Ryerson Stands with #BlackLivesMatterTO

blmto

http://theeyeopener.com/2016/04/ryerson-students-march-with-blm-to/

Garnering a lot of media attention lately has been Toronto’s very own Black Lives Matter movement. A very pertinent social justice issue of our time, the Black Lives Matter movement holds its roots in our neighbouring country, the United States, where the current racial climate is centred on the persecution of the members of the black community. There have been numerous injustices involving the various police officers in different states of America, wrongly persecuting black individuals, namely, young black men. Unfortunately, for the majority, the result has been death for these wrongly persecuted individuals. This has led to a revolution in the black community; the Black Lives Matter activists used their voices to speak out on such injustices and bring honor to the fallen people of their community. They have protested various streets in the United States, asking government officials and police department officials to end the racial profiling and racial discrimination. The powerful voices of the Black Lives Matter movement in the States has been heard all around the world – including our very own neighbourhood, Toronto.

The Black Lives Matter Toronto – Coalition was is made up of Black Torontonians working in solidarity with various communities in our local streets of Toronto to work towards a common goal: social justice. This group has acknowledged the deep racial discrimination and stigmatization that black communities in the States have been going through, and have noticed similar patterns of behaviour in our very own neighbourhood. Currently, the Black Lives Matter Toronto activists have been fighting for justice for the death of Andrew Loku.

Andrew Loku was a 45 year old man, living in an apartment building on Eglinton Ave. W and Caledonia Ave. On the evening of July 4, 2015, Andrew was disturbed in his sleep by a significantly loud noise from his upstairs neighbours. He asked them continuously to minimize the noise, so that he can be able to sleep, but the noise persisted. Overwhelmed by the loud noise, and being unable to sleep, Loku grabbed a hammer and began banging it against the apartment hallway doors and walls. The police were called to address this particular noise. Within seconds of the police officer’s arrivals, a police officer shot Andrew Loku twice, killing him in the hallway of his apartment building.

Andrew Loku was regarded by all those who knew him as a kind and friendly man. He was a husband and a father to five children, and lived alone in Toronto, while working to bring his family to Canada from where they currently live in South Sudan. He graduated from George Brown College in the construction program, and worked various jobs to make ends meet for himself and for his family back in South Sudan.

The Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition has challenged the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to release the name of the officer who shot Andrew Loku, having not been in immediate danger or threat himself. The identity of the officer has remained un-released while the SIU investigates logistics of the situation – such as whether or not officers were notified that the building in which they were responding to, the building that Andrew Loku resided in, was leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association. This apartment complex offered affordable housing services for people suffering with a mental illness. The Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition have worked tirelessly in protest, rain or shine – snow or sun, to plead to government officials, such as Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, to address this serious injustice. As such, the officer who fatally shot Andrew Loku has not yet been charged for this unjust act nearly a year after his untimely death.

I have had the privilege of visiting the hub of the protests on 40 College Street, where I met protestors from BLM-TO. It was an environment unlike any other. While one would imagine a protest to have quite a tense, aggressive, and hostile energy, the BLM-TO exuded nothing but love and hospitality to all those who observed and/or joined the protest. There was food, water, warm blankets, gloves, and hats being passed around to the protestors – not just from amongst one another, but from the on-lookers as well. There were shouts of social justice, peace, and equality. There were cries and pleads of putting an end to racial profiling and discrimination, and a plea to the SIU and the Toronto Police Department to be accountable for their actions. There was music, dancing, motivating speeches, laughter, and deep discussions to honor the valuable black lives lost to racial injustices.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Ryerson students in solidarity with BLM-TO on campus the other day. The march was organized by numerous student groups on campus, in collaboration with BLM-TO, to protest social justice in and around the Ryerson community. With Ryerson being at the very heart of Toronto, it seemed only natural that Ryerson students stand in solidarity with our community. Among the student groups during this march for social justice included the Ryerson East Africans’ Students Association (REASA); Ryerson Student Union (RSU); and the United Black Students at Ryerson (UBSR). During the march, the students in protest used their voices to urge other fellow students to show their support by donating supplies, food, water, warm clothing, etc to the BLM-TO Coalition, to encourage the progression of the protest. Students on campus were eager and receptive to what Ryerson students and BLM-TO had to say, and showed their solidarity with the movement. It was a refreshing and culturally enriching experience to have witnessed – and frankly, it made me even more proud to be a Ram and a Torontonian.

If you would like to donate and show your support and solidarity, BLM-TO can be found here:

Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition Facebook

Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition Twitter

blacklivesmatterTO@gmail.com

40 College Street, Toronto, ON

Resources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/toronto/the-life-and-bloody-death-of-andrew-loku

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/07/07/andrew-lokus-death-by-a-police-bullet-came-quickly-witness-says.html

4 Tips To Tackle Stress This Exam Season

Happy end of the term classes to all Ryerson students! Today marks the final day of classes for all students across campus, which unfortunately also marks the beginning of finals week for this semester. Stress levels are high and the campus is filled with scrambling student, all attempting to gather all necessary notes for all of their exams. Professors are finalizing exams and answering a million emails a minute, answering questions from stressed and nervous students. It is that time of the year when everyone is eager to delve into the holiday festivities, but also trying to find the best way to cope with and manage all the stress that comes with finals week and being a university student in general. It’s a happy but tough time of the year. Lucky for you, I have some tips that can maybe help you get through the stress, have you motivated for your exams, and ready for the holiday season!

TIP #1: COFFEE IN MODERATION

We all need our daily fix of Tim Hortons or Starbucks and when you’re a university student, it’s almost necessary. Coffee contains the magic C (CAFFEINE) that helps keep us alert for the day and focused for the lectures/labs/tutorials ahead. It’s especially helpful after an all-nighter spent studying, working on a project, or doing a paper (or perhaps simply getting lost in the world of Netflix…). Coffee is great – in moderation. Students tend to turn this “daily fix” during exam season to a “multiple times a day fix.” This can get dangerous and really impact your health negatively – it’ll send your heart rate through the roof, your blood pressure can be through the roof, your diet will be compromised – a lot can go wrong. Don’t over-do it with the coffee. It’s not something that you need to depend on to do well on your exams – your hard work and effort determines that for you. Limit yourself whenever possible and find other ways to stay away (i.e a cold shower in the morning, exercise, breakfast, etc).

Coffee1

TIP #2: FIND A DESIGNATED STUDY SPOT

Finding a place to study and actually be productive is difficult. This is especially difficult in the middle of the busiest city in Canada – Toronto – where Ryerson is so centrally located. Luckily, we have the Student Learning Centre (SLC) to cater to our Study Spot Needs. First, it’s important that your study spot include a desk or a table of some sort to support whatever your study materials are. Avoid anything too small – the more space, the more room to support laptop, textbooks, notebooks, phone, etc. Second, try to find a bright space, perhaps anything with a big window or light coloured walls. Studying in a bright space with lots of light does a lot for your visual senses and makes it easier for you to sit somewhere for a prolonged period of time, staring at a bunch of words and/or numbers. It definitely lessens the load. Lastly, make sure your study spot is not confining. This means to make sure that the spot you choose allows you to get up once in awhile and move around. Not only does this gives you a break from sitting in a chair in front of your computer for hours, it also prevents any sores or muscle aches from happening, which comes with sitting still for hours. If you’re looking for the perfect study spot on campus, I definitely suggest the SLC (specifically floor 5! Not too eerie and quiet, but also quiet enough to give you some peace).

Rendering

TIP #3: DON’T FORGET YOUR DIET

Stress-eating can manifest in two ways: over-eating or under-eating. Some people can binge on junk food and resort to comfort food during such a stressful time. Some people can be so pre-occupied and busy that they may forget to eat and incorporate proper nutrition into their diet. It is important to find some sort of balance in your diet during exam season. Take comfort in moderation – have a donut here and there, get a Frappucino instead of your regular cup of coffee, get some ice cream. Also, it’s not the end of the world if you miss breakfast or have a late dinner. It is expected that your diet will not be at its healthiest during exam season, but it is important to keep in mind that proper nutrition is the best way to keep the mind and body focused and ready to face the day. An improper diet can actually lead to increased levels of fatigue and stress – which is something none of us need any more of during finals weeks. What we do need is increased brain power, which is something fruits and vegetables offer ample amounts of.

brain-healthy-food

TIP #4: SLEEP – TRY IT

Sleep deprivation – we all have it. Many students have grown accustomed to functioning on a lack of sleep but this tends to get worse during exam season, when we stay up and spend the night cramming and/or getting last minute things done. As a result, the lack of sleep can lead to even more fatigue, an increased dependence on caffeine, and even worse – the chance of sleeping in and maybe even sleeping through an exam. Yikes! The best way to avoid this is simple, but hard at the same time – get as much sleep as you can. Whether that means sleeping earlier and waking up earlier or taking short naps throughout the day, do what you need to do to get some rest and relax your brain. An overworked brain will only lead to more stress and sleep revives the mind, making it easier to study and tackle exams. Sleep is important and most importantly, it’s so relaxing!

done

I wish all fellow students at Ryerson and all other schools all the best of luck during this semester’s finals week! Study hard, study well, and do your best! Surround yourself with positive vibes and do what you need to do to stay focused and motivated. We are so close to a well-deserved holiday break so we’re almost there! Hang in there. I’m rooting for you!

youll-be-fine

Some thoughts on graduating

a photograph of graduation caps against a blue sky

I am a little sad, a little happy and a lot groggy. I finished my degree.

In the Disability Studies program students complete a year long research project and they present it to their cohort and faculty. Our cohort’s presentations took place recently. There were really insightful moments, topics and so many heartfelt presentations demonstrating that the personal truly is political.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be finished. The build up to the presentations, the nervousness, the anticipation, then an eighteen minute presentation and it’s over.

I recently watched a documentary on the large number of graduates from university programs in Canada who are currently working in dead-end service positions. The documentary claimed there were several factors contributing to this phenomenon. One, baby boomers are not retiring and there are less positions opening up, or new grads are competing against them for the same position. Two, recent graduates are given little to no training in university to prepare them for resume writing or job interviewing and there are no co-op experiences. Three, Canada does not have an education ministry which means there are no statistics kept on what types of degrees universities are producing versus the types of skills that the labour market actually needs.

One women in the documentary who graduated with a history degree said that she felt she would be working in an office wearing heels and a power suit by now. For those of us in the Disability Studies program we have somewhat of an advantage. We are all working in our chosen field. However, I also have an earlier degree that didn’t translate into a job. I have a religious studies degree. You may well question what the hell I was thinking. How would religious studies translate into a job? Well, I wasn’t thinking about a job. I thought about what I wanted to know, what interested me, what I was passionate about. I was privileged to have been able to work my way through that degree with very little debt.

Sign reads Education is a right

Two degrees later, and about to enter my masters in the fall I think the overwhelming factor contributing to graduates working dead end jobs is not the boomers, or the lack of training or the lack of an education ministry. (Although, we do need one! I mean, seriously Ontario how many teachers can we produce?) What we need is free education. The woman in the documentary wasn’t working in a dead-end service because she liked it, rather because she was thousands of dollars in debt from her education. We are stifling the creativity of graduates because they are in hock. If we stop people from learning what they are passionate about and future generations focus on employment, what does that mean for the arts, for culture, for philosophy, for music?

Free education will not create generations of entitled citizens. Take a look at the Nordic countries. Education is free, their economies are booming and they consistently rank high in the happiest countries in which to live. Take a lesson, Canada.

Great End of Semester Reads

A photograph of a woman sitting under a tree reading a book

 

Now that the semester is over and exams are almost done, you might be searching for a great book to read. If you are like me, you find it difficult to read for pleasure while reading for assignments and papers. So now it’s time to race to the library and start on a summer reading list. Here’s are some suggestions to get you started.

Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner

For those of you who don’t know Kenny Werner, he is a brilliant jazz musician and this book explains his method for freeing himself from creative barriers and gaining a deeper, more spiritual understanding of jazz. While he may have written it for musicians, this book transcends art forms. It is more than a musicians manual this book expands new ways of thinking, new understandings of failure with an almost Buddhist sensibility. This is a great read for everyone.

Creation by Gore Vidal

So I should say upfront that I love Gore Vidal. I have read almost everything he has ever written. He is a brilliant story teller. I also love historical fiction. Creation is a great example of historical fiction. His novel spans the fifth century BCE. Love, philosophy, war, adventure, this novel has all of the elements of great fiction. I have read this work several times and writing about it now makes me want to pick it up and start it again.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft

You may not have heard of H.P Lovecraft. He was an early horror writer who leaves the horror up to your imagination. There is something frightening about not knowing all of the details. Unlike writers like Stephen King who spells out the horrifying details, Lovecraft sets the scene and leaves the rest up to your imagination. This novel tells the story of Charles Dexter Ward who driven to the edge and beyond by dark forces.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

This tells the story of a rare Hebrew manuscript, known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, through five centuries. The main character, Hanna Heath an Australian manuscript conservator examines the book and finds traces of the people who have worked to save the text throughout the years. Brooks, a Pulitzer prize winner flashes back through time to reveal the history of the book and the people who became part of its history. I sometimes find that I am unable to read after hours of reading articles for school and I got this book as an audiobook with the library’s overdrive app. I was really impressed with the narration done by Edwina Wren. Not all narrators can do accents which don’t sound fake but this book was expertly written and read.

Writing Exercises: 5 Ways to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

photograph of a hand holding a pen over a sheet of paper

Writing can be the most rewarding and difficult thing to do. Sometimes the idea of sitting down at your laptop or picking up a pen is terrifying and the guilt at not doing it can be overwhelming. It can help to have writing exercises which can focus your task. Just like any activity, writing gets easier with practice and exercise.

1. Free writing

In free writing exercises you sit down with a pen and paper and write for a short period of time, say 10 minutes. The key is not to let your pen leave the paper. Don’t stop writing and don’t edit. That is difficult. Most people’s internal editors are quite strong and we delete, scratch out and reword without even realizing it.

2. Guided Timed Writing

Sitting down to write for 10 minutes without stopping can seem impossible and somedays it is easier than others. For those time when you need a little extra help, try guiding your free writing. You can start with “I remember” and then every time you run out of something to say, go back to “I remember” and write the first things that come to mind. It’s surprising the places you can go with a phrase like “I remember.”

3. Take your note book on a road trip

Natalie Goldberg talks about how you need to be dumb to be a writer. You need to describe everything, all the details, you don’t take anything for granted. You don’t need to be clever, just write everything to notice. So take your note book to your local coffee shop, library, park bench or even your living room and see it, feel it, write it, with fresh eyes.

4. Don’t expect always to be interesting

Writing can consist of long stretches of nothing. There are time when I have nothing to write about that I write about not having anything to write about. Not the most riviting to read, but it gets me writing. This type of searching can lead to something interesting, but it may take several pages to get there. So be gentle with yourself and your writing, don’t assume that everything you write will be brilliant.

5. Try to do timed writing for several days in a row

Once you have a writing habit starting to form. Try sitting down and doing timed free writing for 10 or 15 days in a row. Don’t read what you have written. Then when you have passed the 10 or 15 days sit down with your writing, get comfortable and read. Highlight what you loved, underline, mark ideas that you want to carry on. You will be surprised and what you produced.

Tis the season… to curl up with a good book

photograph of person under plaid blanket holding book facing a window out which there are pines trees and snow

Winter has arrived and with it the cold weather that makes me want to curl up in a blanket with a nice glass of wine and a good book. I can think of no better way to spend an evening. (Actually, I can but a good book and some wine is close to the top of the list) Here are several suggestions for your next reading binge.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

cover art for the book People of the bookThis work tells the story of a rare Hebrew manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah through five centuries. The main character, Hanna Heath an Australian manuscript conservator examines the book and finds traces of the people who have worked to save the text throughout the history. Brooks, a Pulitzer prize winner flashes back through time to reveal the history of the book and the people who became part of its history. I sometimes find that I am unable to read after hours of reading articles for school and I got this book as an audiobook with the library’s Overdrive app. I was really impressed with the narration done by Edwina Wren. Not all narrators can do accents which don’t sound fake but this book was expertly written and read.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

cover art for the book, the muder of roger ackroydI have read this book several times and never tire of it. Agatha Christie was a great writer who knew how to set a scene. She worked in a chemist shop before she became a writer which is were she got her encyclopedic knowledge of poisons. Her most famous character, Hercule Poirot, features in this work which is set in the quaint English village of King’s Abbot where Poirot is attempting to retire. Roger Ackroyd, a friend, is murdered and so Poirot, with the help of the local doctor, sets about to solve the case. This is one of Christie most widely known and controversial novels.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

cover art for the bonesetter's daughterAmy Tan is a beautiful writer who can turn phrases that make you want to weep. This story is full of those moments. This novel tells the story of an American born Chinese woman, Ruth and her relationship with her mother Lu Ling. It is divided into two sections. In one Ruth is worrying about her increasing forgetful mother and the bizarre comments she makes about their family. In the other, Lu Ling tells the story of her family for Ruth. The sections fit beautifully together and weave an incredible story that is hard to put down. The work has also been translated into an opera which I have yet to see. I can imagine, if it is anything like the book it would be brilliant.

Poetry Slam with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha with her arms behind her back, her eyes closed and a large smile on her face about to burst with laughter

I walk up the ramp into the smaller-than-I-expected room. I see a friend, wave, sit. There is food in the corner, vegan friendly I hear. I am not sure what I expected but I feel like this isn’t it. Maybe it’s that the room isn’t full or that there are no obviously disabled folks. I have heard the work of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha before, seen video of her performances with Sins Invalid. In fact, I have studied her performances and poetry in classes. I have attempted to see her perform several times in the past and always been turned away at the door because the space was packed.

The room is quieted. The organizer recognizes the land that we occupy from native peoples, our nature as colonizers and our duty to respect the land and each other.

Leah begins talking. There is less poetry than I expected at this poetry slam but her talk resonates. She talks about the work of loving ourselves. The second by second revolutionary work that is loving a body subjected to multiple oppressions. The collective nature of this work. The need to change organizing to include bodies in all their leaky, needy, sexual, beautiful, reality so people don’t closet parts of themselves.

She moves into disability justice. Which is a reaction to the predominately white, wheel chair using disability rights movement. Disability justice seeks to create a movement in which people of colour, sick, crip, trans, queer people are not just members of a movement but leaders. A movement in all forms and expressions of disability and difference are accepted and where the hierarchy of disability/ability is abandoned.

Lastly, she speaks of prefigurative government. This is a new term for me. Rather than writing a paper on how to change things or describing what is wrong… You just do it. You put your practice where your theory is. I want to live in the world that Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes. She describes it so passionately with her talk, with her poetry. I can envision it. One where bodies, all bodies, queer, trans, people of colour, disabled, fat, sick, crip can just be. Not needing to be changed or fixed. A world in which the work of loving ourselves, all aspects of ourselves, is made less difficult by the social acceptance of our differences.

I will end this post with a poem by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Check out other poems and her blog on her website.

Working class lullabye

lost wallet out of your pants biking home

with EBT card and $100 to your name

means

I keep saying

it’s gonna be okay

it’s gonna be okay

in that mindless brain-stem rhythm

bred into me

cut hours

and $30 in the mahmoud darwish book for rent

going to the free queer clinic

and selling your father’s watch

rent party

and can I come over to use the washer cause I’m broke

means I keep saying

you’re gonna figure it out

you’re gonna figure it out

cause what else can I say

cause saying it

means it’s gonna happen

cause it’s a prayer

intention follows thought

rhythmic

and repetetive

a lullabye

that lets us get some sleep

in the bed we still own

as times continue to be hard

and sweet

because no promises

but our thin skin scamming greyhound

sharing a 92 accord

getting through

 

The Opposite of Loneliness

What is the opposite of lonely? I asked myself this question after I began reading Marina Keegan’s book of short stories and essays entitled, “The Opposite of Lonely”. In this book, she describes the opposite of lonely as her current state; a state of tranquility while completing her studies at Yale University as a writer. It was a state where she was surrounded by support from friends, professors and her family. It wasn’t what I would consider a ‘typical’ answer to the question, as I figured many would touch on the significance of their relationships and the intimacy that corresponds with it. I hadn’t expected it to be an answer regarding the happiness and comfort that comes with school surroundings and the journey towards a desired career. This question really got me thinking, what is my opposite of loneliness?   Opposite-Loneliness[1]

It had hit me a couple of months back when I had started at a new yoga studio and was attending religiously three times a week. Prior to my current relationship, I had been single for about five years and although I learned a lot during that time and I can appreciate the experiences that came with singlehood and the desire that came with finding my inner identity, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a sense of loneliness now and again. Since being in my new relationship, as much as I want to be able to count on someone other than myself and allow myself to become vulnerable to others, I also want to be able to stand on my own two feet, regardless of my relationship status. So it was there in that yoga studio during my evening shavasana that I realized, I was no longer alone. Not just because I had someone to hold at night, but because no matter who came in and out of my life, no matter how much love or pain I felt, I would never be alone; I would always have yoga. It sounds silly but it was a relief knowing that no matter how much I loved someone and no matter how much pain I would feel if that love was no longer there, I knew I would always have my yoga practice to keep me grounded, to keep my strong, to help me to relax and to love me back.

I had found my opposite of loneliness prior to having read this book. However, after having read this book, it made me realize the varying opinions and experiences of what the opposite of loneliness is. With that said, I decided to ask some friends what they thought the opposite of loneliness is.

One friend touched on the idea of social atmosphere as being the opposite of lonely and when asked for a specific scenario when she felt this way, this is what she said:

“An example would be like having heaps of different people contacting you and making plans etc. Maybe like before I came to Canada [from Australia], I was catching up with everyone before I left, so I was really social. So to me that would be the opposite of lonely.

One friend kept his answer short and sweet, to him, the opposite of lonely is:

“Waking up beside someone you love and loves you back”

And another simple and to the point response:

“The opposite of lonely? Probably when you’re surrounded by family or friends.”

Two friends had associated the opposite of lonely with social gatherings, specifically Birthdays. They answered the question with saying:

“My 23rd birthday when a lot more people I expected came to celebrate it with me. I felt like I mattered to other people. I had a lot of fun with friends that night”

and

“I guess at a big gathering with friends or family. Like thinking more about my birthday party because a bunch of people come out to celebrate with you and show that they care and are a friend”

One friend took a more sensitive approach to answering the question. Her parents had both passed away when she was young and so this is what she had to say about being the opposite of lonely:

“I honestly never feel overwhelmed with completeness…I just feel okay about situations. I’m like the worst person ever to ask … But I can say that when my mother died everyone came together to support me and made sure I was okay and I knew I wasn’t alone. (Even if I was feeling the most alone at that point in my life)”

Being the opposite of lonely has different meanings to different people. This feeling is embraced through social gatherings, time shared with family and friends, comfort received in times of need, embracing a state of completeness when achieving career goals and even embracing one’s Zen during yoga. I enjoyed reflecting on my own thoughts of this idea and enjoyed hearing what others had to say about it. So ask yourself, what is your opposite of loneliness?

Sources:

Novel: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Image from: http://www.buzzsugar.com/photo-gallery/34465740/Opposite-Loneliness

Quotes were from direct text messages I recieved