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

I Have Nothing to Wear

In my closet there are easily over 30 sweaters, 15 collared shirts, 20 pairs of pants, 40 t-shirts, 10 jackets, countless socks, every accessory I never needed, and we can’t forget about shoes (I have too many of those too). That’s just what I can remember; only the armoire knows what I forgot (hats!). Suffice it to say, I have too much clothing; something I never thought possible because I wear all my clothes and the holes in my shoes are the evidence to prove it. What can I say? I’m a consumer and I consume and collect clothing just like everyone else. Also, just like everyone else I don’t always think about what goes into my clothing, specifically who is making them and how they are made. I know who designed them and had them made, but where did they really come from?

 

Fashion is a notorious industry. It has come under fire for promoting unattainable beauty standards causing mental and physical health concerns in youth, allowing and profiting from animal cruelty, and for enslaving and endangering the lives of millions of labourers around the world; those countless socks are made from more than just cotton. Untangling the web of malice in the fashion industry is well beyond the scope of this blog but it is necessary to note that it still exists, there are still people dying to make our clothing. Companies still employ the use of sweatshops, or harsh and unsafe working conditions that provide no support to workers for little pay.

 

The idea of sweatshops, or “sweated labour”, came about in the 1800s when urbanization and the Industrial Revolution were taking shape in the Western world. New products and variety for things such as clothing were increasing in demand and so companies created factories to supply consumers with what they wanted. This drew people from the countryside to cities where they could get a job in a factory and earn a wage. However, this was also at a time when labour laws were almost nonexistent and so there was no protection for factory workers. Employers took advantage of the lack of regulations and created working conditions that lead to the death of many labourers. In addition, these labourers were paid by the piece, i.e. piecework, this means that the more items they produced in a day the more they earned that day and vice versa regardless of time spent. This was thought to promote employees to work harder, longer, and faster for little money and allow corporations to make a higher profit. As sweatshops evolved and labour laws stood stagnant the tension between labourers and employers began to spark.

One of the most horrendous revelations about sweatshops came to the surface in 1911 when a fire broke out in one of the Triangle Shirtwaist garment factories in New York City. The factory was located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floor of the now Brown Building in Greenwich Village. When the fire began employees tried to flee the building but were stopped by a locked door, the only exit had been locked and was kept locked. This was a common practice in garment factories at the time to reduce unauthorized breaks and employee theft. 146 people, mostly young women, either burned to death behind a locked door or jumped out of the windows falling 8 stories until they met the stone road that lay beneath them. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire is cited as one of the worst industrial disasters in the United States and it ultimately lead to the villanization and progress to eliminating sweatshops in the West.

After the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, labour unions and work safety regulations began to take prominence. However, while labour laws came about to provide safety for workers and a fair wage, companies began looking elsewhere for cheap labour ultimately moving to Asia and South America. This globalization of the garment industry lead to a black market within the industry in the West with illegal sweatshops employing new immigrants and continuing the deplorable traditions of the past. This came about because contractors who hired garment workers would threaten to export their business unless they worked for less than the minimum wage and by the piece. In the end, the garment companies moved to Asia for cheap labour and the garment-production labour force in the West was depleted.

While sweatshops are thought to have died off in the West during the 1990s, they are still very much alive in countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. These countries and their people are enslaved by the garment industry to provide the cheap labour to make our cute shoes and little black dresses. Garment factory workers in Asia face the same if not worse working conditions than the sweatshop workers of the past. This is evidenced by the string of fires and building collapses that plague garment factories, such as the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse near Dhaka, Bangladesh which killed over 1000 people. These people are being forced to work in appalling conditions for very little pay and for what? So that we can have another sweater to toss on the floor and a large corporation can add another 0 to the end of their balance sheet. Why is this happening? How did it ever get this far? The simple answer – because it was allowed to.

Fashion is a very tricky business. Consumers want clothing at an affordable price, companies want to make a profit, and garment workers want to earn a living. Unfortunately, all these variables don’t add up to a positive, someone will lose. To keep the price of clothing low for consumers companies hire foreign contractors to produce their clothing. These contractors pay their employees as little as possible so that the cost of the product stays low and profits stay high. Additionally, to keep production costs low contractors only go as far as meeting minimum standards, if that, for building standards and employee safety and training. Obviously these building and safety standards are too low if the factories are falling down. So why not just raise the minimum standards? If a contractor has to pay more to construct a building they will take the cost out of employee wages. Labourers in the majority world cannot afford to live at their current wages if they were reduced they would be even worse off. Additionally, there will always be another country that won’t require a factory to meet safety standards or they will be so low that it’s economical for the garment contractors to move their businesses as they did 40 years ago in the West. In addition, corruption within the garment industry and the governments who police them allow for contractors to get away with not meeting minimum standards. Garment workers are trapped because factories provide the highest wages for them and if the factories leave the workers’ livelihoods are at stake, not to mention the economic situation of the country. Countries like Bangladesh rely on the garment-production industry to keep their economy moving. So what can be done to save the lives of garment workers without sacrificing profits and consumer demand? I don’t have the answer and I doubt that there is a simple one. As I said fashion is a very tricky business. It’s too late to go backwards and it’s very difficult to start over, but something needs to change.

 

I must say that at the onset of this I did not intend to write about sweatshops. In fact I was going to promote the fashion program here at Ryerson, specifically the men’s show Fixate that ran on Friday November 27. However, I found myself in a strange position because I began to wonder about who makes our clothing. I am familiar with sweatshop work but only in theory. I have never had to sew a piece of clothing in a cramped room, with no natural light, no air-conditioning, no air, and behind a locked door so that I can feed my family. I truly hope I never have to and I truly hope that sweatshops one day become only a theory and not a reality.

Fun Happenings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Toronto-convention-center

Toronto Vintage Clothing Show Sunday March 23, 2014

Want something fun to do on a Sunday afternoon? Check out the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show at the MTCC for some fashion finds! This show is great for men and women looking for vintage clothing and accessories that go beyond that of the traditional Queen Street or Kensington vintage shopping. Vendors from all over Canada will be presenting their authentic and chic apparel in every price range. Love name brands?  You got it! Love flapper dresses from the 20s? This is just for you! Spend a day travelling back in time and be a witness to the fashion modeled in the 20s, 30s, 40s and right up until the 90s for only $10.00.

Below you will find a $2.00 discount coupon to the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show.

http://www.torontovintageclothingshow.ca/pages/6821–2-00-off-discount-coupon

http://www.torontovintageclothingshow.ca/

 

The Yoga ConferenceFriday March 28th-Sunday March 30th 2014

For a minimal 15$, you can spend all three days of this conference gaining more knowledge on yoga practice, stress relief, deep breathing and all things yoga. There will be over 250 exhibitors and 80 master yoga teachers present within the three-day conference. There will also be over 70 classes offered during the conference. In the Yoga Garden Area, there will be classes on various yoga topics such as yoga secrets for releasing stress, Bollywood and Bhangra dance and Yin Yang infusion. In the Cultural Arts Area, there will be classes on yoga for addictions, Kundalini Trance Dance and Mantra Chants and a Kids Mandala Workshop. In addition to classes, various exhibitors will be selling yoga gear such as yoga “jellies”, yoga towels, yoga mats, yoga apparel etc. Feeling Zen? Then this is the show for you!

http://www.theyogaconference.com/toronto/index.php

 

The National Job Fair and Training Expo Wednesday April 2nd-Thursday April 3rd 2014

Are you in the midst of graduating and contemplating potential employment opportunities? This expo might be for you! This career fair will provide you the opportunity to meet with various recruiters, career service agents and admissions officers from a variety of different fields all over Canada. This expo will provide knowledgeable information of the career possibilities that are out there today in addition to personal encounters with important personnel that could lead to potential employment. In addition to learning about various companies and what they have to offer, you can also have your resume critiqued and undergo a career development assessment at no cost.  So what are you waiting for?

http://www.thenationaljobfair.com/n/en/home/

Address: The Metro Toronto Convention Centre

255 Front Street West

Toronto ON, M5V 2W6

Union Station subway stop

 

Sources:

http://www.mtccc.com/?m=0&t=0&c=1

Image from: http://gethiredca.blogspot.ca/2013/03/torontos-biggest-job-fair.html