A pin, a staple or a needle? Yet it draws blood. With Rinaldo Walcott

Life is full of betrayals. Yawn. Cliche. I know.

But don’t you hate it when you think you are in a safe seat and you end up getting scraped and bloodied. Was it a needle? A pin. Or a lost staple.  Whatever it was which left my lower thigh well and truly scraped at Innis Town Hall today it’s one thing I didn’t need.  What is it that even on the best days, in the best spaces you get to inhabit every few years you end up doing something completely stupid like this. Getting your blood drawn by a very thin metal object hidden inside a foam seat? Is it a metaphor? If so when was a sponge a metaphor except for absorbing everything. Not a Trojan Horse for an attack weapon for unsuspecting idealists. Forget the damn pin, needle or whatever the hell it was. What exhausted me was not injury but my efforts to ensure no one else gets hurt tomorrow or the day after. Especially tomorrow. Day two of #blacklike. The officials at UofT’s Innis Town Hall don’t have their ears (and hearts?) turned to safety that well. It took some explaining including a blood stained tissue to prove to them that even a soft seat has the potential to injure. But let us talk about tomorrow.  It will be day two of Black Like.  Just make sure you don’t take the seat I was in today.  Before tomorrow some notes from today.

Here’s what went down today and will go down tomorrow. Right here at Blacklikewho.ca: “These conversations will celebrate 20 years of Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada, while also centralizing Walcott’s fantastic (in the Richard Iton sense) oeuvre of writings on black studies, queer theory, diaspora studies.”

The morning panel was an invocation of quotes and content from Walcott’s writing and what they meant to each one of the presenters. What I say here may likely be direct quotes or thoughts from notes I took down. At the end of the first panel the audience sat silent swimming in thought and ideas having been taken to another place where we had never been. I’ll try to riff on what I heard with apologies to the presenters and to Mr. Walcott. In his new book Queer Returns he takes us to a new imagination of humanity. A creole way of being. We will be hearing about that tomorrow.

Speaking to a participant we talked about how the language we use affects how we feel. As if we are two (or three, or four) different beings. One for English. Another for another native tongue and then we become another person in creole. Now, more than ever, we need another language of being by rejecting the multicultural lie.  “A grammar for blackness.”

The Canadian multicultural experiment, just like the colonial experiment, has stripped communities and different diaspora of a full humanity. This continues. What is it that we are constantly told by those who are already in places of power. Be like us. Reinvent yourself. What they do not articulate is that like god’s purported desire to make sure man was made in god’s own image the mainstream’s siren call for reinvention is not dissimilar. Be like us. Reinvent the way we want you to be. Or you don’t be. That is the Canadian experiment. A continuation of the colonial experiment.

Today we got the best nuggets of Walcott’s thoughts and words as an examination of what is happening to us and our bodies, and how the dominant society is implicated in entangling black people and people of colour in a web of controls and corrals. Of systemic exclusions and disablements and death itself. I must qualify that the discussion was mainly based on the black experience. However those experiences translate equally into the experiences of people of colour; if not directly but very close.

So here is what I saw and heard today: A riff of sorts.

James Baldwin, Stuart Hall

looking backward AND forward in time.

Refusing to bow down to the master text of the West.

Christina Sharpe! Christina Sharpe! “Writing blackness is difficult work.”

Still. Jogging.

s t i l l

Share pain, pleasure, displacement and hope.

A series of returns again and again.

The flood at the Toronto islands.

Regent Park lies of gentrification and progress. But progress for whom?

It’s a tough geography – Canada 150

Caribana is fifty

Still. Carding. Financializing.

Black gifts to Toronto – Blackorama, Caribana

Dionne Brande. Beloved.

Kissing my ass could bring you closer to god.

Never gonna be respectable.

Black? for whom?

Masonic temple Not gonna do it.


law for chattled persons

grammar’s sonic register

Nova Scotia what happened?

the american imperial state at pearson airport

the “other” line full of blacks and asians

nostalgia is a lie

fungibility is fertile ground for flight

creep – Radiohead


no language is neutral

Sylvia Wynter

Shad on beloved Q

Baldwin on Richard Wright’s Native Son

Failure of protest novel

state violence

In the Wake

Moonlight, Get Out.

Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates

how to live in a black body

The body is a place of captivity

The body is a place of domesticated space

The body is regulated, inhabited, invaded.


Christina Sharpe – look laterally not hierarchically

cultural workers of any stripe

Forty acres and a horse

subsistence farmers

holding space is too material

accountability to each other
policy does not save anything

policy does not dictate action

holding each other

policy does not save lives

not prison reform – but no prisons

bailing out black mamas

black freedom and liberation

the long emancipation

hold dearly to one’s speculative political imagination


on Trump – voicing support for the FBI. are we?

fear of the abyss in face of the destruction of the state

grammars for thinking blackness

logics inscribed on your bodies

kinds of ways black body is seen and explained

grammar’s rules and regulations

articulating impossibility of adhering to rules and regulations

a grammar for blackness – a radical move

I am arguing for the impossibility of Black Canadian Studies – RW

assemble fragments of our lives

run, jog, stand still

listen! disobediently cos  we’re jammin’ still.


Update: May 26, 2017

A brief update from UofT with respect to pins and needles:

“After several search attempts, a single sewing pin was located and removed from the cushion.  The day before the event that you attended, the theatre hosted the Toronto’s Knitters Gild.  Unfortunately, it seems one of the attendees sewing needles made its way into the seat cushion.

We have had no other complaints from anyone sitting in the same seat, therefore it would seem you are the only person to come in contact with it.
If you still have medical concern, please see your medical doctor.
On behalf of Innis Town Hall, I apologize that you have had a negative experience.”



Renuka Mendis

Toronto – May 18, 2017