Urban- Hippie- Afro Chick

Into the Deep~ A Poem 

So, I've been dealing with some health issues lately that have had me off from performing. To keep from wallowing in self-pity I've been trying to keep being creative. I've been going out to find natural beauty to photograph. I've been writing songs & poems. It's interesting how much trepidation I feel in sharing my creative endeavours that are not within the realm of music! Obviously music is what the better part of my life has been devoted to & I'm known professionally as a musician/singer/songwriter. So it is easier to get to a place where my music feels "good enough" to share. My photos & poems- not so much. But here we are. I am down with embracing my full creative self, whatever that looks like and I pledge to be as kind to myself as I can while I explore and/or come back to other interests. 


Inclusivity- Doing the Work vs Tokenization 

I’d like to offer up this perspective that I believe is part of the divide between white people & POCs when it comes to talking about/acknowledging racism. It is this: 

The truth is this: If you are not actively dismantling white supremacy & its bedfellow patriarchy, you are upholding it. It is that simple. Same goes for ableism, transphobia, etc. 

We are tired of being gaslit. Tired of being told we’re too sensitive, we took it the wrong way, it was a joke, you have a black friend, etc etc etc. 

Here are a couple of real life stories that may help you to understand how you must start by believing POC when we tell you that you are causing us harm. It is not only the macro, it is the micro. It is the tokenization vs true inclusion. They may help you to understand that we are not being hateful when we say we don’t trust (some) of you. We are simply speaking our truth. We are tired both emotionally and spiritually. And for those of us like me, who live and work in a predominantly white region, the amount of holding that I must do daily has taken its toll so much that I consider sleeping on my dad’s couch in Toronto so I can have access to more safe places. 


Story 1 

You are a person of colour. Your “friend” and sometimes colleague asks if they can get some advice from you. You oblige. 

They were recently looking at photos from an event their arts organization holds annually and were noticing that it was a “sea of white people”. They say they want to be more inclusive. They wondered why people of colour don’t come to their event & wondered what they could do  to attract some. They ask you if it would be ok to get stock photos off Google that have people of colour in them and use them on their website as a way of attracting more POC. You explicitly tell them NO, that that would be false representation. You suggest they hire a person of colour to be a guest on staff. They say they’re not sure they can afford that and are unsure of what the other leaders will say. You suggest they add a page to their website called something like “Artists We Love” with photos and links to their websites & make sure to include POCs. 

Fast forward a month or two. 

You are working at an event with this person & you notice they are giving out flyers for the aforementioned event. You notice that the event is doing well enough to be offered two times this year. You notice that there are guest artists/teachers. THEY ARE ALL WHITE. 

You are deeply disappointed. You say nothing. 

Story 2 

A genre specific music conference decides to hold a panel on “decolonizing” said genre of music. It has two panelists. They are both white. 


How can you be serious about being and/or learning how to be (racially) inclusive without including people who are not white? It baffles my mind. 

If you are serious about creating a world that is equitable for all, I hope this may spark some digging. Not just around issues of race. We can all look for ways in which we perpetuate ageism, ableism, heteronormative stereotypes, etc. We can do better. And we must.

My 2 Cents on Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone 

For me, this blog about the choice to cast Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone is spot on. It is not a matter of how good/bad of an actress she is. It is the fact that Nina's "blackness" was inherently tied to her music. She said so herself on many occasions. She was a dark skinned woman who was NOT afforded any of the privilege that Ms. Saldana has undoubtedly experienced in her life.

Nina was at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement and sang songs like "Mississippi Goddamn" and "Backlash Blues" that helped define an era.

The maker of the movie claims it is more loosely based on Nina's life...it's not a bio-pic, blah, blah. Well you know what? You should've created a FICTIONAL character and not disgraced the High Priestess, Ms. Simone by using the parts of her life's story that are convenient for you and discarding arguably the most important one- her blackness!

How one can claim to "love and honour" Nina while in black face and a prosthetic nose, is truly beyond me. You know I don't rant like this often, but it had to be said! I am not looking for a debate- just expressing my honest opinion. So please don't write about how politically incorrect I'm being or how this is "reverse- racism" to Zoe,as it's is not about Zoe, it is about Nina. Please. Don't. Go. There. 

To read the blog that inspired my rant click:

It's OK To Be a Little Scared 

 This was written on Tuesday Oct. 16, 2012

Today was my 6th Guelph Glee session.  We're getting into a groove and having a really good time.  Some of the singers aren't quite out of their shells yet, but everyone seems to be finding the experience rewarding and they all want to continue into November and December.
Tonight the new thing on the menu was my arrangement of Eleanor Rigby.  It's simple, but not easy.  And so I found it challenging to split my brain (and hands) into different compartments and give each section what they needed.  In exasperation, I quietly joked "Omigosh! Can I really do this?".  And then realizing that a few students had heard me, quickly  said, "Yes I can!  We're gonna rock this!".  
One of the older students chirped up supportively, "Of course you can do it, Joni.  Don't doubt yourself".  Such a small thing, really.  But her words had weight and power behind them and were precisely the lift I needed that week.  I mean, I've never arranged and conducted a choir before!  Yes, I have been teaching for over 12 years, have run music summer camps and workshops, but this choir director thing is completely new territory and it is challenging to keep all of the "balls up in the air".  Give the altos their note, make sure the mezzos come in on the right beat, play all the parts simultaneously on piano all the while listening to make sure they're "getting it".  Whew!
But hey, I've long ben a fan of doing things that scare me a little, or even a lot.  The sense of accomplishment you feel when you pull off something that you weren't quite sure you could is a good feeling....like better than enjoying a lemon square and a fresh brewed Ethiopian Coffee.  Ahhhh, coffee- that's for another blog!

"Tapped" and insights from another generation 

I just got back from a viewing of "Tapped" (doc on the commodification of water) and on my way out I had a very enlightening/frightening chat with an older man from Holland who lived for 3 years under Hitler's rule. We chatted a bit about the film and the general fight against the Central Banking System, Corporations, the poisoning of our food, etc. He told me that what the average person doesn't realize is that we (Canada and other nations) are very much headed in the direction of fascist rule. We are so comfortable, complacent and lazy that we don't see that inch by inch our rights and freedoms are being taken away because no one is saying "And now we're going to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people and/or poison you". We need to remember, he said, that many people did not take Hitler too seriously. He remembers "the lone nut" in his village who tried to rally people against Hitler and warn them of what letting him go unchecked could mean. We all know how that turned out...When will we at large wake up to the sobering fact that we are on such a slippery slope in so very many ways? When will use each dollar we spend as a vote for the kind of world we want to live in and leave for future generations? I don't know the answer, but I do know that I am committed to "do my part" in as many ways as I can. It can be so tricky in this modern society and though I do find my own hypocrisies daily, I would rather see and own them than remain asleep. That is all for now. Be well.