May 5 – In Closing (or Getting Free)

“Yo…these workshops were really dope!”
– Workshop Participant.

(To read more about the experiences of our Black spoonies, check out our “Testimonials” section)

Our last workshop together was a short one. After check-in, each participant became co-authors of an impromptu story. You could write between one to six items on the chart paper, with punctuation counting as an item. No passing on writing! You must write something – anything! And what we ended up with was a story that none of us knew exactly where it was going, nor what sharp twist or turn it would take next.

A large piece of white chart paper, set on a table. Written in Black, purple and blue marker, the story goes as follows: So I was standing there. Why were you in my head? White is it that she thought that she cuold manipulate me like that?! So I decided she should leave. I'm done explaining myself. So I slipped out back, went to the shed and grabbed the chainsaw, and decided on pushing the door shut behind me. I walked to the window
Combined Black spoonie creative powers.

This was a challenging exercise for the participants; however, it was a fun one. A great way to show that our words, art and writing are living. Jasbina had mentioned in their workshop that one word or literary device can inform an entire piece. But with this exercise, I wanted to convey that sometimes our stories write themselves. Sometimes, they know themselves better than we know them in the moment.

Sometimes all we need to do is listen and follow along.

Continue reading “May 5 – In Closing (or Getting Free)”

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April 28 – Myth, Truth, Future

“People have different relationships to time. And that’s okay.”
– mel

This week, artist-mentor mel g campbell shared with us some of their mentor’s words encouraging us to be gentle with ourselves when pursuing creative projects and navigating ableist artist spaces.

In the centre of the picture, two Black spoonies with canes look into the camera contentedly and stand closely together. On the left, mel g campbell, wearing a long beige jacket, a multi-coloured  scarf, a long beaded necklace, glasses and multi-coloured lilac, yellow and green locs, in a bun top of of their head. On the right Lynx Sainte-Marie wears a Black jacket and hoodie and grey pants with a multi-shaped design. In the background, the Art Starts office with desks and chairs  close by and artwork on the walls.
From left to right: Artist-mentor mel g campbell and #BlackSpoonieSpeak creator Lynx Sainte-Marie

After check-in, mel asked us to tell them about ourselves, what sort of art we are interested in and any creative works we are currently working on. mel went on to speak about their art practice, their upcoming solo art installation Point of Origin (Follow patchworkpoetics to see the progression of the show), and how being a Black spoonie informs the ways they approach art-making. mel spoke about how all of us have different relationships to – and are influenced by – time and that things like our individual pacing, disassociation, trauma, neurodiversity, etc., can shift how much or little time it takes to get to the finishing stages of a project. They then shared a personal story and passed on to us the wise and forgiving words of their mentor – “Respect. your. pace!” – words that were given to them when they were frustrated with how “long” a project was taking.

Continue reading “April 28 – Myth, Truth, Future”

April 21 – Black Folks are the Future

“Forgive yourself and allow yourself the space to grow.”
– Whitney

This week, artist-mentor Whitney French, creator of the monthly workshop and community dialogue series Writing While Black, challenged us to be intentional and set goals that will help cultivate an authentic writing practice. And brought a TON of literature for us to peruse in the process!

An assortment of novels, anthologies and zines by, about and featuring Black people. The books and zines come in various colours, shapes and sizes. "From the Root Issue #1 Hair" stands out among them in the foreground of the picture.
Some of the novels, anthologies and zines by, about and featuring Black folks Whitney brought to share with the spoonies.

After check-in, Whitney spoke about her experiences growing up in Bradford and how her experiences of racism and isolation inform the writing that she creates (She was one of three Black folks in her high school and the only Black girl). She asked us about our writing interests, what mediums we were most passionate about and lead us in a few free-writing exercises:

Continue reading “April 21 – Black Folks are the Future”

April 14 – Imposter Syndrome

“I’m not asking for anything extra, just the space to exist.”
– Jasbina

This week, artist-mentor Jasbina Justice reminded us that our stories and our bodies have so much value to them: the whole of them, the entirety of them, all at once.

Three Black and/or Brown individuals of varying heights, skin tones and hair tyles, all wearing Black coats and looking into the camera contentedly. One the left, Lynx Sainte-Marie holds a cane and is wearing a fitted over afro hair with shaved sides. In the middle, a workshop participant wears a "Toronto" toque, glasses, headphones around their neck and a back pack. One the right, Jasbina Justice wears glasses and a jacket with white trim at the collar. In the background, pictures of an art festival tile the walls.
From left to right: #BlackSpoonieSpeak creator Lynx Sainte-Marie, a workshop participant and artist-mentor Jasbine Justice.

After a check-in that included our names, our pronouns and our access needs, Jasbina spoke to who they are, their artist practice and what being a spoonie means to them. As a group, we talked about Imposter Syndrome: the chronic self doubt that we face as Black artists and writers. We also spoke about the ways society depicts Blackness in mainstream media and literature and how these visuals never seem to represent the most marginalized of us (if it represents any of us at all). Where are the stories of Black, disabled/chronically ill people? When will they be centred and celebrated?

Continue reading “April 14 – Imposter Syndrome”

April 7 – Introducing #BlackSpoonieSpeak

“I have never seen a program like this before”, paraphrasing from a few youth in their registration forms.

On the left, a beige eraser, a silver sharpener, a Black pencil, a Black pen and a wooden pencil case, are positioned on top of a Black notebook. The notebook is placed horizontally, with the spine of the book facing the bottom of the picture. Beside it, a Black cane with gold trim close to the handle.
Some of the art and writing supplies each participant received.

Actually, neither have I.

Growing up as a young Black child, it was important for me to appear “normal”. Normalcy was a state I was always striving for, especially when I was in the company of white people. No one wants to be that crazy, sickly Black person. No one wants to let down their whole, entire race.

Even now as a self-identified disabled/chronically ill adult, the pressure is on for me to channel my inner “normal”. Walk straighter; stim less. Make sure my words aren’t melding and molding together when anxiety is present. Make sure I’m not speaking too loudly or look like I’m in too much pain. “[White] people are always watching,” I would often hear them say.

Continue reading “April 7 – Introducing #BlackSpoonieSpeak”

Registration for #BlackSpoonieSpeak starts now!

Register for #BlackSpoonieSpeak here!

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#BlackSpoonieSpeak is a free creative writing workshop series for Black youth ages 18-24 who live with various forms of chronic illness/disability, living in the Greater Toronto Area.

The series will begin as of Thursday, April 7th, 2016 and end Thursday, May 5th, 2016 and will take place at Art Starts – Yorkdale Community Arts Centre.

Consisting of a series of 5 weekly, 3 hour workshops, each having a different theme and headed by project facilitator and coordinator Lynx Sainte-Marie, with the support of a few other Black, spoonie guest artists-mentors, participants will be invited to write creatively and participate in a number of activities that speak to their lives of Black youth whose experiences of racialization and antiBlackness are further complicated by chronic illness.

The goal of the project is to provide a safer, accessible, tender space for Black spoonies to speak to their stories of survival and resilience while having the opportunity to build creative networks and supportive, spoonie community.

The workshop series will culminate with an event where each youth has the opportunity to be showcased and perform the pieces they created throughout the workshop series.

**This project prioritizes youth who sit at multiple intersections of oppression (women and femmes, queer and trans youth, immigrant and refugee youth, etc) as their lives and stories often go untold.
**Bus tickets/tokens will be provided
**Due to lack of funding, we are unable to provide ASL interpretation .
**All gender washrooms available.

For more information on location, accessibility and to register, check out the website: https://blackspooniespeak.wordpress.com

This program is a Platform A program initiative and would like to thank Arts Starts (in partnership with the Toronto Arts Council) for their funding contribution.