Ladies First!

18 June 2009


On Thursday, June 18, 2009, the Art Gallery of York University and the Medina Collective launched Young Inspirations , an urban arts magazine featuring articles and art works by Ladies First, a group of young women from Brookview Middle School who took part in a collaborative after-school urban arts mentorship program from February to June 2009. The magazine launch also featured an exhibition of recent artwork, a commissioned mural by Ladies First, music by DJ L’Oqenz , and spoken word performances by Rita Nketiah and Keisha Monique Simpson .

An example of the Art Gallery of York University’s artist-led education programs, Ladies First was designed and led by Medina Collective Co-Directors, Tonika Morgan and Kemba King, and Toronto visual artist Sandra Brewster .

During the course of the after-school program Ladies First were introduced to the various streams of hip hop including: graffiti art, rap music, spoken word, deejaying, and emceeing which inspired them to write stories and produce artworks that are featured in the magazine. Collectively, Ladies First wrote three articles on hip hop as a cultural practice, the creative space and musical form of dance hall, and a step-by-step guide on how to break dance. Individual features were written on Black History, Finding Inspiration in the Jane/Finch Community, the life of American rapper Dolla, and the circumstances surrounding the physical and sexual abuse of young women. These emerging urban artists practiced their interview techniques and developed their journalistic skills by interviewing, videotaping, and photographing acclaimed choreographer and b-girl Lady Noyz, who is also featured in the magazine.

A major highlight of the program was a field trip to Chatelaine Magazine, where Ladies First met with Editor-in-Chief Maryam Sanati and got an insider’s look into what is involved in publishing Canada’s leading women’s interest magazine. Participants also had the opportunity to talk to Chatelaine’s Associate Editor Rachel Halushak, Health Editor Jacqueline Nunes, Copy Editor Vanessa Milne, Maclean’s journalist Kate Lunau, and Today’s Parent Associate Editor Dafna Izenberg.

Working with Toronto artist Sandra Brewster, Ladies First experimented with a gel medium transfer technique, producing compelling portraits of notable African-Canadian historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd, Rosemary Brown, and Marie-Joseph Angélique, among others. With Brewster’s guidance, these young artists collaboratively painted a hip-hop inspired mural in the AGYU gallery that was on view along with other artworks during the magazine launch.

The magazine launch and celebration at the AGYU drew an impressive crowd of family, friends, teachers, school administrators, and supporters who all came together to recognize the multidisciplinary talents of Ladies First. Towards the end of the evening, Brookview students danced and sang alongside DJ L’Oqenz as she shared her amazing skills on the turntables.

The project will extend into 2010 with a display of artworks by Ladies First at Brookview Middle School starting this fall. Copies of the Young Inspirations magazine will also be distributed to all Brookview students in September 2009.

Challenging and reversing the elision of women as active artistic agents within hip-hop, the magazine and the related urban arts program claims a space for young women in this highly contested cultural zone by recognizing female urban artists’ contributions to this burgeoning culture as well as the creative legacy that they pass onto a new generation of women. A lasting record of these emerging artists’ accomplishments, the magazine will also serve to facilitate a dialogue and connections with young hip-hop artists and enthusiasts from across the city.
The Artists and Writers of LADIES FIRST:
Muna Abdi, Sudi Abdul, Jennevia Walker, Lashawna Brooks, Tanya Campbell, Ashley Chin, Khaila Benaine, Britney Lindsay, Ashleigh Chambers, Christina Green, Stannette Lindsay, Dillonique Patrick.

The AGYU and the Medina Collective extend our gratitude to Brookview Middle School teacher Darlene Jones and Principal Karl Subban.

To hear more about The AGYU-Medina Urban Arts Mentorship program with Brookview students, listen to this MP3 of CHRY journalist Sasha Allison’s (a.k.a. Lady Loxx) interview Allyson Adley and Kemba King.