If We Ruled the World

Then I’m doomed in this system,
The system measuring the ghetto
Where white drug pushers compress social change
Dish out a hell game of lies and deferred dreams
Tales of deceit like Django Unchained
Cardboard characters of social damage
Complementing the urban havoc
Get the White people out, let the Black people in
Gentrification in the reverse settle in…

We need to revolt against this messed up system
Tell them to stop shooting youth with low income
Round up the bwoy dem from Shoreham to Lane
We need to link up to make a justice change

Excerpt from Justice Change by Suviana Burey

For Immediate Release:
January 30, 2014

In a world increasingly marked by economic polarization and a widening gap between rich and poor it is imperative for youth to mobilize and collectively challenge and destabilize patterns of residential segregation, locational discrimination, and spatial practices that contribute to social, economic, and political marginalization.

Organized by the Art Gallery of York University and led by Toronto artists The M.A.D. Poet (aka Melissa A. Dean), Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart and Chevy X King, If We Ruled the World is a multidisciplinary art program for Jane-Finch youth that focused on urban planning and spatial justice. Engaging eight youth from Success Beyond Limits, an educational support and mentorship program housed at Westview Centennial Secondary School, this program invited youth to investigate how visual art and spoken word poetry can be employed to hone and develop a critical spatial consciousness.

Through workshops in Jane-Finch, Stoddart, Dean, and Chevy X King encouraged and supported youth as they collectively developed, cultivated, and drew from their own urban spatial imaginary.Youth employed visual art and spoken word poetry as expressive tools to imagine urban design alternatives that promote community well-being, health, and belonging. Recognizing and identifying the structures of oppression that manifest spatially in the built environment and the urban landscape, youth also produced alternative neighbourhood plans founded upon the principles and ethics of spatial justice.

With the guidance of documentary filmmaker Chevy X King participants created place-based spoken word poetry videos, shot on location at various neighbourhood sites throughout the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Through their participation youth realized how art can be strategically deployed for empowerment, enabling them to create an equitable and inclusive urban spatial imaginary and reality.

This art education program culminates with the opening of If We Ruled the World, an exhibition which is part of the Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) # 2, at the Art Gallery of York University and showcases site-specific video poems, works on paper, and a collective song produced by Success Beyond Limits artists.

The exhibition opens on February 5 with a public reception from 6-9 pm and continues through to March 2, 2014.

A free bus departs Westview Secondary School, 755 Oakdale Road, on February 5 at 5:30 pm, transporting people to the opening reception of If We Ruled the World at the AGYU.

These place-based artworks, poetry, and videos together form a critical body of youth-generated, arts-based research and documentation that shapes and informs their investigation into urban transformation. Collaborating in a two-day charrette at the CIA #2 and Success Beyond Limits, with Zahra Ebrahim and Sherry Lin of archiTEXT, a Toronto-based design think tank and creative agency, youth will participate in a brainstorming exercise where they will conceive of new urban design possibilities, as well as explore the potential urban transformation of the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. The second day focuses on the redesign of Success Beyond Limits’ educational and programming space.

Surrounded by concrete, I speak only to survive in these areas
So let’s talk about how I was raised in this area
I live with realism, but write to eternity
Pockets full of lint creates a hunger for a currency.
Life is but a line away,
So everything I write to say to the people,
Makes this road a little more peaceful.

Excerpt from The Complex by Kareem Bennett

The Art Gallery of York University would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts – Artists and Community Collaboration Program (ACCP), York University Faculty Association Community Projects, and Success Beyond Limits for generously supporting this art education program.