An exuberant gathering atop a flatbed truck evokes a moment in Toronto’s history. Members of the Black Lives Matter movement came together in a march from Toronto Police Headquarters and Native Child and Family Services to Queen’s Park to play music to a roused community of activists and artists.
The all-night festive performance loosely based on the events of March 26, 2016, sees artist and activist DJ Syrus Ware gathering an indomitable crew of DJs to rotate their sets of infectious sounds. Invited by Deanna Bowen, he is joining forces with other artists and activists whose work revolves around colonial histories including the impact on indigenous peoples’ lives. Their presence is underscored by Kaia’tanoron Dumouli who leads the OCADU Indigenous Visual Culture group t-shirt campaign.
Rooted in Deanna Bowen’s own family’s history – going all the way back to Nicodemus, Kansas, 1877 – the event reconnects lost, buried or forgotten histories around race, blackness and anti-blackness, ongoing legacies of slavery, and generational trauma. It acknowledges solidarity between Black and Indigenous elders and activists, recalling generations of resistance, cohabitation, shared/learned languages, shared bloodlines, and shared battles across time.
This government issued workstation is one of many that occupy the futures decimated landscape. Covered with socialist-style pro-government propaganda and non-rebel iconography, at first glance seems a mechanical open air purgatory of a lost place. People clock in for their shifts and work tirelessly during the days to filter water, grow food hydroponically, attempt to make communication with “the others” and take their daily dose of life, a serum that protects citizens from the high levels of pollutants in the air and water.
At night the space is converted into an activist meeting place by The Stolen People, rebels who are resisting the system and have created a life-giving serum of their own. As such, the rebels live outside of the system. Letters, objects, memorabilia and archives are all left from their movement. The Stolen People leave these messages to communicate with loved ones, to learn of times before, to keep up with current organizing plans and strategies. The Stolen People are part of a vast underground movement that came out of the Black Power Movement, Black Lives Matter Movement and the Last Stand era, which ended abruptly in 2067 when the water became too polluted to consume. They are Black people- people who would not be eradicated.
Syrus Marcus Ware & Melisse Watson collaborate on largescale durational performances for FADO’s performance series, Monomyths (Toronto, 2016) & for The Theatre Centre in Toronto. Their projects invoke the spirit of collaborative work, collective struggle, make visible the invisibilized labour of women & trans people within activist movements. They explore futurism, black mysticism and draw on their solo practices which explore black radical tradition, black & Indigenous solidarity & nature-inspired practices for social change.