Short thought’s on Phife Dawg’s passing from a white guy form Toronto’s suburbs

I grew up in central Etobicoke, basically the whitest place in Toronto (for those not familiar, I basically grew up in the heart of Ford Nation, before it was Ford Nation). I had grown up through middle school resistant to hip hop, not because I disliked it but rather what it stood for to me. Growing up in predominantly white suburbia surrounded by upper-middle and upper class peers who, all to rebel against their white conservative parents, listened to hip hop put me in a weird position as a kid more interesting in rebelling against my own peers. I was bullied a lot and the white kids at school wearing do-rags (I kid you not) listening to top 40 gangster rap were exactly what I wanted to avoid. So I did what any other nerdy skateboard kids do, and listened to punk and metal almost exclusively.

This changed for me when I listened to A Tribe Called Quest for the first time. It was early internet and I don’t even remember how I first listened to them, it wasn’t a kid at school, Tribe was too “fruity” for these guys who just wanted to listen to music that glorified wealth (yet never acknowledging the origins of this glorification was from a starting point of poverty…something my peers will never experience because of who their parents are). It was quite possibly Limewire or Kazzaa or something like that, all I know is that the first time I heard Phife Dawg come in on Check the Rhime, I realized I was wrong about an entire genre.

There was something so mind blowing about Phife coming in right away with “me the five footer, I kicks the mad style so step off the frankfurter”, it wasn’t the self-deprecation but rather the acknowledgement of who he is. Phife Dawg was the Funky Diabetic, the Five Foot Assassin, and as young kid who felt like I couldn’t do anything without being made fun of this was a revelation. I wasn’t a happy kid really, but damn if Phife didn’t make me optimistic for the future. Seeing and hearing Phife take ownership of who he is, and then use that as just a building block for his incredible skills as a MC was inspiring and I know I’m not alone.

I think I would have fallen in love with hip hop no matter what, eventually. But that fateful day at my computer and hearing Phife’s voice for the first time locked in years of enjoyment for me, and opened my eyes.


Why we should be pissed off about the video of John Tory riding the subway

Tory gawking at Kim Kardashian's Rolling Stone cover.
Tory gawking at Kim Kardashian’s Rolling Stone cover.

Today, Toronto Mayor John Tory’s staff told The Globe and Mail’s Ann Hui “Mayor’s office says they’re going to try to “break the Internet” with a tweet expected any minute now. So….” which was coming on the heels of both John Tory not knowing that Kanye West (one of the newly announced headliners for the closing of the PanAm games) was in fact, not Canadian and the John Tory twitter account tweeting out multiple poorly done photos of the “TORONTO” sign that was erected in honor of the games placed in odd and humorous locations.

My initial reaction, and the reaction shared by many others online, was of fear and disbelief as the “break the internet” line is now heavily associated with Kim Kardashian’s magazine cover in which she showed her bare butt. Thankfully (at least) this was a misdirection and the tweet was in fact a minute long video of John Tory putting on some headphones (while donning an uncharacteristic red baseball cap and sunglasses) while, it’s implied, he listens to Kanye West’s “Stronger”. In a vacuum this is horribly awkward and embarrassing and seems like something a dad would do after a few drinks while being pressured by their early twenties children because it would be hilarious on Instagram. Hell, it’s even slightly excusable that John Tory didn’t know Kanye West isn’t Canadian, did anyone expect Tory would even know who Kanye is? This video totally pissed me off though and it’s worth explaining why.

When Kanye West was announced as a headliner I expressed some disappointment that it wasn’t a Torontonian act chosen, at the time I didn’t know that both Serena Ryder and Pitbull would be headlining (and if I did I would have said Pitbull should be replaced, not Kanye). Toronto has a long history of shafting local talent, from BASE jumpers to musicians. Little did I know a petition was being made to call for Kanye to be given the boot, nor was I aware as Andray Domise pointed out, that the language being used by the Kanye haters was quite racist and misogynistic. So now we understand the background on this Kanye headliner debacle.

Concurrently to all this, today was a scheduled public board meeting of the Toronto Police Services. Specifically at this meeting the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter was planning to attend this meeting and raise the issue (along with other issues) of Andrew Loku’s death. Andrew Loku was recently killed by Toronto police. The folks who attended this meeting with Black Lives Matter crammed the room and disrupted it. This is a moment that will have reverberations in our city that most are not even aware of, at least yet. As this was happening, John Tory’s twitter uploaded and posted the video of him riding the subway.

This isn’t an issue of our mayor looking like a total old dweeb but our mayor looking like he couldn’t care less about the lives of black Torontonians. This protest was announced, this meeting was pre-scheduled. Tory, 100% knew that his staff were going to release the fun little project they did that morning right as the meeting was happening. This is why I got pissed, and why you should be too.

post script: I can’t help but point out the Tory’s account attempt at using non-patriarchal language (Kanye is “@KimKardashian’s husband”) but then countering this by showing Tory make that dumb “Niceeee!” face when he sees the Kim picture in his newspaper.

post post script: It’s relevant to include this quote: “Asked what he knows about Kardashian, Tory said: “Just that she is part of that very colourful, interesting family and that she seems to pose in pictures that show off her ample posterior on a regular basis.””

Thoughts from a 23 year old campaign manager on the Toronto election

After a day of reflection (while taking down dozens of election signs) I have some thoughts to share about election we just had in Toronto. I’d like to start with linking to Morgan Baskin’s recent blog post “So What’s Next?” which I read last night after getting home from the election night party that my candidate of choice, Raymond Desilets had thrown for his supporters and volunteers. I was exhausted, and much of what I have read and done in the past week (especially after this past weekend of non-stop canvassing) has barely registered in my memory, yet I cannot stop thinking about Baskin’s post.

For those who don’t know, in a nutshell Baskin ran for mayor and gained some recognition (first in the mainstream media seemingly as a novelty, then in the view of a lot of people as a totally impressive and fantastic candidate). Morgan Baskin is awesome. I wish I had the courage when I was 18 (or 19) to do what she has done. I barely had the courage to do what I did this election. I have a LOT of feelings about this election, and to be quite honest I’m struggling to write this post so it’s both coherent and concise, so I’m going to try to focus in on my thoughts about it on the main theme I kept thinking of during. That is, my age.

I’m 23. In relation to Baskin my age seems (or just feels) to be so much older. I’ve been through university, where I grew up tremendously (I attribute this however more to the specific moment in time I went to a specific university however, not by virtue of going to university in general) and thinking about what is different for me now than when I was 18 is staggering. However, I’m just four years older than Baskin, which I know is nothing. I relate to her quite a bit, I was always the baby of the group wherever I went when I was her age, albeit I was working at Greenpeace not running for mayor. While I feel that my 18 self and 23 self are totally different, I know that four years isn’t really that big of a deal, which is evidenced by my friendships with workers and individuals in some cases decades older than me. Yet no matter how different I feel about myself in this four year period, I know that one thing hasn’t changed.

I’m still a young person. When I met with Ray Desilets I told him I would run and organize his canvass operations (I have a LOT of canvassing experience) and simply due to the fact I am unemployed I poured my free time into his campaign, and ended up taking on the title of “Campaign Manager”. This transition felt totally natural for Ray and I, it was just a title to reflect what I was doing. What that title also means is a new line for my CV now too, which is a constant obsession for me to gain credibility as an employable person. This past year I worked as a canvasser/pollcat for two other political campaigns (Jonah Schein’s re-election campaign in Davenport and Joe Cressy’s by-election campaign in Trinity-Spadina). To be perfectly blunt, I did it because I was unemployed and despite not ever wanting to knock on doors again (lots of experience as a fundraiser), I realized that if I both wanted work and wanted to create positive change, this was my immediate destiny. As I return now to hopefully short time of being both unemployed and mostly unoccupied I relate heavily to Baskin when she felt the need to point out she needs to get a job, something too many older folk keep forgetting our generation is finding to be extremely hard.

It was during my time at the Joe Cressy campaign I became incredibly disappointed that no good candidates have emerged in my ward, Ward 5, to run for council. We had no incumbent and with the provincial NDP doubling their vote share in the recent election I thought someone like me (a progressive) could win. On my last evening volunteering for the Cressy campaign multiple NDP workers who I look up to told me I need to continue doing political work, I was ecstatic. However despite this, I ultimately chickened out and hoped that a “real candidate” (read: someone who was a “real” adult) would emerge. This turned out to be Ray Desilets, and quite frankly his platform is far better than anything I would have come up with, I was excited that there was a serious local campaign I could focus my time and energy on. I have the utmost respect for Ray and I know he does for me as well, it was a fantastic working relationship.

During my time working for Ray I was assumed to be his son a few dozen times (despite the fact I would often mention “Ray has a son a year or two younger than me” when talking about him) or it was assumed I was a family friend. I was, and still am OK with these assumptions. It was a local campaign, and Ray’s son was out canvassing with us after all. What I’m not OK with is how sheepishly I would introduce myself as Ray’s campaign manager in turn. I was never afraid to send emails, using the veil of internet anonymity, with my title attached however. When I would tell people my title, the most common response was to gush about my age and to ask me a wave of personal questions (what I went to school for, what I want to do with my life, do I live with my parents still, etc). I was frustrated with and still am is that my age instantly became a novelty. The number of baby boomers who felt the need to tell me they’re so happy to “finally see a young person getting involved” was infuriating, especially when this was coming from someone much older than me who wasn’t even sure if we voted for city councillors before I knocked on their door. Yet, because of how I perceive myself as a young person I would be shy and anxious about this instead of feeling pride.

Last night however, after feeling pretty bummed not just at the results of the mayoral election and the council election in Ward 5, but at the results of all the other races I had invested so much hope into (namely Idil Burale in Ward 1, Andray Domise in Ward 2, Russ Ford in Ward 6 and Alejandra Bravo in Ward 17) I read Morgan Baskin’s blog post. It was at this point for the first time I think I truly felt pride all election, not just in myself, but for Baskin and all the other young people I know who worked their asses off in some way or another over these past ten months. It’s awesome, and we need to keep it up.

Sorry, You’re Not Really Progressive

I’m a Torontonian, born and raised (and now permanently living) so I took some interest in reading Mitchell Anderson’s piece that was essentially an anti-amalgamation piece about the city of Toronto. In a nutshell it argued that the massive central power that is now the City of Toronto is not only harmful to Toronto (in the purest, downtown sense) financially, but also politically. Those damn suburban conservatives keep mucking everything up! What the piece doesn’t blatantly say, but still is obvious is the doctrine of isolationism.

Over the past several years I’ve had my fair share of conversations with fellow leftists on the subject of what the source of the problem is with society, and a common opinion that pops up is that the problem is those damn reactionaryconservativereligiousrightwingbackwardscooks who are constantly fighting good positive progress, or even worse, reversing and making things more terrible for everyone but themselves. Then all too commonly my fellow leftist will propose decentralizing power, starting a commune, or in extreme cases giving up and becoming a libertarian.

Admittedly, I’ve had dreams of moving to some faraway socialist Scandinavian paradise. It could also be argued that my internet browsing habits are intellectual isolationism (or “filter bubbles”) but I don’t think I’ll move to Finland anytime soon, nor am I anywhere close to even considering internet communities hold the same importance as real life societies.

What the real life tendency towards isolationism reveals one of two things; A) giving up or B) the person speaking it is not really progressive. We all have obligations to one another, and isolating yourself from others and disavowing any responsibility to even interact with those who generally disagree with you (heck, let’s just even call them wrong) is completely missing the point of what progressive ideology is all about. Let’s return to the Toronto problem; you can disassociate yourself from all the idiots surrounding you…but your still surrounded by idiots. The belief that the terrible decision making that happens on the other side of some border, or on the other side of the world, does not effect you negatively is the exact belief that supposedly died out when liberalism won the West. Say what you will about liberalism, but let’s face it: the tragedy of the commons isn’t the non-preferential outcome it’s that we are all thrust into the commons whether we like it or not. Don’t even get me started on future generations, the moment you start condemning areas of the world as none of your concern, you are turning your back on children that could benefit from progressive policies being placed now.

Every time a fellow leftist of some kind advocates isolationism a part of me dies inside. The moment you start thinking “Well at least [insert group I belong to] will benefit!” and you disregard the consequences for other groups you are not being progressive, you’re being a reactionary asshole.