Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Three T.O. Youth Orgs. Launch, Uniting the People for Change

by Alok Premjee Basics Issue #12 (Jan/Feb 2009)

On the evening of December 10th, 2008, the Toronto-based organizations Hood 2 Hood, Set-It-Off, and NO COPS (the Newly Organized Coalition Opposing Police in Schools) held a triple launch party for their organizations at the AnitAFRIKA! Dub Theatre, working in conjunction with Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), BASICS, and the Strictly Roots Project. The event consisted of music provided by two tenth grade DJ’s from Sir Sanford Fleming Collegiate, dinner, poetry, and dance performances by talented artists from around the Greater Toronto Area.

The purpose of the event was to bring together groups that focus on organizing working class communities, primarily racialized working class communities. The Hood-2-Hood group is organizing in a number of low-income areas in Toronto to bring an end to the horizontal (youth-on-youth) violence that divides our communities and to redirect the attention of the youth towards the real enemies of the community, such as TCHC and the big development corporations conspiring to destroy social housing, or incessant police terrorism.

The Set-It-Off group is a rapidly growing young women’s organization with over 50 members, which is serving as a space for young women’s social networking and fulfilling a self-help function by dealing with issues of teen pregnancy and misogyny; providing a positive space to learn about black history; and organizing cultural activities like dancing, singing, and skills-building like writing.

Set-It-Off is working out of Sir Sanford Fleming, Westview Centennial, & Vaughn Road Academy. One of the important social and political roles that the group has been serving has been to raise political awareness around the planned demolition of Lawrence Heights by the City of Toronto.

NO COPS is a coalition of parents, teachers, students, and other allies which formed as a response to the Toronto Police Service’s and Toronto District School Board’s decision to place armed police in almost 30 high-schools across Toronto. The stated goal of the organization is to mobilize communities opposed to the police occupation of schools with the goal of getting the cops out.

After dinner and a series of presentations from the organizations, the performers hit the stage. Performances were kicked off by the Hustle Boyz, who represented Vaughn & Oakwood and Jane & Tretheweys, followed by Vaughn & Oakwood’s own and T-Dots finest MC Quanche, who performed solo and did a rap duet with the Original Wasun. Following these performers the audience was blessed with some female talent, with reggae artist Rakaya, some beautiful vocal performances from Set-If-Off performers. D’bi Young, one of Toronto’s finest dub poets and the owner of the AnitAFRIKA! Dub Theatre, also mesmorized the audience with one of her poems. Next, the mic was passed onto D-Squad, representing Jane and Tretheweys, who performed a couple of banging tracks, just before the Phantom Dancers arrived straight out of Scarborough, who showcased some of the latest dancehall moves. That set the scene for a dance off and a dance jam that broke out to end off the hype night.

Much respect to the anitAFRIKA! Dub Theatre for providing their extraordinary venue for the grassroots community event.

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