of all folks that have been oppressed and dehumanized. It’s the inclusion of trans folks, queer folks, youth and their voices. It’s the inclusion of having folks being able to create and imagine, what it might look like that’s different. It is not being ashamed of what it is you’ve done as a person [ but instead] having it propel you to be fearless of the shame and the guilt. And to understand, especially young folks, that these conversations are happening with all people. Showing up in different spaces is not something that is thought about or planned…it’s happening. The universe is answering and offering. It is creating a space for these conversations, meetings and connections to be made because it’s really important. A friend of mine has always said to me what is very integral to activism are the three C’s. They are to have clarity, remain capable, and maintain compassion. So, the three C’s, for me, are those things. To be really clear and to sit down and be still and to think about what it is that I need to do next and how it is that I’m transforming… as well as other things are transforming around me. Being patient, loving, kind, consistent, available, flexible, a person that is listening, a person that is hearing and involved. Just being.


Tina Reynolds
Tina Reynolds is Co-Founder and Chair of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH). WORTH is an association of formerly and currently incarcerated women who have been empowered by their own experiences while involved in the criminal justice system and beyond.  Reynolds has received a Master in Social Work from Hunter College and is currently an adjunct professor at York, CUNY in the Behavioral Sciences Department teaching “Impact of Incarceration on Families, Communities and Children” and Human Development.

On Language and Movement Inclusivity

By Maya Menezes

Above: Sonali Menezes

      Dear fellow organizers, survivors of academia, and peers, something is wrong with our movement. In our effort to make things accessible we have made movements inaccessible. If our effort to speak for we have spoken over. Proper grammar is oppressive, spell check is a fascist. Fuck punctuation

Listen y’all, when our movements do not center the non-academic voice, we do more than disservice the potential diversity of our movements, we take on the role of the oppressor. In policing diction, we silence and delegitimize non-institutional folks. When we silence those voices, we damn a lack of eloquent speakers to the silences sidelines. This has to stop.

One of the most beautiful privileges afforded to those who have the opportunity to attend post-secondary education, and one of the most beautiful things that those with class privilege can do, is to use their privilege to ‘share the mic.’ What does this mean? Gayartri Spivak addresses this in her awesome (and incredibly dense and inaccessible article) “Can The Subaltern Speak?” When the left speaks for those who are oppressed, and makes profit from creating discourses of anti-oppression, are we creating revolutionary accessible texts on behalf of those who are not heard? Or, are we instead speaking over, for, and on top of stories we know nothing of?

The hijacking of revolutionary discourse by privileged folks (racialized or not) in the safety of our ivory towers does not serve those who we would think we are helping. Instead, what it does is make palatable a struggle that is quite frankly, not ours to tell. Moreover, the rewriting of discourses and silencing of the less eloquent speaker devalues and delegitimizes the thoughts and feelings of those experiencing oppression and colonial violence on such a raw level that academic language cannot explain it, cannot boil the rawness out of it, and quite frankly- has no business trying.

2014 saw the birth of some of the most revolutionary movements of our generation. Idle No More and Black Lives Matter have shattered the collective consciousness of millions of people around the world, and offered hope to the oppressed, violated and silenced communities of the fringe majority. What have they done differently? Inclusivity. The blockade activist who swears like a sailor has just as much (if not much more) legitimacy to speak than the PhD student who spent a couple days taking photos for a chapter. The angry racialized activist who asks you what right you have to be there, to speak and profit off their struggle, has every right to demand an answer of you. Your social justice studies, your weekend activism, your soon-to-be law degree or radical learning class, does not give you the right to decide who is heard, what voices are legitimate, and what discourse is just palatable enough to be the face of the revolution.

‘Proper diction,’ an anthology of theory, and formal citations should not speak over the current lived experience of oppressed communities. It is important to remember that, while English and your presentation of your knowledge through this format may for you be liberating, it is also the tools of the oppressor, the silencing strong-arm of entrenched colonialism, and the boot of class mite, meant to squash those who cannot speak it, and to push forth the rampant social stratification whose only goal is to to shatter and splinter our movements. Proper diction is the invisible hand of horizontal violence that clouds our understanding of struggle and experience.

We’ve all had our ‘ah ha!’ moment for our entry point to resistance. For me, it was sitting in a classroom, completely new to any type of academia (let alone activism), listening to my professor lecture us on the revolutionary building of the Black Panthers. He lent us readings that were in run-on sentences ending in livid swear words and manic punctuation. It was listening to him yell, and rage, and pace and shake with sadness at the state of the world, and the suffering of others. It was him telling us, his students, that if we have privilege to expend, the best thing we could do was step back and shut the hell up. I’ve never been more uncomfortable in my whole academic career. I’ve also never been more humbled or motivated to learn outside of the classroom.

Complex social movements demand a diversity of tactics. A diversity of tactics does not only mean marches AND sit downs. It means a diversity of participation, a diversity of voices, a diversity of lived experiences, and a diversity of language. When we think of language and the politics of justice over equality, we must remember that justice means sharing space, and giving up space. Giving up space is not only determined by the physicality of carving out space, but of changing the words that we use so that all folks of the revolution can understand our speaking. It means carving out a space so that those who have not read what we have read can still listen and understand your writings and your workshops. It means that you change the way you speak with people and preferably, speak a little less, and listen a little more.

A diversity of tactics means instead of making the complex and angry voices of non-academic movement builders more palatable to the mainstream by allowing white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy institutionalized language to be pervasive, it’s allowing for the legitimacy of all forms of rage, eloquent of not, to be heard and to be legitimate.

As Audre Lorde said, the master’s tools cannot be used to dismantle the master’s house. So please, praise the Lorde, and remember that a movement voice in the image of the oppressor, is not a movement that encourages participation, but one that stratifies us, silences those who need voices the most, and discourages inclusion. Stand in the back, make room at the front, and listen instead of speaking.

So movement builders, as you organize, and write, as you speak and bring in speakers, as you build solidarity, finish your post-secondary certifications and join with others, remember, we are not here to re-make the system in a new image, we are here to fucking smash it.


Maya Menezes
Maya is a queer South Asian WOC, living, working, existing, organizing and writing in the6ix. She is a continuing survivor of post-secondary institutions, passionate food justice grrl at U of T and raging intersectional feminist. She is the Occasional online SJW, non-profit campaigner and lover of poems. Currently chillin’ in Toronto, patiently awaiting the revolution.

Intoxication Spaces

illustration of a person holding their heart and thought bubble showing a GPS pointed location

Mental Maps of Substance Use

by Clementine Morrigan

      Space is not natural or neutral. It is designed and mapped in particular ways. These dominant maps are colonial, racist, ableist, queerphobic, (trans)misogynist and capitalist. These dominant maps attempt to shape and control the way that space is used and who can use it. Superimposed onto these dominant maps are the mental maps of people who use space. These mental maps can reinforce the dominant maps by re-inscribing the intended use of space. They can also resist, subvert or undermine the dominant map by creating new meanings and uses of spaces. Intoxication culture is a dominant culutre which produces a particular standard of substance use, social drinking, as a norm which people are then expected to live up to. Intoxication culture has its dominant maps which shape space in order to encourage social drinking, and exclude or punish non-normative relationships to substances such as active addiction, specific forms of drug use and sobriety. The dominant maps of intoxication culture have especially harmful consequences for Black, Indigenous and people of colour substance users. Reflecting on my own history of active addiction and current sobriety, from the position of a white settler, I note how two very different mental maps are produced, and how these maps differ from the dominant map of intoxication culture. The mental maps of non-normative substance users are superimposed over the dominant map of intoxication culture, revealing that our relationships to substance use shape our relationships to space.

     In the introduction to Race, Space and The Law, entitled “When Place Becomes Race” Sherene Razack (2002) suggests that we can  “reject the view that spaces simply evolve, are filled up with things, and exist either prior to or separate from the subjects who imagine and use them” (p. 8). Rather than understanding space as natural and neutral, which is a colonial imagining intended to justify violence, Razack (2002) suggests that space be understood, in Lefebvre’s terms, as “perceived, conceived and lived” (p. 9). Thinking of space as perceived allows us to consider the everyday uses and practices which shape space. Understanding space as conceived allows us to think of space as intentionally designed by planners, architects and governments. Reflecting on space as lived allows us to consider the ways that users of space interpret the perceived and conceived uses of space in order to create meanings of space. Razack’s (2002) analysis of space helps us to understand that space is not simply ‘there’ but is created through intentional design, everyday practice, interpretation and representation. Space is conceived in the interests of colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism and ableism. Users of space interact with the conceived or intended uses of space, perceiving space in their own ways and living their own meanings of space into being. These meanings can reinforce, undermine, resist or confirm the intended use of space as it was conceived.

     In “Narratives of Place: Subjective and Collective” Gordon Brent Ingram, Anne-Marie Bouthillette and Yolanda Retter (1997) suggest that “there are maps that report the physical geography of a landscape and more subjective maps that exist ‘in our heads’” (p. 55). Following Razack, I argue that the maps which report the physical geography are no more objective than the maps which exist ‘in our heads’. Physical geography, as Razack (2002) explains, is conceived in particular ways. It is useful, however, to note the differences between these dominant maps and the mental maps which exist ‘in our heads’. Mental maps map what Razack (2002) refers to as lived space. They are maps which vary from person to person, though members of particular communities and social locations will experience similarities in their mental maps. These maps lay out the ways in which users of space navigate and negotiate with the dominant maps. Ingram, Bouthillette and Retter (1997) write “Each person’s ‘map’ is usually part autobiography, part mythology, and part the embodiment of tensions concerning forms of marginality, such as sexual politics, gender, race, ethnicity, or culture” (p. 56). Mental maps allow us to understand how the same space may be experienced entirely differently by different people. They reveal “‘differential cognition’ of the same places and different ‘affinities’” (Ingram et al, 1997, p. 59).

     Dominant maps set out the conceived and intended uses of space. Within intoxication culture, space is conceived in particular ways with relation to substance use. In Towards A Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggles Nikita Riotfag (2010) defines intoxication culture as “a set of institutions, behaviours, and mindsets centered around consumption of drugs and alcohol” (p. 4).  Intoxication culture is a culture in which people are expected to partake in a particular type of substance use, social drinking, and are excluded or punished for other relationships to substances such as active addiction, certain types of drugs use or sobriety. The standard of normative consumption, and the construction of non-normative consumption, will shift and change depending on context and social location. For example, drinking to the point of drunkenness is acceptable on a Friday or Saturday night but not on a Tuesday morning. Also, white youth drinking in a park might receive a warning from police while Black, Indigenous or otherwise racialized youth may experience criminal charges, incarceration or police violence for the same activity. A joint may be acceptable to pass around at a party and still be considered normative consumption, a crack pipe would not. The shifting construction of ‘normative consumption’ produces different mental maps of spaces of intoxication. The dominant map of intoxication culture is a map which privileges white settlers and criminalizes the same behavior for Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.

     In “It Can’t Be Fixed Because It’s Not Broken: Racism and Disability in the Prison Industrial Complex” Syrus Ware, Joan Ruzsa and Giselle Dias (2015) discuss the 2011 passing of Bill C10 also known as the “Safe Streets and Community Act” in Canada. This bill is made up of nine separate bills including the “Penalties for Organized Drug Crimes Act.” Ware, Ruzsa and Dias (2015) write “[f]or the first time ever, changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act included new mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking, import/export, and production” (p. 23). These laws illustrate the ways in which non-normative substance users, specifically Black, Indigenous and other racialized addicts and drug users are punished and harmed under intoxication culture. As Ware, Ruzca and Dias (2015) point out “these laws predominantly target people most marginalized, including those who are poor, Indigenous or racialized drug users” (p. 23). For these non-normative substance users who fall outside of intoxication culture’s standard of normative consumption, mental maps of intoxication often include targeting by the police, surveillance and incarceration within the Prison Industrial Complex. While all non-normative substance users experience some form of consequence under intoxication culture, the consequences are not the same and produce very different mental maps.

     While walking in the Queen Street West neighborhood and thinking through the intersections of space, mental mapping and intoxication culture, I am struck by my awareness of two overlapping mental maps. Currently, it is day time and I am using the space as it is designed to be used. I am running errands, shopping, engaging in capitalist consumption. I engage with the space as it is mapped. I hurry past crowds of window shoppers, moving from store to store to spend money. Yet, out of the corner of my eye, I am aware of another map. Years ago, I used this same space for very different purposes. During my years of active alcoholism, this space carried different meanings and had a different mental map. Markers on my alcoholic mental map of Queen Street West included: coffee shops that let me use the washroom without buying anything, alleyways I could get away with pissing in, good and contested spots for panhandling, likely places to pick up weed, parks where the police frequented, parks where the police were less likely to come by, places to pass out where I was more or less likely to be sexually assaulted, the ‘sally van’ spot where we could access free food, bars I was banned from though I didn’t usually drink in bars, and of course, the Wine Rack, the Beer Store and the nearest LCBO.

     This mental map of my alcoholic use of the space is not the intended or sanctioned map. At the same time, my alcoholic mental map is not the only mental map of non-normative substance use. My alcoholic mental map is shaped by my social locations: my whiteness and my position as a settler mean that my experience of policing was extremely minimal compared to Black, Indigenous and people of colour substance users, my experience of being read as a woman means that my alcoholic mental map includes consideration of sexual violence, my position as a street involved alcoholic with mental health issues produces a different alcoholic mental map than that of an alcoholic who drinks in the clubs or bars of the area. Now that I am three and a half years sober, I no longer use my alcoholic mental map, but it remains in my mind, superimposed over this sanctioned map of capitalist consumption.

    My sobriety does not mean, however, that I have come into alignment with the dominant maps of intoxication culture. As it gets later in the evening, Queen Street West ceases to be a space of shopping and transforms into a space of drinking. The bars which line the streets become the only sanctioned spaces to socialize. Social drinking, meaning controlled drinking under socially sanctioned circumstances, becomes the expected and demanded activity. As a sober alcoholic, the space becomes a mental map of exclusion. I cannot partake in the activities which the space is designed for. The coffee shops close early and if you aren’t drinking or comfortable being around large amounts of drinking, there are few places to go. My mental map of sobriety is entirely different from my alcoholic mental map. It includes: bars I don’t feel safe or welcome in, events consistently including drinking resulting in my leaving early or not going at all, finding the few coffee shops which are open later, an awareness of the 12 step meetings happening in the area and a recognition of other people in 12 step recovery programs who I see on the street, share knowing looks with and pass in respect for anonymity. Again, my mental map of sobriety is different from the mental maps of other sober people due to a number of factors including the reasons for our sobriety, whether or not we attend 12 step meetings, practice another form of recovery, or remain sober in other ways, and how comfortable we feel around drinking. My mental map of sobriety, while strikingly different from my alcoholic mental map, is simultaneously quite similar. Both maps are superimposed on the dominant map of intoxication culture. Both maps require navigating and negotiating with space that was mapped to exclude me.

     Space is not simply ‘there’, organically evolving into what it happens to be. Space is conceived of and produced in particular ways in service of colonialism, racism, ableism, queerphobia, (trans)misogyny and capitalism. As Razack (2002) explains, space is conceived with intended purpose, perceived through daily experience and lived as a negotiation with and interpretation of conceived and perceived uses of space. As Ingram, Bouthillette and Retter (1997) point out, mental maps map subjective experience of space based on social location and lived experience. These mental maps can affirm, resist, undermine or re-inscribe the dominant maps. Intoxication culture has its own dominant maps. Non-normative substance users who are excluded or punished by intoxication culture have mental maps which do not align with the dominant maps of intoxication spaces. For Black, Indigenous and other racialized non-normative substance users the consequences are most severe and the mental maps of intoxication spaces may include the Prison Industrial Complex. I have reflected on my own experience as a white settler non-normative substance user, first as an active alcoholic, then as a sober alcoholic. My experiences reveal two very different mental maps, neither of which aligns with the dominant map of intoxication culture. These maps are only two examples of the vast number of mental maps which are produced through normative and non-normative relationships to substances. Thinking through substance use in terms of mental mapping reveals that our relationships to substances shape our relationships to space.

 

References

 

  1. Ingram, G.B., Bouthillette, A., & Retter, Y. (1997). Narratives of place: Subjective and collective. Queers in space: Communities, public places, sites of resistance (55-61). Bay Press.
  2. Morrigan, C. & geoff (2015).  Deconstructing intoxication culture: Community, accessibility and sober spaces. Retrieved from http://clementinemorrigan.com/deconstructing-intoxication-culture-community-accessibility-and-sober-spaces/
  3. Razack, S. (2002). When place becomes race. Race, space and the law: Unmapping a white settler society (1-20). Toronto: Between the Lines.
  4. Riotfag, N. (2010). Towards A Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle. Self-published.
  5. Ware, S, Ruzsa, J. & Dias, G. It can’t be fixed because it’s not broken: Racism and disability in the prison industrial complex. Captive genders: Trans embodiment and the prison industrial complex (1-42). AK Press.

 

Clementine Morrigan
Clementine Morrigan is a queer femme sober-addict witch, writer and artist. They are a white settler living on colonized land known as Toronto, Turtle Island. Clementine’s work spans genres and mediums, including essays, poetry, creative non-fiction, zines, illustration, short film, self-portraiture and sculpture. All of their work aims to undermine hierarchies of knowledge production by blurring distinctions between art, academia and DIY culture making. More can be found at www.clementinemorrigan.com

Community Spaces

A Conversation with LAL

By Adabu Brownhill

     As a Queer black gender bending person, I live for spaces that center Queer and trans racialized people. Living in Canada those types of spaces are hard to find, sometimes impossible to find, unless you live in a bigger city with a diverse population. I actually moved from Guelph to Toronto just to be able to have access to spaces that are primarily for folks of colour and Queer and Trans people. Unit 2, a well-known community space in Toronto, run by two radical artists, specifically changed my entire perspective on safe and inclusive spaces. My introduction to Rose and Nic/LAL was life changing as they have an incredibly beautiful concept of community and hold their community down in ways I’ve never seen before. I interviewed rose about Unit 2, which is her loft apartment where she lives with her partner Nic. They live there, make music there and open their home to an entire community of Indigenous, Black, POC and Queer and Trans folks. They’re two of the most amazing, badass people I’ve ever met and they’re a huge inspiration for me and many other folks.

First off, the word ‘community’ is really trendy these days. what does community mean to you?

Hmmmm that’s hard.

      I mean our community (Nic and mine aka LAL), is pretty interesting and diverse so it’s kind of all over the place from queer/trans folks to straight folks (and in between) from BIPOC to allies, artists to academics…so my sense of community is always changing or I’m always learning how to make community more meaningful and how to support it.

    Community to me means treating people like family or chosen family. sometimes you don’t like them or they piss you off but you find ways to love, and forgive them (or not), or you love them just cuz.

     I think community means to forgive each other, have compassion and try our best not to come at each other but i to understand if we do from time to time, cuz we are all dealing with so much shit and pain and trauma.

     I believe community means to have each others you back, so if you need something then I’m there for you and I will drop what I got going to support. If you need food or cash or housing then we are here to support, and vice versa.I think lot of people talk about community, but really they are looking out for themselves, this annoys the crap of me but I have to learn not to get upset and allow people their own path.

What are ways that you build community?

    I build community mostly through word of mouth, through other relationships and also just being open to the universe (you def have to pay attention when you do this as well!). I def build through our arts/community space, like Unit 2. A lot of folks contact us and find out about what we are doing through friends and such We end up building community through the space, both performers and community members. We def build through music as well and art and social justice. I mean def have an online community but the community is very much connected to our ‘in life’ community, it’s just a continuation of how we work in the ‘non virtual world’.

    I think I also support a lot of folks, either with their art or lately been trying to be supportive one on one with folks who need some support and help. This is a very different way to build community cuz it’s one relationship at  a time but it’s also super important. I don’t want my job or my arts practice to get so busy that I don’t have room for folks nor do I want my art to be the only thing i really focus on. Life is my Art so community building is def part of this.

You’ve turned your home into a community space. How did that start?

Well, I got tired of the scene in Toronto, not being able to do what we wanted, always bowing down to corporate types (not always of course!) but just wanting to something different. It started off as just us trying to run some parties and provide space, and we slowly realized how there wasn’t enough safer space for Q/BIPOC folks and accessible space in terms of economics, and ability. Again we hadn’t really thought of any of this when we started and luckily (well it’s not really luck!), we got a space that was pretty accessible (the main space), and as we learned more about what folks needed, Unit 2 just began to shape itself. It’s been six years! and we’ve learned a lot and continue to learn and share space. The hope is to make it a full time community/arts space and get more people involved who want to create a DIT (Do It Together) vision. Big ups to Toyin Coker, Ange Loft, Kevin Jones, Juli(e), Ki, Cherish Blood, all the volunteers, and other folks who have lived at Unit 2 and supported and helped shape the vision of Unit 2!

 What do you find challenging when it comes to community/community spaces?

      It’s a lot of work. Wow so much work (laughing) and though we love it we def need some help for sure. We are reaching out more and more cuz we are burning out and we got a new album coming out so we can’t always run things for like nine hours plus set up and cleanup!

     It’s also a lot of energy work, cuz I’m basically keeping track of the room and the energy and vibes. From the outside it may look like we are (Nic, the volunteers, promoters and I) partying but really we are very much aware of what’s going on, in order to keep things safer.

     I used to be worried about all different communities coming together but now I’m feeling like this a great way to build trust, eat, dance, smoke, whatever before we start to do political-based work. 

    It’s also challenging to get folks to believe in DIT spaces, but people are craving for it. Just getting people to work together can be challenging but thus far it’s been pretty easy, just a lot of time and energy goes into this shit.

What are some cool QPOC (queer people of colour) community spaces that you know of in Toronto? Can you mention some outside of Toronto?

Blocko for sure, not a physical space but def Block (Black contingent of Pride) have been creating space for years!

There’s Double Double land for concerts, though I’m not that familiar with them and are building with them slowly now, but April is mad cool. 88 days has been building space/shows for years within Black queer shit. Outside of Toronto there’s loads, QPOC in Winnipeg, who we just connected with are doing amazing things and we are just beginning to find more Q/BIPOC space throughout Canada. Yes Yes Y’all has been doing parties for a while and d’bi young’s Watah school as well. In the US there’s tonnes from Allied Media conference in Detroit to DIY spaces in Oakland. we are planning a tour in the US are reaching out to folks. In Seattle there’s folks like Moni Tep and Black Constellation folks and My Parade has a DIY Q/BIPOC concert space in their home. There’s a lot in the US for sure and we are just beginning to build with folks. Brooklyn boihood in NY as well have been doing some wicked things. Just found out about Boys of Bangladesh but haven’t been able to connect yet (out of Dhaka). Black Lives Matter is doing a whole lot and in Toronto is working on a Freedom school for Black youth. Il nana is creating dance spaces for QBIPOC folks in Toronto, Crafty Queers is also doing some amazing work. The Drag musical creates space for BIPOC youth create Drag performances, and Native Youth Sexual Health Network is doing some amazing work, oh there’s also Children’s Peace Theatre! Gosh, there’s a bunch!

What advice can you give to people who are interested in organizing some sort of community space ?

Be patient, work with people who you trust and want to build with. Don’t get too ego’d out and allow things to unfold and build organically.Get people involved to support and do what you love. If you don’t love it, then don’t do it cuz it will burn you out. Ask for help when you need it and be open to feedback and making changes! don’t get into this power ego shit. work from a place of community and try your best not to let personal biases get in the way. Listen to people and don’t be afraid to try new shit. Try to make stuff accessible in all ways and reach out to communities, build bridges not walls! Take breaks when you need and be honest about what you can and cannot do! Be transparent or learn to be transparent, and share information and money!


Adabu Brownhill
Adabu Brownhill (DurtyDabz) is a Black/Mixed, Queer, FemmeBro dedicated to fighting for Mother Earth and the Liberation of Black & Indigenous Peoples and All People Of Colour. She is a badass DJ as well as a passionate gardener. She strives to decolonize agriculture in Ontario and create farming/gardening spaces that are fun and kool for racialized folks. She dreams of a farm where People Of Colour be chillin’, bumpin hella beats, planting seeds, harvesting herbs and eating gourmet meals while making jokes and enjoying each others company. She draws inspiration from radical underground artists such as Junglepussy, Destiny Frasqueri (Princess Nokia), Jay Boogie and Le1f. Her favorite foods are spicy meat and fresh fruits and vegetables.

LAL
In the late 1990s, LAL introduced a political edge to the electronic underground, bridging the gap between art and social justice. They have carved out a strong diasporavoice in the Canadian music scene, which remains largely unexplored by mainstream media. They are queer / straight, black / brown, Asian and West-Indian and they are a mix of hiphop, techno, downtempo and international sounds. Unit 2 is their home and DIT (do it together) art and community space they run out of Toronto with friends. The space is mandated to support Q/BIPOC communities and our allies.