Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator, and educator. Ware completed his PhD at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies in 2021 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of the Arts (Theatre and Film Studies) at McMaster University. Using painting, installation, and performance, Ware works with and explores social justice frameworks and Black activist culture. He is a cofounder of Black Lives Matter—Canada and Wildseed Centre for Art and Activism and for 20 years was a co-curator of Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Ware has won several awards, including the TD Diversity Award in 2017, was voted “Best Queer Activist” by NOW Magazine (2005), and was awarded the Steinert and Ferreiro Award (2012).
To make these banners, Ware invited 36 participants (heroes) to work with phrases that would guide their journey towards anti-supremacy and the abolition of racism within our culture. Together, they created a 4-piece banner with the phrases:
We Will Win – based on Assata Shakur’s famous words, “I believe that we will win.” Shakur is a Black political activist and was a member of the Black Liberation Army.
Take Root Amongst the Stars – based on Octavia E. Butler’s phrase: “Our destiny is to take root amongst the stars.” Octavia E. Butler was a Black American speculative fiction author.
Afraid of the Dark – based on Nat King Cole’s resistance statement to a white supremacist concert audience, “some people are just afraid of the dark.” Cole was an American singer, jazz pianist, and actor.
But What if We Don’t – the participants came up with this phrase to round out the four; a relatively ambivalent expression that ties into the We Will Win banner- this is the phrase that cannot be uttered: but what if we don’t–perhaps the thing we are most concerned about.
The final idea is that these four phrases individually convey hope, fear, confidence, and uncertainty, and together they tell a broader story.
Artist’s Statement: With In Movement: Training Sessions for Freedom Fighters, Syrus Marcus Ware invited participants to join in the present moment (after, back then and just before, in the future), wherein the potential directions are seemingly endless, yet also hyper focused. In this confrontation with the “Father State”, we move past what we have been training for, and into what we are creating anew. We move into the prefigurative political dreams we have been working towards. All participants (heroes) participated in a collective struggle that harnessed all the activisms that have come before and that will lead us into the future together. This work was rooted in the often invisibilized labour behind the scenes, work often done by those on the margins of the struggle, particularly women, trans people and femmes. It celebrates the powerful behind the scenes hustle that facilitates—and is its own kind of—direct action. syrusmarcusware.com/art/in-movement
In Movement: Training Sessions for Freedom Fighters (MONOMYTHS: Stage 8) took place on October 30, 2016 at Daniels Spectrum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The series is conceived and curated by Jess Dobkin and Shannon Cochrane.
Header Image: Syrus Marcus Ware, banners from the project In Movement: Training Sessions for Freedom Fighters, mixed media textiles, 2016, Courtesy of the Artist.