In 2016, women of colour, specifically Black women, are still in the position of being seen as a niche or ‘urban’ market, and are treated as though their identities (and dollars) operate outside the mainstream. This is at the same time that their existence, style and culture is stolen, re-branded, and commodified for/as mainstream whiteness. For many years WoC have seen this happen, where there being is not enough but their aura is stolen as we remained silent. In recent years, social media has enabled the opening up of conversations with language from academia helping to identify and name these micro aggressions. Through this discourse, communities were built to further unpack the ways WoC have seen their culture be appropriated, while simultaneously being shunned for that same culture that is innate to them. In 2015, Toronto’s own TiKA Simone created #BAREGYAL and #GYALCAST to serve as a safe haven, a space and community where women of colour could honour their cultures and selves.
#BAREGYAL is a party series that started as a space where WoC could be celebrated and be themselves without any judgement. Over time the messaging has become more political, making sure that ALL WoC are celebrated, and that men who are invited into the space know that misogyny and disrespect is not tolerated. From our all female host line up to our female focused DJ line up, we at #BAREGYAL are committed to our space being female friendly with special emphasis on WoC.
The success of #BAREGYAL, birthed the number 1 media DIY media collective (as reported by the good folks at The Fader), #GYALCAST. This podcast was created to enhance WoC representation within Toronto in the realm of new media. #GYALCAST is the brainchild of Tika Simone and writing extraordinaire Sajae Elder; which brings together 11 women (myself included) to have open conversations about music, race, politics, sex, relationships, and intersectional feminism. #GYALCAST has been around for only one year but is already four seasons deep. The season four finale was a liveshow at The Gladstone in partnership with Manifesto that featured esteemed dancers/choreographers Tanisha Scott and Ponytailz.
Both entities are unique and inspiring catalysts, and have changed exponentially how WoC are seen and heard within the city. Now, more than ever, Toronto is going through a renaissance and this time it seems like this is real, no pump fake! We are being put on an international stage and everyone is watching our next move -which is exciting, but with most positions of power being held by men the narrative is still driven by them, instead of the WoC that have been putting the working parts together. These women come in forms such as: supportive partner/friend, creatives, or women that are simply in the scene and in the know. Even though women play their part, in many spaces women are either ignored or hushed, or both, therefore their point of views are regularly unaccounted for. Having #BAREGYAL and #GYALCAST exist, helps create spaces for WoC from all walks of life to express themselves. Especially in ways that our mothers, sisters, and aunties before us weren’t able to in the past. Even more so than combatting the male narrative and finding the female voice, these entities have helped to open dialogue between WoC. Through this open dialogue, sisterhood and self care are being promoted and negative stereotypes are being challenged.
With the work that we are doing, there is a responsibility that falls on us to raise the next generation of girls who will become women. This won’t be an easy journey, but it’s one that will be worthwhile and is imperative to the future of WoC within the city and beyond. So here is a toast to us as WoC, shifting the narrative within every aspect of the city, and I pray that we all play our part.