10 Revolutionary Toronto women talk inspiration and self-care

10 Revolutionary Toronto women talk inspiration and self-care

Today is International Women's Day. It’s a day for women a day to celebrate women. For some, it’s a day of action.

Some have dubbed today the day without women and encouraged women to not go to work, in a strike action to demonstrate “economic solidarity”.

Now someone needs to take the economic privilege plank out of the eyes of these organisers; 'cause who among us can afford to not “engage in paid work”?

Not me. I’m severely underemployed as it is.

Not single mothers like my infant’s physiotherapist. She is forced to use her all vacation days and sick days to care for her daughter when she has one of a hundred ailments: lice, viral infections, or parasites kids pass back and forth to each other.

Not my friend Simone who juggles two part time jobs and and whose childcare costs more than her rent. Simone shares a home with 3 other families, and substitutes her income with sex work.  

A few years ago as a new immigrant, I was stuck in a job I couldn't leave for fear of jeopardizing my work visa. I had the audacity to wear red to work on World AIDS Day. It turns out that was in violation of a policy against making political statements. Someone reported me to HR for the unwitting crime of supporting a marginalized group of people.

Now I know some people will read what I said about today’s strike and say, but their hearts are in a good place. But it’s the same lukewarm left-leaning political narrative that people use to excuse feminists like Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, who thought it was appropriate to whitewash what should have been a tribute to Martin Luther King. And then there’s yesterday’s solidarity post on Instagram for International Women’s Day where, in both official languages, she suggested women "celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are”.

This exemplifies what is wrong with white feminism; we’re expected to negate impact for intent. This rhetoric is a gateway drug. It’s dangerous. It’s one hit away from the likes of Megan Murphy and Kellie Leitch.

So to the women who expect to see me box food outta mi pickney mouth* by not working or by wearing red, I say cash me outside where I’ll be celebrating these 10 unsung hero’s, visionaries and exceptional intersectional feminist leaders.

*From a Jamaican proverb meaning, "to take food from the mouth's of my children"

Sedina Fiati

Image credit: Warren Cleland

Image credit: Warren Cleland

Sedina Fiati performs, creates, produces, does activist-y things for the stage and screen. She was born in Tkaronto to a Trinidadian mother and Ghanaian father. Her name means a gift from God and she hopes to be that to the world.

Your go-to on self-care ritual on hard days:

When things get tough and I'm feeling anxious, unsure, really sad or low on hope, I turn to my journal. I write and write and let the page bear the burden. There is something about putting to pen to paper that allows a higher source to flow through, something bigger than myself. It also gets me out of negative repetitive patterns as I get tired of repeating the same shitty thoughts and feelings over and over again.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

I am so inspired by various women leaders in the entertainment industry, black women, women who do multiple things and do them well. Right now, Trey Anthony is inspiring me, Oprah has been an inspiration for a long time. I look to Tina Fey and Lena Dunham (choosing to concentrate on their polymath capabilities and less on their racist fuck ups) as possibility models, as well as Aisha Tyler, Issa Rae and Shonda Rhimes. I love that these women are pioneers, striving for excellence. They write, produce, act, make a magazine, make a feminist newsletter, write a book, whatever they want to do, they do it! They have changed the game in the industry that is so oppressive and stuck in feedback loop of white men representing everyone and everything. They have opened the doors for other women, in addition to just centring women and women's stories in their work.

My work is motivated by truth, inclusion, fun, investigation, problem solving. I am an Aries with a Cancer moon and Cancer rising, so I have the fire to get things started, accompanied by the heart and emotions for social justice. I am interested in telling my own story as a queer black woman raised in Toronto. I am interested in bringing the richness of the black diaspora to every character I play. I am interested in stories about lesser known people and his/herstories obscured by oppression. I am very interested in stories from the black diaspora. Maybe this seems obvious, but I always want to work with great people, folks who have integrity, honesty, a good work ethic. The universe often has my back and because of who I am, the folks that are interested in working with me have some knowledge of social justice. I am also honing my ability and intuition to find great peeps.

Yung Bambii

Kirsten Azan, baptized Bambii, is one of Canada’s most compelling new DJs. Whether online or on the dance floor, her political and musical vernacular give credence to dance music’s ever expanding reach and the relationships it helps forge between individuals, cultures and spaces. As proof, the last year has taken her across Europe with Mykki Blanco and to festival stages at WayHome, TIME, Igloofest and Piknic Electronik. At home, her event series ‘JERK’ is still hitting capacity, still D.I.Y. and still true to its roots.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

When I feel overworked or not the healthiest my go to is always a really saturated salt bath. I always specify sea salt and not epsom, for some reason this feels more healthy to me. I've also heard that salt is a naturally detoxifies you and I feel almost always better after. It's a chance to just be truly quiet and its like SO good for your skin.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

My biggest inspiration isn't someone so far away or a person I don't know, its my mother. She's been so many things professionally and has always been involved in various communities. I feel like when I was young certain ideas around community and politics weren't taught to me verbally it was just something I was immersed in  based on the life she lived. As an adult and as an artist she gives me so much support and good critical advice, I often feel like there are a lot of parallels in who we are at times. One of my biggest motivations outside of that is the community of women that show me a lot of love. I believe artists are products of the communities around them and you get no where without people collectively deciding to put you there. I work hard because of promises I have made to myself and because I know how important representation is.

Stay connected to the Bambii and her projects:

BAMBII INSTA SOUNDCLOUD

Tings Chak

Tings Chak is a Hong Kong-born and Toronto-based activist and artist trained in architecture. Her work draws inspiration from migrant justice, sex worker rights, Indigenous solidarity and anti-capitalist internationalist struggles. Her graphic novel, Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention, explores the role and ethics of architectural design and representation in the prison industrial complex.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

I eat a can of sardines from the can, with chopsticks.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

I am inspired by the power of individuals en masse. I am inspired by the hundreds of migrants defying borders through the winter into Canada, across the Mediterranean sea, and over the fences of Ceuta on any given day. As an internationalist at heart, I am inspired by the working class rising up on the streets of Ferguson, in the brothels of Thailand, in the mines of Marikana, in the peasant encampments of Brazil, and in the public occupations of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Stay connected to the Tings and her projects via social media and donate to her Crowdfunder campaign for "Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention" special edition (all royalties go towards End Immigration Detention Network): http://bit.ly/2mAwBjU

Facebook: Tings Chak

Twitter: @t_ings

Instagram: thingswithouttheh

www.tingschak.com www.undocumented.ca

Courtney Alysse Skye

Courtney is a proud Haudenosaunee woman, outspoken intersectional feminist, stand-up comic and producer. Professionally, she works in public policy with a specific focus on ending violence against Indigenous women. She was named one of This Magazine’s 25 Kick-Ass Activists of 2017 in their 50th anniversary issue. She produces BXD BXTCHXS, a monthly feminist stand-up show at Comedy Bar. She's opened for Elvira Kurt and appeared at Field Trip and the SheDot Festival. Her comedy writing has also been featured on CBC Comedy. Courtney’s comedy is witty, dark and provocatively feminist.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

My self care ritual is always having a nutritious and lovely lunch. In my office, we get access to a full kitchen. So I often cook a meal and I try to take time in the middle of busy days to check in, have a laugh, and eat well. I tell my colleagues as well so they also know how important lunch is for me.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

My five nieces and my nephew, are my inspiration. My work and my heart always focuses on pushing for change to make their future brighter.

Stay connected to the Courtney and her projects:

The next BXD BXTCHXS is Thursday March 23rd at 8PM at Comedy Bar (Ossington Station).

Twitter: @queenpies

Instagram: @pies.skye

Steff Ivory Conover (Ivory)

Ivory is Toronto based "quintuple threat" artist. A graduate of the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts she has been pursuing a storied career as a singer, actor, dancer, model and advocate.  A staunch believer in body positivity, Ivory spreads the "body love gospel" through her art, pushing for change with her intersectional feminism, body positivity, queer advocacy and outspoken message of love at all costs.

Website: www.pureivory.ca

Twitter:  @pureivorydotca

Instagram:  @pureivorydotca

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

On really hard days, I head out of the city and spend time at the farm with my horses. Nature truly is my grounding, and a day in the field being able to root, connect with the earth and interact with animals is my absolute go-to when I’m facing the tough stuff.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

My mother has always been my greatest inspiration—a survivor of sexual abuse, and 5 time cancer survivor, she showed me what living life to the FULLEST and spreading love everywhere you go is really about. She taught me to be soft but strong, to dance through the pain, and to truly leave a mark on this world so that when go, your good works will continue to speak for you. My work is motivated by the injustices I see in the world around me, pushing the boundaries, and creating change through love, acceptance, and diversity on all fronts.

Stay connected to the Ivory and her projects:

International Women's Day: Goddess Worship  - Wednesday March 8th at The Pilot - 22 Cumberland St. Doors at 7PM Show at 7:30PM. Tickets available at International Women's Day: Goddess Worship

Anna Saini

Anna Saini is Brown and proud, a femme working-class survivor. Her writing appears in various publications including The World Policy Journal, Bitch and make/shift magazines, her self-published anthology Colored Girls and her blog Hersight. She is one of seven sex worker storytellers featured in the documentary film The Red Umbrella Diaries. She has over a decade of experience organizing in low-income communities of colour, a BA in Political Science from the University of Toronto and an MA in Public Policy and Administration from McMaster University. She is currently lives in Toronto and is writing her first book-length memoir.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

I draw a bath with epsom salt and eucalyptus bubble bath, light a soy candle, roll a fatty, pour an Olivia Pope sized glass of wine, play my favourite music of the moment on my phone, put the phone on airplane mode and a safe distance away from the bath, turn on my wireless headphones. Get in the bath. Melt into the sensations of your muscles releasing in the heat. Meditate on gratitude, loss, joy, and pain. Remind myself that whatever happened in the past has led me here and here feels good.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

There are so many women of colour in the leadership of the sex worker rights movement that inspire me to make noise, disrupt, and fight for justice. These women show us that even in amongst pervasive white supremacist capitalist patriarchy we have the power to dismantle oppression and win. Monica Jones, for example, refused to take a charge under a virtual "walking while trans" law in Arizona that allowed police to profile people toward a solicitation charge. Through her tremendous organizing acumen she brought together a community of supporters, including Laverne Cox and an ACLU legal team, to advocate for her cause. When it became clear to the Arizona authorities that they had messed with the wrong woman and, in fact, Monica's efforts would inevitably lead not only to her overcoming the charges against her but overturning the entire law, their only option was to drop the charges against her to avoid monumental defeat. Black women in the sex worker rights movement show us what is really possible when we lift up the voices of directly impacted people in the fight for our liberation and this is the core motivation of my work.   

Social Media Handles:

How to support my work:

I'm currently working on some dope creative projects here in Toronto including a sex worker storytelling event, sex worker activist podcast, and sex worker film screening series. I'll launch a Patreon in the near future but if you're itching to support women of color leadership in sex worker activism and media then paypal me annasaini@gmail.com. You can also support Black women leaders in our movement like The Incredible Edible Akynos, who is launching the Black Sex Worker Collective, by buying awesome merchandise here:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/GlobalBlackWoman. Or contribute to the fund for Gigi Thomas, a Black trans woman human rights activist and beloved community member, who was recently convicted of second degree murder for the crime of surviving violence bent on her erasure: https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/support-gigi-thomas.

The most important thing you can do to support is to stop lifting up the voices of white people in our movement in favour of amplifying the voices, experiences, and leadership of women and gender non-conforming people of colour with concrete support including money, employment, and other opportunities that promote real visibility and agency.

Ellie Ade Kur

I'm a grad student at the University of Toronto interested in sex workers rights, supporting communities impacted by state violence and sexual assault, and creating spaces for radical forms of community-based education.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

One thing that's always been important to me, in any political or educational project I'm part of, is learning when to step back and take a break. Often in the moment, my hardest days and toughest anxieties are eased by the love and support of people around me, but yoga and stretching are always my go-to forms of self care and relaxation because they let me sit with my thoughts and keep me grounded.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

I'm inspired by the activists around me - their strength (even in moments of weakness), love and unconditional support, and their drive to build safer, stronger communities. I've been blessed to know a number of incredible sex workers in Toronto who- from a young age- put the time, energy and love in to keep me grounded. I'm motivated by an unwavering desire to watch these networks thrive and a firm belief in the power of seemingly small forms of support. Before I knew what to call it, my 'activism' and 'organizing' began with supporting the people closest to my heart.

Stay connected to the Ellie and her projects:

Twitter @ellieadekur

I'm speaking at a conference called "Deconstructing Social Justice Activism" at the University of Toronto on March 17th.

CIUT89.5FM every Tuesday at 11am: #WeAreUofT: the University of Toronto’s only show on social justice and activism

Rania El Mugammar

Rania El Mugammar is a Sudanese-Canadian Toronto-based artist, anti-oppression, equity and inclusion consultant and organizer. Rania's work disrupts contemporary arts and cultural institutions and creates meaningful inclusion through the exploration of art as documentation, resistance and imagination.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

I take care of myself through healing and poetry, memorizing and reciting poetry puts me in a meditative state - based on my upbringing in a Muslim family, recitation is a spiritual experience for me .

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

I am inspired by the women in my community, the women of the hood and the inner city spaces who hustle with everything to thrive. Interdependence and mutually assured survival motivate my work, liberation includes all of us.

Stay connected to the Raina and her projects:

t: @raniawrites

IG: @blackmagicwomxn

Shut it Uncle Bob

Islamophobia Allyship

Monica Forrester

I am a woman of colour from Curve Lake reservation in Ontario. I am also a trans woman and have been a street sex worker for 25 years.

For many years I was homeless. I had no other option but to do sex work to survive. It was where I found community with people dealing with the same discrimination as me.

I'm currently working at Maggie's Sex Workers Action Project and Street Health as a Mental Health Case manager for homeless people, those with mental health issues and people that use.

I've been working in community services for 18 years, bringing awareness to the lives of trans people, sex workers and marginalized groups in Toronto.

My endless work also includes advocating for trans women who are just as able to make a difference in every area of society.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days: 

Due to the complexity of my work, self-care is very important to me to stay healthy, grounded and focused in all areas of my life.

I credit mediation and staying connected to mother earth. It allows me to stay strong, healthy and positive.

My dogs also give me that nurturing when I feel down or exhausted due to the challenges of my work.

Who inspires you and what motivates your work?

The person that inspires me is my mother. She has always been there to cheer me on and give me confidence when I felt I didn’t have any. She has always inspired me to follow my dreams, be the best I can be and not let anything or anyone deter me from my purpose in life.

My mom has always supported me as her daughter, as a sex worker and with the endless work i do in the many communities i work and identify with.

Twitter: @tsmoni

Jordyn Samuels

Jordyn Samuels is a fourth year University of Toronto undergraduate double major in Equity Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies. She has eleven years of experience doing education around equity, anti-oppression, social justice and LGBTQ issues and recently started her own consulting company called Journeys InEquity which provides workshops and training in these areas. Because of this work, Jordyn was honoured by Pride Toronto as the 2016 Youth Ambassador.

Your go-to self-care ritual on hard days:

One self-care ritual I do on really hard days is to write. I tend to focus on a social issue that is really bothering me and empty my thoughts out on paper or on Twitter which usually ends up in a well-rounded rant.

What inspires you and motivates your work?

What motivates me and my work is doing what I can to challenge the oppressive conditions I experienced growing up in high school in relation to my sexuality and my Blackness. Now I tie these experiences systematically and institutionally. My work with youth is inspired by the youth I've grown up with in youth programming, and the new youth I see now who are resisting systems of oppression in their own ways. From challenging discriminatory policies at schools to fighting for safer spaces, to creating whole arts based communities where they are able to express themselves in ways they can celebrate amongst themselves.

Next gig: Workshop on Anti-Black racism and Anti-Oppression at University of Toronto's Equity Studies Student's Union Conference Friday March 31st, 2017.

@EquityJourneys

@iiHeartPolitics

 

Contributions have been edited for clarity

Akio Maroon is a dedicated Single Mother, an Educator, and an International Human Rights Advocate who identifies as a queer, gender-fluid Black Womxn. Akio has spent over 14 years in Human Rights advocacy. 

Akio is a passionate Community Organizer who has been a powerful and consistent voice on the topics of Consent Culture, Black Liberation, Equality, Workers & Sex Professionals Rights and Violence Against Women. Akio currently sits on Ontario's Permanent Roundtable on Violence Against Women providing innovative policy advice to the government on ongoing and emerging gender-based violence issues and assisting in the implementation of the It's Never Ok Action Plan

Akio Maroon is a Executive Board member at Pride Toronto and Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, the founding Director of the Toronto Childcare Collective (TCC) an organization that supports the participation of parents, in racial socioeconomic and justice work, and the founding Director of Grind Toronto - Toronto’s only sex positive movement for Black, Indigenous folks and People of Colour that celebrates safer sex and promotes consent culture.

 

Support: Akio Maroon
Follow: Akio Maroon