**TRIGGER WARNING: Gendered violence, sexual violence, colonialism/colonizaton, abuse**
Many of the strategies to address violence have further strengthened broad systems of colonial power, which are themselves inherently violent. We continue to appeal to the Canadian legal system to address physical violence, calling for more policing or better laws, while knowing this system is set up to oppress, rather than help, us. The same colonial mentality that created the Indian Act to privilege the rights of men over women, and instituted residential schools to break down our family systems, serves as the foundation for the Canadian legal system. Surely we must engage with this powerful system, but appealing to law alone will not stop the violence.
So how do we begin to change norms around gendered violence without reinforcing its roots in colonial power? As we strategize, we must be careful not to reproduce the systems and ideologies that colonialism has introduced. Sexist, racist and homophobic ideas have been internalized at many levels, but colonialism’s stealthy ways make them hard to recognize.
As an example, one consequence of developing broad public awareness about the prevalence of violence against Indigenous women has been the privileging of some women’s voices over others. Moving from Vancouver’s downtown east side to offices in Ottawa and other urban centers across Turtle Island, efforts to name gendered violence have shifted from grassroots discussions to slick poster campaigns. In these moves, certain voices have been left behind, enacting a form of silencing that I believe is in crucial need of reparation. Rather than calling on our sisters in the sex trade to speak for themselves, others are asked to speak on their behalf. We must ask ourselves how colonial values continue to shape whose voices are seen as legitimate, while working to center the voices of the most marginalized women in our communities rather than only those of us with a colonial education.
So colonial violence can be understood as more than just interpersonal abuse – it is inherent in the systems that have shaped how we define ourselves and relate to one another as Indigenous people. It should go without saying that healing from violence requires rebuilding our individual and collective strength rather than reinforcing the power of the state. By centering local Indigenous knowledge in our understandings of leadership, honor, strength and love, we can redefine ‘power’ as well as ‘violence’. This requires relearning our stories and our cultural teaching in order to raise up the girls in our communities and respect them as leaders, mothers, warriors and knowledge keepers."
— Sarah Hunt, “More Than A Poster Campaign: Redefining Colonial Violence,” Decolonization 2/14/13
For years, scholars and critics alike have been criticizing the Canadian music industry’s bias toward black music. Most recently, music writer and author Dalton Higgins, in promotion for his book, Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake, gave a talk at York University in Toronto in which he spoke about the challenges of getting black music heard on the radio in Canada, and the fact that Canadian commercial radio does very little to support black music.
“If Drake were signed to a Canadian label, he wouldn’t have the same support and success he does today,” Higgins said. “The harsh reality is that the Canadian music industry is not willing to dish out the cash for urban artists.”
But in a Exclaim! Magazine feature way back in 2006, Ryan Patrick pointed out that black music doesn’t get much love in Canada because of our cultural points of reference. “The industry has always been white–there’s no other way to describe its infrastructure,” he writes, “Canadian labels, who often operate as franchises of their American counterparts, look to the U.S. market as a model in most of their operations, but the Canadian market doesn’t share the same cultural experiences–in black or white communities or music markets–as the U.S.” Stated otherwise, instead of trying to understand the nuances of the Canadian market for black music, the industry often tries the same tactics that are used in the US–and they just don’t work here.What do you think?
There are, however, a few black Canadian R&B artists like Jully Black, Keisha Chanté, and Divine Brown who have managed to achieve moderate levels of success in Canada, performing across the country and in places you don’t really associate with “urban music,” like Saskatchewan. But having said that, Black’s music has become slightly more pop over the years, and Brown’s sound feels more like jazz than R&B at times and, as a result, they get mainstream radio play. Most people probably
know who they are while traditional R&B artists, like Tamia and Fiona, singing slow songs and love ballads with a few “baby, baby, baby” lines thrown in for good measure are consistently ignored by these same stations.
— Some late-evening reading: guest contributor Cheryl Thompson’s awesome analysis on the why Canadian R&B singers can make it in the US but not in their homeland on the R today!