Do the Work

What does accountability look like on both a personal and an institutional level? Co-hosts Naomi Bain and Ty Sloane talk with Adam Benn and Ravyn Wngz about the often fraught relationship between communities and institutions, the potential they see for real change, and how they stay grounded, inspired, and sustained in their activism. They talk about their experience working with and within institutions, and how they’ve observed evolving levels of support for movements like Black Lives Matter.

About our guests

Adam Benn is an experienced facilitator and educator, with over ten years of experience in community healthcare. Adam has wide and ranging experience working with diverse populations with unique needs.

Ravyn Wngz “The Black Widow of Burlesque” is a Tanzanian, Bermudian, Mohawk, 2Spirit, Queer Movement storyteller of Trans experience.  She is a Transcendent Abolitionist, and Renaissance Artivist. Her work is rooted in Black liberation and Indigenous Resurgence.

photo by Jackie Brown photography

Glossary + additional reading

Here are some of the queer references, and local Toronto terms you’ll come across in the episode, with links to more reading:

  • BLM-TO: Black Lives Matter Toronto is a grassroots organization that seeks to “be a platform upon which black communities across Toronto can actively dismantle all forms of anti-black racism, liberate blackness, support black healing, affirm black existence, and create freedom to love and self- determine.” In the conversation, we hear about their protest and performance at the 2016 Pride parade – you can read the original press release and demands from BLM-TO, and this article by Rinaldo Walcott that reflects on the impact of the event.
  • BLM mutual fund: Black Lives Matter Canada set up a mutual aid fund during the COVID-19 pandemic, raising over $400 000 that was redistributed through community micro-grants.
  • James Baldwin: James Baldwin was queer, Black American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist, known for books including Notes of a Native Son and Giovanni’s Room.
  • Ruby Bridges: Ruby Bridges is a civil rights activist and author, who was famously the first Black child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana in 1960. At that time she had to be escorted to school every day by federal marshals.
  • Forest Hill: Ravyn mentions that Forest Hill, an affluent neighbourhood in Toronto, used to be a forest. You can learn more about the Indigenous history of Forest Hill in this Torontoist article.
  • Police brutality + protests: Amidst protests following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, as Ravyn points out, Toronto Police members kneeled to signal support of the protests. Ravyn also names Andrew Loku, who was killed by Toronto police in 2015, and Breonna Taylor who was shot in her home in Louisville, KY in 2020. For more reading, Robyn Maynard’s book, Policing Black Lives delves into state violence against Black people in Canada, which goes well beyond the police. #SayTheirNames is a site that keeps track of Black folks killed in the U.S.
  • Assata Shakur: Assata Shakur is a Black Panther and Black Liberation Army activist. She was accused of murder following a shootout in New Jersey in 1973, and has been in exile in Cuba since escaping the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women.
  • Nina Simone: Nina Simone was a singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Check out Pitchfork’s A Guide to Nina Simone in 10 Songs.
  • Sonya Renee Taylor: Sonya Renee Taylor is a poet, activist, and author of The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love. She is also the founder of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment.

Listen, subscribe, and share!

Read the full episode transcript here (coming soon), and find the episode (and subscribe to the podcast) on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher.

Intro and outro by leZlie lee kam and Ty Sloane, featuring music by Jessie Tollefsen. Sound editing by Denardo Hepburn, with support from Maddie Bautista. Podcast logo by Paul Dotey.

The Youth/Elders Podcast features personal stories, lived histories, and candid conversations between queer youth, queer elders, and lots of folks in between – for more information and to sign up for podcast updates, visit the podcast’s homepage.

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