Friday, 28 June 2019

'I Rise' Exhibition Showcases Aspects of African Spirituality

A Review
By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Winsom  'The Masks We Wear,' part of the installation exhibition 'I Rise' by Winsom at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The exhibition runs until July 7, 2019

A hymn ushers visitors of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) into ‘I Rise,’ an exhibition by Belize-based Canadian-Jamaican Maroon artist, Winsom, curated by Andrea Fatona, an independent curator, scholar, and writer who is currently an associate professor in the Faculty of Art, Graduate Studies at OCAD University.

Since December 22 last year her installations have been mounted inside the Samuel & Esther Sarick (Gallery 239) & Mary & Harry Jackman (Gallery 238) and will be there until July 7.

They are from the Afrocentric spiritually moving work of the multi-media installation artist whose instinctive works explore themes of freedom, survivance, resilience, renewal, and African spirituality within the context of the Black Atlantic experience.

The Masks We Wear gestures to African traditions of mask-wearing as part of healing rituals and to practices of masking within the context of trauma and the everyday presentation of self. 

In this installation, the artist contemplates on practices of unmasking/ healing and connections with the ‘natural’ world that enable a more holistic engagement with both human and non-human forms.

In an interview with the AGO, Winsom said The Masks We Wear, focuses on healing and transformation, and includes the elements used for healing: fire, water, nature, earth and mineral.

A table with stones representing types of trauma -- pain, scars, fear, abuse, voiceless encircling one symbolic of racism  – sits in front of an installation of masks with one central figure wearing a mask mounted on a wall.  

Leading up to these is a raised platform where there are more masks and symbols of  serpents. Serpents represent rebirth, transformation, healing and the link between the material and the spiritual world. The entire display is mounted on red silk cloth or on a red backdrop. 

Across from this is an installation of a man half-buried in the earth.

“A man once came to me for healing. As part of my practice, I bury people in an earth shrine (filled with soil) to be healed. As I watched him I thought, he could be used to represent earth in this piece,” she told the AGO’s Art Matters Blog.
Photo credit: A view of the Spirit Room which is part of the installation exhibition 'I Rise' by artist, Winsom, at the Art Gallery of Ontario

The hymn is playing in the ‘Spirit Room’ where one will find Jumping the Boa, an interactive installation that pays homage to those who came before us. 

“It focuses on death as a form of transformation. In African spiritual practices, the ancestors or the departed, are believed to continue to exist unencumbered by the strictures of material reality in an invisible or metaphysical world. They are keepers of knowledge, customs, and symbols, and provide the living with access to the divine. Animals are often participants in rituals that honour those who have entered the spirit world,” notes a synopsis of the exhibition.

Winsom includes photographs of elders meaningful to her – like her mother, Emily Carr, and persons who inspire her art – on an altar.  There are also photos of the ancestors on  a wall in this room – one of them is the portrait of Jamaican heroine, Nanny of the Maroons. 

The artist notes that Jumping the Boa is about death. “It’s my belief that the afterlife is basically the same as this world except everything is upside down. The table on the ceiling represents this belief,” said Winsom to the AGO.

Photo credit: Neil Armstrong  'The Masks We Wear' in the exhibition 'I Rise' at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Photo credit: Neil Armstrong 'Jumping the Boa' in the exhibition 'I Rise' at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Photo credit: Neil Armstrong  The 'I Rise' installation exhibition by Winsom at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Photo credit: Neil Armstrong   'I Rise' exhibition by Winsom, curated by Andrea Fatona at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Photo credit: Neil Armstrong   'I Rise' exhibition by Winsom at the Art Gallery of Ontario

She said she chose to use the colour red to represent the ancestors and there is a bowl of water to create a feeling of calmness. 

“This will help you think of people you love who have passed – in this space you can talk to them, write down your thoughts and leave them here. I like doing interactive pieces like this. Sometimes I use the messages in new pieces or add them to old works.”

In Toronto, Winsom’s mentorship and teaching in the Fresh Elements and Fresh Arts programs were important contributions to the emergence of several Canadian artists. 

Her status as an elder, along with her dedication to the arts as integral to the production of cultural voice, societal engagement and citizenship, has created new spaces for dialogue within and across marginalized communities.

Fatona’s curation of this exhibition indicates how keenly she understands the sensibilities of the artist and of Afrocentric spirituality in the arrangement of the installations, the lighting and the inclusion of the hymn.

‘I Rise’ closes on July 7 and brings a unique difference to the exhibitions and galleries at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, June 27-July 3. 2019.]

Gareth Henry is the New Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP)

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed     Gareth Henry, new Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP)

The new executive director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) is Jamaican-Canadian Gareth Henry who assumed his new position on June 24.

In making the announcement of the appointment on June 14, Andrew Campbell, Board Chair, said Henry brings a wealth of community and senior leadership experience to the team.

Henry has played leadership roles in the non-profit and HIV sectors for almost twenty years.

He has worked at Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), The 519 Church Street Community Centre and, most recently, the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA). Henry has also served as Board Chair at Africans in Partnership Against AIDS (APAA) for more than six years.

Henry says he is honoured to have been chosen as the new executive director of Black CAP.

“For three decades, this organization has stood tirelessly at the forefront of initiatives and services to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Toronto’s African, Caribbean and Black community, while providing compassionate and comprehensive support to those courageously living with HIV/AIDS. Black CAP as an organization has remained resolute and unwaveringly committed to this mission, even when this work has been challenging and at times daunting,” says Henry who has worked at PWA for seven years as a manager and recently as the director of programs and services position.

Born in St. Mary, Jamaica, Henry attended Titchfield High School in Portland and Excelsior Community College in Kingston before pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. He holds a Master of Arts (MA), Communication for Social and Behaviour Change and a Bachelor's degree in Social Work.

With all that has been happening in the HIV community around stigma and the absence of faces, in terms of leadership and who are out about their status and have a presence in community, he felt it important to be aligned with an African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) organization as an out positive gay man from the Caribbean.

Henry identifies with all of those intersectionalities and wants to use it as a platform that creates a visibility for others to know that they do not have to reside in silence but to see that they are not alone.

He will use his presence “to challenge that stigma that is so ingrained in our Black community around HIV, around sexual orientation and identities and to try to break that kind of cycle and create opportunities for others to see that they have a voice and can advocate on their own behalf.”

In 1997, he began volunteering for Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), the oldest and largest AIDS-focused, human rights, non-governmental organization in Jamaica. The following year he began volunteering at J-FLAG and eventually became its lead advocate and new director after the organization’s co-founder and spokesperson, Brian Williamson, was murdered on June 9, 2004.

As a gay man whose life was being threatened because of his sexual orientation, Henry fled Jamaica and sought refugee protection in Canada in January 2008, which he was granted in June of that year.

Henry also volunteers with Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian nonprofit that helps relocate LGBTQ people who face danger and oppression around the world.

Since its founding in 2006, Rainbow Railroad has helped more than 500 individuals find a path to safety to start a new life free from persecution.   

Campbell says one of the new executive director’s first roles will be to lead the implementation of Black CAP’s new 2019-2024 strategic plan and “build on our strong ties to the community, excellent programs, ensure our sustainability and lead us into new areas of work. We are excited to pass the baton to Gareth and support him in this role.”

Henry says as executive director it is his goal and ambition to continue to move this work forward, “leading the bold action, strategic partnerships, and authentic community engagement that have been the backbone and hallmark of Black CAP’s impact in Toronto’s Black community.”

“I am pleased to bring more than 17 years of experience working with the Black and LGBTQ communities in both Canada and my homeland of Jamaica into this role.”

Over the past several months, a recruitment committee of the Black CAP Board of Directors conducted an extensive recruitment and interview process, interviewing several highly qualified candidates.

 “As the Chair of the Black CAP Board, leading a transparent and inclusive recruitment process has been one of the most important leadership roles for our Board. This was not an easy task for the recruitment committee as we wanted to ensure that we found someone strong enough to lead this organization, creative enough to lead change and sensitive enough to engage our community. Our Board is both unified and confident in our choice,” says Campbell.

The Board also thanked Beth Jordan of Adobe Consulting Services for her support throughout the recruitment process. 

It extended its appreciation to outgoing executive director, Shannon Ryan, for his leadership over the past thirteen years.

Ryan has served in that position since July 2006 and he has played an important role in building Black CAP into a leading organization in Ontario’s HIV and health sectors.

Ryan will continue to play a leadership role in Ontario’s HIV sector as he has accepted the executive director role at the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN).

“We wish him luck as he takes the next steps in his career,” says the Black CAP Board.

The Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention is the largest service provider of its kind in Canada consisting of a community of outreach experts, support specialists and activists dedicated to improving health outcomes for African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) people who are living with, and affected by, HIV.

Its mission is to reduce the spread of HIV infection within Toronto’s ACB communities and enhance the quality of life of people living with, or affected by, HIV or AIDS.

In 2018, Henry was featured in the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2014 in the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba as a human rights defender.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, June 27-July 3, 2019.]

Urban Alliance on Race Relations Welcomes Supreme Court's Decision

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed   Nigel Barriffe, Chair of the Board of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations

A judgment by the Supreme Court of Canada is being hailed as very significant regarding the rights of civilians in relation to carding and the over-policing of racialized and marginalized communities

"We are elated for this decision. It affirms that just because one lives in a less affluent neighbourhood doesn't mean our lives are any less valuable," says Nigel Barriffe, Chair of the Board of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, one of the interveners in the case.

In the 3-2 majority decision in the case of R v. Le, the Supreme Court set aside the convictions of the appellant, Tom Le, and acquitted him.

The 170-page decision outlines that one evening [May 25, 2012], five young racialized men [four Black men and one Asian man], including the 20‑year‑old accused, were gathered in the private backyard of a townhouse at a Toronto housing co‑operative when three police officers arrived.

The young men appeared to be doing nothing wrong. They were just talking. Two officers entered the backyard, without a warrant or consent. They immediately questioned the young men and requested documentary proof of their identities.

The third officer patrolled the perimeter of the property, then stepped over the low fence enclosing the backyard and directed one of the men to keep his hands where he could see them. One officer questioned the accused, demanding that he produce identification and asking him what was in the satchel he was carrying.

At that point, the accused fled, was pursued and arrested, and found to be in possession of a firearm, drugs and cash.

At his trial, the accused sought the exclusion of this evidence under Section 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that the police had infringed his constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and from arbitrary detention.

In convicting the accused, the trial judge held that he lacked standing to advance the arbitrary detention claim, saying that he was detained only when the officer asked him about the contents of his bag, that the detention was not arbitrary, and that had a breach of Charter rights occurred, the evidence would be admissible. A majority at the Court of Appeal agreed and dismissed the accused’s appeal from his convictions.

 However, the Supreme Court of Canada ruling said the circumstances of the police entry into the backyard effected a detention that was both immediate and arbitrary.

“This was serious Charter  -infringing police misconduct, with a correspondingly high impact on Mr. Le’s protected interests. Indeed, it was precisely this sort of police conduct that the Charter  was intended to abolish. On balance, the admission of the evidence would, in our view, bring the administration of justice into disrepute. We would, therefore, allow the appeal, exclude the evidence seized from Mr. Le, set aside his convictions and enter acquittals,” the court said in its judgment.

The court also noted that: "Living in a less affluent neighbourhood in no way detracts from the fact that a person’s residence, regardless of its appearance or its location, is a private and protected place.”

The decision also noted that, "The impact of the over-policing of racial minorities and the carding of individuals within those communities without any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity is more than an inconvenience. Carding takes a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. It impacts their ability to pursue employment and education opportunities,” it said referencing Justice Michael Tulloch’s 2018 report on carding.

“Such a practice contributes to the continuing social exclusion of racial minorities, encourages a loss of trust in the fairness of our criminal justice system, and perpetuates criminalization.”

Barriffe says this decision affirms that there is not a two-tier system of Charter-protected privacy rights in our country. Police, therefore, will be considered to have engaged in an arbitrary detention (in violation of s. 9 of the Charter), if, without a valid reason, warrant or consent, they engage in carding by entering on to the private property of a resident in a racialized, high-crime, low-income neighbourhood while the resident is doing nothing illegal or suspicious.”

 He said it also affirms that where the police obtain incriminating evidence from an individual in these circumstances, the Court should order that this evidence be excluded because the police obtained the evidence through a violation of the individual's rights.

“In other words, the case indicates that evidence obtained through the violation of individuals' right to be free from arbitrary detention, cannot be accepted by the court, because accepting such tainted evidence would significantly harm the reputation of the courts and court process in the eyes and minds of the general Canadian public. Because of this, the SCC [Supreme Court of Canada] in this case excluded the incriminating evidence found on the accused, set aside the individual's conviction at lower levels of court, and acquitted the individual of the charges laid against him.”

UARR congratulated Emily Lam and Samara Secter who represented the applicant, Tom Le, and the hard work and skilled advocacy of all the interveners and their counsel.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, June 27-July 3, 2019.]

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

New Report Finds Differences in How Torontonians Perceive the Police

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Francine Buchner   Dr. Gervan Fearon, co-author of the report 'Perceptions of the Toronto Police and Impact of Rule Changes Under Regulation 58/16: A Community Survey'

A new report on public perceptions of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has found underlying demographic differences in how Torontonians view the police.

Written by academics, Dr. Gervan Fearon and Dr. Carlyle Farrell, the report entitled "Perceptions of the Toronto Police and Impact of Rule Changes Under Regulation 58/16: A Community Survey" was presented at the May 30 meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB).

It presents the results of a baseline community survey undertaken in the City of Toronto on behalf of the Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER) Committee of the TPSB.

The purpose of the survey was to examine public perceptions of the TPS and to better understand the community’s views on issues such as racial profiling, bias in policing and public trust in the city’s law enforcement officers.

Among its five recommendations, the report says differences in perception of the police between the various demographic groups in the city need to be narrowed.

“For example Blacks and some other minority groups clearly do not view the city’s law enforcement officers in the same light as their White/Caucasian peers. Bridging these differences whether through more effective engagement in marginalized communities, better public messaging or other approaches, will be of tremendous societal benefit.”

Another recommendation notes that with respect to carding the community appears to be hopeful that the new legislation [Regulation 58/16] will bring about meaningful change.

“There is clearly a foundation in place on which to build a true partnership between the police and the community. It is essential that this goodwill not be squandered. The establishment of a permanent standing committee of the TPSB with a mandate to provide advice on police-community relations on an ongoing basis may well pay dividends for the city,” notes the report.

The survey also attempted to assess the extent to which residents of Toronto are satisfied with the service delivered by their police officers.

In addition, the research focused on the practice of regulated interactions, i.e. carding or street checks, and sought to better understand the perspective of Toronto residents on this often contentious issue.

The extent to which Torontonians are supportive of street checks is examined, as well as the impact that the practice has on the community’s perception of its law enforcement officers.

The study also evaluates the public’s awareness of the basic tenets of Ontario Regulation 58/16 which came into force on January 1, 2017 and now governs the practice of regulated interaction.

The survey involved in-depth personal interviews of 1,517 individuals using a structured questionnaire and was undertaken over a two-month period (November-December, 2017) in various locations across the city.

The report also recommends that the TPSB should consider the establishment of a separate office to adjudicate complaints from citizens that stem from the implementation of Ontario Regulation 58/16.

“There is skepticism that bias on the part of police officers can be effectively eliminated with the implementation of new legislation. The establishment of an office, which is independent of the TPS, to adjudicate complaints may allay the fears of some community members that their rights may still be violated despite the new rules,” notes the recommendation.

Photo contributed     Dr. Carlyle Farrell, co-author of of the report 'Perceptions of the Toronto Police and Impact of Rule Changes Under Regulation 58/16: A Community Survey'

In its response the TPSB said the need for a community survey of this kind was first identified through the PACER Advisory Committee, the Police and Community Engagement Review “that focused on how we can best provide fair and bias-free policing in a way that meets the needs and expectations of the public.”

The Board said it took up that recommendation, championing the importance of conducting a community survey as a key priority, and funded it through
its Special Fund.

It said it also supported the importance of the development of a Know Your Rights public education campaign, another key PACER recommendation.

“What we learn from this community survey is critical and must be listened to carefully. It is so important that we continue to have a dynamic and comprehensive conversation around this topic – it must be both transparent, informed by community voices, as well as data-driven. We take the findings of the report seriously, as it relays to us the lived experiences of people who bring forward a perspective on community and policerelations that we need to incorporate into our policy-making and our operational planning,” said the TPSB.

The Board says it continues to be guided by what lies at the core of its modernization philosophy: “we are dedicated to delivering police services, in partnership with our communities, to keep Toronto the best and safest place to be.”

In their report, Drs. Fearon and Farrell said it needed to be strongly emphasized at the onset that while many of these overall metrics may be positive they mask important underlying demographic differences that must be highlighted.

For example, while 65% of the city’s population believe that Toronto police officers can be trusted to treat members of their ethnic group fairly the result for blacks is only 26%.

While 72% of the population believe that Toronto police act with integrity only 50% of blacks were in agreement. Similarly while 68% of Torontonians believe that officers are honest only 41% of blacks and 53% of Indigenous respondents were able to support that position.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, June 13-19, 2019.]

The Rude Collective Teams Up to Present a Latinx-Focused Event for Pride

By Neil Armstrong

Photo courtesy of The Rude Collective

As the Pride Toronto Festival weekend (June 21-23) approaches, The Rude Collective has decided to do something different this year.

It has teamed up with Maricón, which is based in New York City (NYC), to create ‘Rude xx Maricón,’ a QTBIPOC Pride mega-event on June 21 at the Northern Contemporary Gallery on Queen Street West.

Mark-Ché Devonish is the creative director of The Rude Collective, a group of queer Toronto-based artists who reclaim space, highlight racialized queer artists and artwork and aim to de-center oppressive structures while creating immersive experiences. It juxtaposes art shows, dance parties and performances into hybrid multimedia events. This is their first Latinx-focused event.

 “The event is Latinx-focused and not just Latinx as our headliner and co-organizer, Joselo, founder of Maricon, is Latinx but there are many other identities being represented on the lineup,” says Devonish.

This is the first-time headliner Joey LaBeija will perform his recently released album for a live crowd as well as his first performance in Toronto.

The Rude Collective was founded in September 2016 and has prioritized predominantly Black and Indigenous artists because it felt that there was not a lot of diversity in the representation in the events and art shows being created and curated.

“We also recognize the amount of harm that's been done to Black and Indigenous communities and wanted to start at the margins,” he said.

 ‘Rude xx Maricón’ is  described asthe only community-organized Pride event of this scale featuring a lineup of mostly female, trans and non-binary racialized artists from the Toronto queer underground community, focusing specifically on Latinx music and culture.”

Maricón was created to fill a void within NYC Latinx nightlife.

“We’re trying to create an event that queer Latinx people and other queer people of colour can look forward to, an event they feel represented by, and an event that anyone is welcome at, but where our racial identities and range of cultural backgrounds are celebrated,” says Devonish.

The collective says it wants to put focus on a part of the community that sometimes doesn’t get any recognition.

The Rude Collective notes that Pride weekend features no major queer Latinx events.

Joselo, the founder of Maricón (an event name that reclaims the Spanish anti-queer slur), and the rest of the event’s deejay and performer lineup will focus on music genres significant to Latinx culture and other racialized groups of people, such as reggaeton, dancehall, hip-hop, trap, Bollywood, house, techno and rap.

Photo courtesy of The Rude Collective

Since its inception, The Rude Collective has put on some signature events that have garnered tremendous support.

One of them is ‘Sissy- Tribute to Ballroom and Vogue’ event, -- the most recent was held at Stackt Market as the first queer event in the space. It featured deejays, performers and curated artwork.

Another, ‘Fried Plantains: Queer Soca Fete’ has free fried plantains, and lots of soca, dancehall and reggae. It prioritizes music from the Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora, deejays and work by queer Caribbean artists.

Every year in November to mark the anniversary of its firs time organizing an event, The Rude Collective presents a massive celebration featuring local and international performers.

The collective has also collaborated with organizations such as The Gardiner Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Pride Toronto, Images Festival, and Love-In Dance Festival, to name a few.

The Rude Collective says venue closures and lack of support from the City of Toronto to help cultivate a safe queer nightlife scene continue to present obstacles to racialized queer communities ability to congregate for programming significant to their cultural backgrounds.

Its response is ‘Rude xx Maricon.’ “Artists from Toronto’s queer POC-centred nightlife like Yes Yes Y’all and Raven’s Vision are represented on the lineup, and this artistic coming together is to demonstrate that we are present, resilient, and know how to throw a fun, safe and inclusive event,” says the organizer.

Photo courtesy of The Rude Collective

Asked how he finds the venues, Devonish says he does so through word of mouth and through speaking to organizers and promoters who have been around much longer than he has.

“We chat about if the staff and/or venue owner is racist or homophobic, we chat about if their security engages in transphobia and/or racism and how they prioritize folks with intersecting identities' safety and what the overall experience was like. We have to be careful as one event in a space that doesn't share your values could mean that you lose supporters and attendees for upcoming events but on the flip side, due to the constant venue closures, our options are becoming more and more limited.”

He says the feedback he has received from people who attended The Rude Collective’s events has been good.

“Folks message us to say that they feel welcomed in the space, and they love feeling like they can embrace their cultural identity while celebrating being part of the queer community. Attendees love seeing artwork in the space or learning about queer performers who they can support. It's a safe space for many without us calling it a safe space as we know it's constantly a work in progress.”

Rude xx Maricon takes place on Friday, June 21 at the Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1605 Queen Street West, from 9:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m.

Aside from Joey LaBeija and Joselo (NYC), the lineup includes: Myst Milano (Rude Collective), Nino Brown (Yes Yes Y’all), Chippy Nonstop (Intersessions, Pep Rally) and Bliptor (Raven’s Vision). Early bird tickets are $15. For more details, check out Facebook and Eventbrite.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Canadian-Caribbean Artists Heading to Carifesta XIV

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed    Daniel Jelani Ellis will be performing 'Speaking of Sneaking'  in Trinidad at Carifesta XIV, August 16-25, 2019.

A contingent of 49 artists working in music, dance, theatre and carnival arts will participate in the Caribbean's foremost festival of arts and culture, Carifesta XIV, in Trinidad and Tobago in August under the theme “Connect. Share. Invest.”

There are both junior and senior members in the dance and music contingent. KasheDance, founded by choreographer and artistic director, Kevin Ormsby, will provide the senior dance participation while the juniors are the Children Youth Dance Theatre Toronto and Roots and Branches Dance.
This will be the KasheDance’s second time attending the annual Caribbean arts festival which the company participated in for the first time in 2017 in Barbados.

The Canadian-Caribbean Arts Network (C-CAN), which is the brainchild of Trinidad-born artistic director, writer and actor, Rhoma Spencer, is charged with organizing and planning the Canada participation at Carifesta.
C-CAN’s involvement in 2017 marked the first time since its inception in 1972 that Carifesta agreed to the participation of a delegation of artists from the Caribbean Diaspora.

“In music, we have the leading Caribbean jazz ensemble, Kalabash, and The Melisizwe Brothers representing both in the junior and senior music category. Our theatre participant is Jamaican performing arts royalty, Daniel Ellis, the son of Blakka Ellis,” says Spencer, artistic director and co-founder of C-CAN.
The Canadian-Caribbean contingent includes artists with heritage from Jamaica, Trinidad, St Vincent, St Lucia, Dominica, Barbados, Guyana, Cuba and Haiti.
They expect “to make an impact with our performances first and foremost and to make connections for artistic collaborations between Canadian-Caribbean artists with their Caribbean counterparts and to return to the region for further performances and professional development. We expect our visit to be reciprocal so that we too are on the lookout for cutting edge work to invite for performances and workshops in Toronto,” says Spencer.
The group will depart Toronto for Port of Spain on August 14 for the 10-day festival running from August 16-25. A couple days before leaving they will present a showcase of the works to be presented on August 12.
Photo contributed  Rhoma Spencer, artistic director and co-founder of the Canadian-Caribbean Arts Network (C-CAN)

Speaking of C-CAN’s participation in Carifesta in Barbados in 2017, Spencer said it was well received.
“Our youth contingent was oftentimes requested when other countries were a no-show. Our theatre presentation was the second best theatre production after Jamaica and Kashedance production of ‘Facing Home’ provoked many discussions on social media mainly with the Jamaican audience,” said Spencer.
 “Our Calypso Monarch performed in St Kitts upon invitation by their director of the Carnival Commission while the Children Youth Dance Theatre were invited to perform at an International Dance Festival in Antigua. Our objectives at that first CARIFESTA outing were achieved and we expect even more this time around.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Ellis is preparing to take his production, “Speaking of Sneaking,” the original Anansi tale about displacement and desperation, to the festival and has organized a fundraiser in June.

“It is a tremendous honour to be invited by the C-CAN as their theatre representative at Carifesta XIV. In 1981 my father travelled with a contingent of Jamaican artists to Barbados for Carifesta IV. He was one of the theatre artists who performed in “Dog” by Dennis Scott, directed by Rawle Gibbons, a production my father still considers his favourite,” says Ellis.

He said 38 years later he has been gifted this opportunity to represent Canada – “my home where I’ve had outstanding training and found endlessly nourishing community and love.”

“My artistic practice was born in Jamaica and nurtured by a village of poets and theatre artists and educators. I am an artist today because of their influence and inspiration - this is an incredible moment to honour them and carry their creative legacy forward,” says Ellis.

This will be his first time in Trinidad.  “I'm looking forward to being back in the Caribbean. It has been 15 years since I've moved to Canada and over 7 years since I've visited Jamaica - this comes in good time.”

Samson Brown will join him as stage manager and travel partner to Trinidad.

“We need some support as we travel to yard so here we present a weekend of
bunununnus and brawta,” says Ellis.

He has planned a two-day showcase of his works at Black Artists Network Dialogue (BAND) in Toronto to raise funds for the upcoming trip.

Ellis will present ‘Speaking of Sneaking’ on June 8 which is a “journey with ginnal as he does all that he can to send that barrel back to yard - tricking, picking, and even, dicking. This is speaking of sneaking, a multidisciplinary mash-up where the archetypal Jamaican Ginnal meets the African Anansi.”

He is the playwright and performer with dramaturgy / direction by Jamaican-Canadian d'bi.young anitafrika, choreography by Brian Solomon, props, set, and costume design by Rachel Forbes, and sound design by his brother, Jesse Ellis.

On June 9, Ellis will present ‘Sinkle Bible Stall’ which is the laboratory of the supernatural and spellbinding Enigma Mahogany Shadu.

 “This performance art installation invites you to sit privately with the High Priestess of Hobeah for a reading and healing in her meeting place of myth, mystery and magic,” he says.

Carifesta Warm-Up Weekend will be held at Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue (BAND), 19 Brock Avenue, Toronto. ‘Speaking of Sneaking’ will be on Saturday, June 8, 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Ticket: $15
‘Sinkle Bible Stall’ will be held on Sunday, June 9, 12:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Double bill: $20 (Saturday and Sunday, plus brawta)

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Councillor Plays Key Role in Attracting North America's Major Tech Conference to Toronto

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed     Toronto Councillor, Michael Thompson, is also a Deputy Mayor and the Chair of the City's Economic and Community Development Committee

A Jamaican-Canadian municipal politician was a key member of a Toronto project team that successfully lobbied executives of Collision, one of the world’s leading high technology conferences, to choose Toronto as the conference’s home for 2019 – 2021. This is the first time that the conference is being held outside of the U.S. 

This year’s conference was held from May 20-23 bringing more than 25,000 technology executives and investors to the city and injecting tens of millions of dollars into Toronto’s economy.

"Our local tech industry is growing rapidly and it has attracted the world's attention. The Collision conference will build on this momentum while showcasing Toronto's diverse talent pool and connecting our local businesses to international investment opportunities," says Jamaican-Canadian Michael Thompson who is the City of Toronto’s deputy mayor, councillor for Ward 21 Scarborough Centre) and chair of the City's Economic and Community Development Committee.

On October 22, 2018, Thompson, a member of the executive committee, was re-elected for a fifth term as councillor in the municipal elections. He was first elected to the Toronto city council in 2003 and is the city’s only black councillor.

He was selected by the mayor to serve as one of three new deputy mayors of Toronto and his focus is on job creation. 

Collision, North America's fastest-growing technology conference, took place at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place. 

The City of Toronto partnered with Tourism Toronto and Exhibition Place to bring this sought-after conference to Toronto and will host Collision for three consecutive years starting this year.

"Toronto's technology and innovation sector is growing at a phenomenal rate. Collision will have a huge economic impact on our city and will help us build on that success," said Mayor John Tory. 

Collision brings together the people and companies that are redefining the global technology industry. 

More than 25,000 attendees, including 3,750 CEOs and 750 journalists, from 120 countries were anticipated to attend the recently-held 2019 conference.

The conference is part of a series of technology conferences that include Web Summit in Europe and RISE in Hong Kong.

The event included 14 standalone conferences that focus on industry tracks, including marketing, design, coding, robotics, SaaS, big data and more, curated roundtables and workshops, and networking events. 

By hosting this conference, Toronto aims to attract foreign direct investment to Canada in the form of company expansions and relocations, promote international trade and partnerships with Canadian companies, entice venture capitalist investment in Canadian companies, and promote the Toronto and Canadian innovation ecosystems.

"Toronto is not an up and coming city, it has arrived, and a number of people around the world haven't realized it yet. Collision is fortunate to be here at a time when Toronto is already booming," said Paddy Cosgrave, founder and CEO of Collision. 

Over the three years that Toronto will host Collision, more than 90,000 people are expected to attend and spend an estimated $147 million in the region. 

It is also anticipated that an additional 1,000 jobs can be created by attracting new companies and investments to Canada. 

The conference is also expected to attract at least 500 international investors to Toronto each year, providing the opportunity to bring needed investment capital for Canadian technology companies. 

Collision also attracts more than 500 international media and a global audience, providing an opportunity to highlight Toronto's economic strengths globally.

“Bringing Collision to Toronto will build on the momentum of the Toronto region's technology industry. The Toronto region ranks as the largest tech sector in Canada and the fourth largest in North America. The sector employs more than 300,000 people in 24,000 companies and accounts for 15 per cent of all the jobs in the region,” notes a media release from the City of Toronto.

In 2016, the growth of the Toronto region technology sector outpaced that of New York City and San Francisco combined. Based on that growth rate, Toronto is expected to have more technology jobs than Silicon Valley in the near future.

Toronto is Canada's largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of more than 2.9 million people. 

The city is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world's most livable cities.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, May 30-June 5, 2019.]