Image: portrait of Syrus Marcus Ware by Jalani Morgan
With school being online, many classes had guest lecturers come in and talk to students about their research or work within the community. One of these guest lecturers was Syrus Marcus Ware, who talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and his work around activism. Before Syrus Marcus Ware give his talk within my class, I was aware of him and his artwork. The BLM movement has grown tremendously over the years and a lot more people are now more aware of the movement. I was eager to hear more about the movement and things that had done over the years to get more people talking and involved in the BLM. I learned a variety of different things from listening to Syrus Marcus Ware when he spoke to my class.
One of the topics that Syrus Marcus Ware talked about was the changes that are happening around us, in our society, and the way we see change within the world. He felt strongly that change is good thing because it will not only help you change, but also help others to change. The BLM movement is working with other groups and learning from them to help make change. Learning from other organizations, like the disability movement, has meant fewer mistakes, greater organization, and the ability to create greater awareness. Using other movements as models means that they will face less challenge in making the necessary changes, having their voices heard. All too often, many voices have been silenced by violence or that their civil rights have been trampled. Bringing together Ware’s discussion and the topic of BLM, made me think about the video called, How ‘White Fragility’ Reinforces Racism (DiAngelo, 2020). This video talks about the ways in which many voices have been silenced over the years by society and white privilege. By garnering that understanding that when I was born white, I was born with privilege, and it forced me to think about the impact I may have on another race simply because of the privileges I have enjoyed. We do have an impact simply because of some of the unconscious actions we make (DiAngelo, 2020). This video has helped to reinforce the discussion that Ware had with our class about the need for change.
In his discussion about the protest/event BLM Toronto had in the summer of 2020, it became clear that racism is happening in our country, how as a country we need to acknowledge it to make change. On June 19, more than eighty artists and community members came out and painted “Black Live Matter” on a road within Toronto (Sryus Marcus Ware, 2021). This was a big event where art and activism came together to create something much larger, and has led to more people looking at the street, and more people are talking about what needs to change within the world. Another protest that Ware mentioned was the one that involved individuals painting monuments pink around the city of Toronto. These monuments represent slavery, colonialism, and violence. By covering the monuments with pink paint and putting up signs beside them, these activists demonstrate the need to disrupt historical thinking, and created awareness of how these monuments memorialize Canada’s darkest history. Canadian history is blemished and tarnished by events and people who were racist, and this continues today with how much of our history is not being taught, or that significant events are being left out.
Sryus Marcus Ware also talked about the Trans Movement, how it has grow over the years, and its connection to the BLM movement. The Trans Movement is led by black trans women, and these leadership roles within the movement are ensuring that their voices are heard, that white privilege does not further impact the movement. This particular discussion really made me aware of how little I know about what is happening around the world, especially in my own community and country. I found this talk really informative because it really made me begin to examine the world, how people are behaving within it, and the changes that need to happen to make it better for everyone. Ware also shared some of his artwork and explained how it connects to the activities of BLM, and its meaning. Ware’s discussion was a true demonstration of the different ways that activism can have a positive impact on people, that activism doesn’t have to be large protests, but that activism can simply be small things like a song, a dance, or an art piece, that shares the message of the movement with others. This discussion challenged me to think more about the need for change, and the ways people are participating to help make change within the world.
Robin DiAngelo. 2020. How ‘White Fragility’ Reinforces Racism. Guardian News. https://youtu.be/YvIO2GU8yTU