I grew up in Scarborough as a kid. I moved to Markham when I was in grade 5. I cried and cried back then because I didn’t want to leave my friends and had no interest in making new friends. As I got settled in Markham, it was such a diverse community of people. Minorities were absolutely the majority in the neighbourhood that I went to elementary and high school. I also played rep hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. My family doctor was Hindu, my dentist Sikh, my neighbours were Greek and Sri Lankan. My mom used to practice Tai Chi with some Chinese ladies at the park. I say to my best friends that I grew up with how I believe that our upbringing gave us the ability to adapt to environments better than others that didn’t grow up with such a mix of cultures.
I’ve spent the last few weeks taking graduation photos in Kingston,On at St Lawrence College. I’ve had many work situations but this was the first time that I’ve worked out of town for an extended period of time. I was kinda nervous considering I wasn’t sure what to expect and wasn’t fully comfortable with the operations of the job.
Maybe because I’m used to the big city and Toronto’s reputation of being a multicultural metropolis, I was initially surprised of the diversity of Kingston. I took photos of people from all walks of life. Not that I wasn’t doing that before, but this trip there was a full spectrum of people from special needs individuals, First Nations people, visible minorities and members of the LGBTQ community and everyone was respectful and welcoming.
It’s bizarre to me when I turn on the news and see stories of hate and intolerance around the world and I don’t understand why people think the way they do when at the end of the day, we all want freedom and to live without fear. And that’s not to say that Canada doesn’t have its problems, we absolutely do but I feel like we’re doing much better than some nations. Our diversity is our strength and my first experience working on the road reinforced that notion in my eyes.
Power to the People
Love and Peace
Ryerson Image Centre
Proposals to the Governor and Prison commissioner of Attica
State troopers at Attica 1971
Black Panther Poster
This weekend I took a trip to the Ryerson Image Centre in downtown Toronto. I saw an ad in the paper about this photo gallery and I told my friend @ryhanks that we should check this out because that’s right up our alley being into Photography and African-American history. The problem with the society that we live in, is there are so many distractions so I forgot about the exhibit until I was deleting some photos from my phone and I saw a picture of the flyer that I took while I was on the TTC and I saw that the last day was April 9th.
I took the subway to Dundas station and walked over to the Ryerson Image Centre. It was my first time there and it was a nice clean building with all the amenities. I first saw a video board and a short film by a former Black Panter. It was mind blowing that you can still see the bullet holes in a house from a shootout that took place in 1968.
Although I am a photographer, for some reason I find it strange to take photos of photos or art so I left my camera at home and just used my phone. They had a guided tour of the exhibit but you were also free to walk around as you pleased so, I did a quick lap before the tour started. There were a lot of powerful images and some were definitely not for the faint of heart.
The Attica rebellion took place before I was born and I heard of it but I didn’t know very much about it. When I listened to the tour guide speak about it, I was in disbelief of the living conditions that the inmates went through. 63 cents for food a DAY, 1 bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper per MONTH. The Latino inmates that received letters from their friends and families automatically got thrown out if it was written in Spanish since none of the correction officers read Spanish and all correspondence were read before reaching the intended receiver. The prison was predominantly black and latino.
43 men lost their lives during that period in September 1971 and they were killed by the authorities. Litigation carried on until 2015 and the State Government paid $8,000,000 to the families of the victims of the slain prisoners and $12 Million to the families victims of the prison employees. But I think most importantly, never admitted any wrongdoing for the incident in the first place.
As a black man and watching the world that I currently live in, this situation was eerily similar to what I see going on today with Police brutality and the American prison industrial complex. Just when things start to move in the right direction, a powerful corporation or lobbyist group tries to pull the world backwards and tries to convince us as the human race that everything is fine how it is. And because most of the protesters do not have the ability to sway the politicians and the politicians are afraid to go against the lobbyists, we get thrown into this ugly cycle of hate and injustice. I think the biggest difference between 1971 and 2017 is that middle-class whites now see what’s happening with visible minorities and a lot of them don’t agree with the injustices with drug laws, police killings are now on camera, the Dakota Access Pipeline affecting the ways of life of the First Nations people and the environment as a whole. We are truly in a time where the whole world is watching and the decisions of many are made by the few.