After the Paris Killings: A Journal Entry

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

Wednesday January 7, 2015 10:57 PM

A little over twelve hours ago, two, maybe three, men killed twelve people in Paris, France: 8 journalists, 2 cops, and 2 other people whose professions I do not know. The assault and killings were professional; planned executions, like a movie. I thought about the shoot out in the film Heat starring Robert De Niro. But this was real and way more organized. These men were trained killers. And they got the outcome they wanted.

The targets were the Editor in Chief and lead cartoonists at the Paris based magazine Charlie Hebdo named after the Charlie Brown cartoon. Before they killed each man they named them out loud and fired single shots. Six other journalists and a cop were in the room. They’re all dead. Another cop was killed execution style, gun to the head, while he lay on the ground.

Killing after killing after killing.

And there will be more killing.

Surprisingly, fear has not taken over Paris. Over ten-thousand people attended a vigil in Paris. And vigils were held all over the world. People are disgusted more than scared.

I tweeted in support of the dead journalists:

#CharlieHebdo #JeSusisCharlie I don’t agree with everything the magazine published and I don’t agree with murdering people in cold blood. RIP.

#CharlieHebdo #JeSusisCharlie You didn’t write what I write but you still put pen to pad, fingers to keyboard, ink on paper. RIP.

Executions are what we have come to? This has to stop!

The manhunt is still on. Will they catch them? Are they chasing the right people? Are the accused scapegoats? Is this killing new fodder for more divisiveness and population control?

Will we ever have peace?

All we know now is 12 people are dead. RIP.

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Racism At A Christmas Party

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

Racism never takes a break.

If you are a person of colour you’re never on vacation from racism.

Christmas and the Holiday season brings many fun occasions along with sad ones. Parties can be filled with laughs or traumatizing experiences, sometimes both happening at the same place.

I’ve been to a Christmas party and a Holiday party so far.  It would have been three but family stuff came up.  So far, racism has scored two for two.

Early this month I attended a Friday night gathering in a well to do area of my city. Walking through the streets of Cabbagetown was fun.  The pretty houses made for good eye candy.  The emptiness and quiet were much appreciated.  I was willing to get lost is how much I enjoyed walking in front of the refurbished old homes with big trees and gates on their fronts.

I was the second person to get to the party.  Within the hour there were ten of us.  Intimate gatherings are my preference.  You get to know people a lot easier.  Conversations shift just as much as people do.  Eventually, when the party is done you’ve done your rounds with new people and old friends.

Most of us at the party were new to one another as we were acquainted via a spiritual meet up we’ve been attending since the start of the year.  The crowd was diverse in many ways: age, ability, education, gender, income, race, sexuality, spirituality…

Four hours into the party the talk of Trans  Day of Remembrance came up.  Most of the party goers were queer.  Allies like me were in the minority; such is my life as I hang with lots of queer and trans folks.

The topic of violence came up.  Trans Day of Remembrance is honoured every November 20 because of the violence trans peoples face; a violence that is six times higher than cis-gendered (non transgender) peoples experience.  Not talking about violence just doesn’t happen when talking about TDOR.  The day exists because of violence.

How the discussion about TDOR, and related topics, takes form is key.

Our talk focussed on a violent incident that happened at one of the many TDOR events that happened in Toronto 2014.  Our group shared ideas on what to do with activist community members who act violently, in this case a trans woman of colour known to be violent in different ways.  Most of the room, minus myself and two other people, were for calling the cops.

Calling cops is a big no-no!

Especially calling cops on trans women of colour let alone cis gendered people of colour; I don’t have to get into Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alejandro Nieto, Sammy Yatim, Fredy Villanueva, and Neil Stonechild for you to understand.

Our brainstorming discussion/session took a big shift when Rooster, a white man, began to talk about Saudi Arabia and Jamaica and their high percentages of homophobic, transphobic and sexist violence.  I stayed quiet for about three minutes while he talked before I said, “Check your white privilege.”

Have you noticed that Saudi Arabia and Jamaica have become the scapegoat for white North Americans when the discussion of homophobia, transphobia, and violence against women come up? Apparently homophobia and transphobia and the many different forms of violence that come with them only exist in Jamaica and Saudi Arabia.

Rooster, a kind, funny, high energy person got up, entered my personal space, put his hands on his hips while bending forward enough that our facial hair almost brushed, and said, “I’ll show you white privilege!”

Show me?  He just exercised white privilege right there via crossing personal physical boundaries while in a cock fighting stance.

A woman of colour gave her opinion about my white privilege comment calling for the challenge to a non-existent form of racism: reverse racism.

“I don’t believe in reverse racism,” I said. “Racism has to do with power and white people have all the power in our society.”

We went back and forth respectfully; as respectful as one can be when giving licence and ammunition to white people to claim false charges of reverse racism.

This wasn’t the first time I experienced this.  It’s an ongoing battle with my brother who also believes in the same thing, sadly.

What became interesting was the allies I had in the room who made themselves known: two white men, both queer, who live with visible disabilities.  Their common sense matched with their calming voices challenged Rooster via talking about white people and colonialism and the responsibility of allyship via knowing herstory and it’s present day repercussions.

My two white allies talked about:

1. Acknowledging their white privilege

2. White privilege and its connection to colonialism.

3. Colonialism in the North American context and its links to Europe and its ramifications: ableism, homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia…

4. Whites acknowledging their ancestors roles in colonialism, the privilege for whites that has come with colonialism, while not being blamed themselves for the actions of their ancestors.

5. Not taking up too much space because whites own all the space.

After cocking his head at me in his pecking stance, Rooster walked over to his bag and pulled out conservative crap: “The Big Shift” written by White Racist Conservative Asshole #1 and White Racist Conservative Asshole #2.

Holding the book in hand Rooster began to read nonsense he felt made sense.

People in the room began to look at each other with eyes wide open.  Eyes saying, “Oh my God!”  I was thinking, and I think it’s safe to assume others in the room thought similarly, “what this guy reading?”

It’s great to be self-educating.  I’m a writer so I love people who read books.  But what are people reading is the question?  If you are reading conservative think tank shit like “The Big Shift” (really, “The Big Shit”) then it’s no service to yourself or society.

Although some of us disagreed on cop calling and what racism was or was not we all agreed that the book Rooster was reading needed to be burned.

Some people in the room stayed quiet.  The conversation was not for everyone.  I felt bad for challenging Rooster because of the awkwardness in the room.  I turned a party into a “Racism 101” workshop.

Our discussion lasted thirty minutes.

A long, tough, exhausting thirty minutes.

I ended by clarifying why I pointed out Roosters white privilege: he was talking about nations of colour and their homophobic, transphobic, and sexist violence as if such things don’t happen in the land now known as Canada.

“We don’t need to look far for homophobia, transphobia and violence against women.  It happens here in North America every day.  And white people are often perpetrators of such violence.  Matthew Sheppard was killed by white people.  Brandon Tina was killed by white people.  Gwen Araujo, a Latina trans woman, was killed by four men, one of them being white.”

“Let’s take a photo!” said the host.  It was her way of shifting us from our discussion turned argument turned workshop to a positive ending to our evening.

“Give me a hug,” said Rooster as he walked to me with open arms not really giving me a choice.  I did not protest.  It was my way of ending the night well.  Rooster is not my enemy.  Neither is the woman of colour who believes in reverse racism.

I left the party feeling shitty.  I felt I had ruined a great evening.

The next day I got an email from one of the people in the room who was quiet, a man of colour.  He was the person I felt most guilty about because I thought I had ruined his night as he looked stressed throughout the entire talk.  His email read:

How odd, this is the first post I saw when I opened my buzzfeed app walking home, revisiting our conversation about race tonight.

I felt as if people were looking at me to say something tonight as I am a person of color.  Truth is, I am extremely uncomfortable speaking about race, as it is just an extremely violent and upsetting topic for me to be able to discuss so openly. I felt I still wanted to at least send this note across not as justification as to my lack of participation, but as a part of my own self-healing and acknowledging my own pain through sharing with those that I feel comfortable.

Tonight re-opened wounds that I haven’t touched in a while – wounds that feel like poorly patched-up bullet-holes in my chest. The conversation tonight made those wounds start to bleed out again, as well as a mixture of emotions, however it was good as it was a reminder I still have work to do in my healing. Thank you for being part of the catalyst tonight to help me revisit those dark places, and begin my rehabilitation towards being healthy again.

Take a glance at the link below if you have time – ok, ciao! :)


His email was positive in terms of  our talk re-sparking his healing journey.  And the cartoon he shared is a good teaching tool for starting a talk about racism.

I’m not sure what positives Rooster got from our talk.  We’ve seen each other twice since then.  We smile, greet one another, and part ways.

Last week I went to Holiday party.  As written early on, there was racism. I challenged a white person on calling Thai food “alternative food”.  Alternative? Because it was not Kraft dinner or turkey or meatloaf?  I’ll leave that for another post or video blog, maybe.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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100_6281Montreal Massacre 25th Anniversary Vigil (Toronto)

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

I have been attending the “Women Won’t Forget” vigil for the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre in 1989 for seven years.   I started going because I’m opposed to violence against women but also to bring attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the land now known as Canada.

“Women Won’t Forget”, and the hundreds of vigils held across the country every December 6 since 1989, forgot they were on Indigenous land and forgot about the thousands of Indigenous women murdered or gone missing.

To be clear, systemic isms and phobias are the reasons many different women were, and are, left out of the countrywide vigils: Indigenous, Of Colour, Sex Worker, Transgender… Because of this I made and carry the yellow sign you see above in the banner of my website.

Things have gotten better.  Indigenous women now open the vigil with a smudge, teaching, and songs.  And the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is talked about.

In the last seven years I have missed one vigil (2012) to participate in a Candlelit Conversation about December 6th at York University alongside Zaianab Amadahy and Kim Katrin Milan.  What I have noticed since 2007 is numbers in attendance going down drastically.  And it’s not because of the weather.  This past Saturday, the 25th Anniversary, saw the lowest numbers in my short history of attendance even though it was a warm night.  Many people were wearing vests, and many jackets were unzipped.  Still, there was a maximum of 100 people.

In 2007, my first vigil, there were close to 300 people braving the cold: shivering, teeth chattering, and standing in solidarity to challenge violence again women and remember women no longer here because of violence.  I remember standing with a group from the Centre for Women and Trans People University of Toronto that night.  We huddled close together, held signs and lit candles, listened, and remained spiritually and mentally present although our bodies wanted to leave.

What happened to this strong presence?  What happened to those numbers?  What happened to the solidarity?

It’s more than low numbers that made this Saturday, the 25th anniversary, a disappointment.  It was sad to see phobias and isms still in play: racism, sex work phobia and a total erasure of Trans women (via no mention throughout the vigil) minus my yellow sign.

Two speakers, Angel Wolfe (daughter of Brenda Wolfe, one of the many woman murdered by Robert Picton) and Katarina McLeod (a survivor of forced sex work and violence that came with it) spoke against sex work and Toronto organizations who support sex work. Wolfe’s and McLeod’s stories are true and they have the right to tell them.  But with no mention of Trans women all night (Trans women experience violence 6x more than cis gendered women, especially Trans women of colour), and no voice for sex workers who view the trade differently than Wolfe and McLeod, I felt like I was at a right wing conservative “Focus on the Family” conference and not a vigil.

When names of women murdered in Ontario in 2014 were read two sex workers were mentioned: Evelyn Burmatay Castillo and a woman’s name who I could not catch, my apologies.  Their work was described respectfully: “service provider”, “services”, and “sex work”.  Whoever wrote their descriptions chose to see their work as positive and not make negative assumptions as is commonly the case.

Adding to the transphobia, racism came into play in different forms.  The first being a white man (who I will not name so as not to give him any publicity) invited to sing on the mic.  Him being white was not the problem; it was his lyrics and not checking his white privilege.  Poorly rapping about women of colour who experienced violence and his plans to save them with his fists launched at their attackers, the tirade was another “The White Man Saves the Day” performance.

When did the vigil become about stopping violence with violence? When did the vigil become about men saving women, in particular white men saving women of colour?

One angry vigil attendee said, “Where did his Jamaican accent come from?  He got on the mic and introduced himself in his regular voice and then all of a sudden he turned Jamaican!”

That in itself was racist.  Was there an accent used during the song not original to the performer?  Yes.  But to label all non-white accents (put on or not) as Jamaican was racist.

Her critique of racism was racist.

And the racism continued.

Accurately, and angrily pointing out that the names of the 14 women murdered in 1989 were not read out loud (yes, you read correctly), the same attendee, a white woman, wanted to take the mic and say their names.  At this point several Native women had started drumming.  “Lets grab the mic before they start singing!” said the attendee.  The disconnect between white and Indigenous cultures was on display.  To her, no lyrics meant no song.  And white women were more important than Indigenous women.

The song was in play, lyrics or not.  And a white person, any person, had no right to disrupt.

“This is Indigenous land.  Respect the drummers and singers,” I said four times.  She stood their livid.

The entire vigil lasted just under 35 minutes; very short compared to years prior.  The intro, two speakers, a racist rap, naming of the women murdered in 2014, forgetting to name the 14 women killed in 1989, an outro and the night was done!

I asked one of the organizers why the event was so short.  She explained that traffic and TTC complications stopped performers Renee Ashanta Henry and Charmie Deller from coming.  Although some members of the Raging Grannies were there they did not perform.

I’m glad the vigil happened.  I’m not glad about some of the incidents that happened.

My yellow sign is old, creased, and taped up.  It’s time to throw it out and make a new one; one that has all the women previously listed with “Sex Workers” added.  I’ll bring that sign next year and do my best to forget this years vigil.

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Laurie MacFayden holding her bookKissing Keeps Us Afloat:

A Talk With Poet Laurie MacFayden

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

“Writers make shit up,” says Laurie MacFayden, author of the new poetry collection Kissing Keeps Us Afloat. “I’d like to say it’s all true but my life is really nowhere near that interesting.”

Born in Hamilton and raised outside Burlington, Ontario, MacFayden found poetry to be a source of healing from her constant feelings of being different from her peers.

“I knew from an early age that there was something different about me and not just in terms of sexual orientation and queerness; I just felt disconnected from the world and everyone in it.

“While the girls down the road were playing with dolls and house I was always in the bushes playing spy and army and cops and robbers with the boys,” says MacFayden. “I was very much a tomboy.”

Her poem Different is informed by her childhood experiences. The poem starts with something familiar to many queer folk:

there was something different

about the daughter

the mother didn’t want to know

but always suspected

Later, with great use of alliteration and repetition, MacFayden confirms her mother’s suspicions:

she didn’t get married

didn’t get pregnant

didn’t get the shower gifts

didn’t get respectable

she was not who she was supposed to be

Now fifty-seven years of age, the above stanza reflects MacFayden’s lived experience as a lesbian long before queers were able to get legally married and have kids.

“It might be that my poetry is where it is now because I was forced to confront my sexual orientation at age twenty and deal with it and become comfortable with it. When I was coming out it was the late 70s, it was nowhere near the safe climate it is now,” says MacFayden.

Poetry being the form in which she came out first MacFayden says, “I finally felt free to be completely honest about who I was writing about and not trying to camouflage it anymore.”

Living in Edmonton for the last twenty years MacFacyden is a journalist, artist, and poet with two collections to her name, White Shirt and Kissing Keeps Us Afloat, both published by Frontenac House, a queer friendly press based out of Calgary.

“I think I’m coming of age as a writer and as an artist,” says MacFayden. “The kind of stuff I had to face probably made me a better writer.”

Understanding solace and being silenced and knowing the benefits of poetry in her life, MacFayden created an all queer spoken word event for the Edmonton Literature Festival in 2011 and 2012: “Shout It Out!”

“I created a queer spoken word event for that festival primarily because I wasn’t seeing one,” says MacFayden. “I wish there was more openly specific queer stuff going on.”

With no need to hide from anyone anymore MacFayden’s poems are definitely open and have lots of queer stuff going on: Liars Motel is a steamy poem about adultery;

Before The Next Conversation is about two lovers who know they should not be with each other but can’t stay away from one another; You At My Door brings the reader to a see-saw relationship based on lust.

Of the title, Kissing Keeps Us Afloat, Macfayden says “I think that love does keep us afloat and kissing is a big part of that. It’s the simple concept that kissing is lovely and sweet and we should all do more of it.”

Currently in an 18year relationship with the same person, MacFayden acknowledges six lovers being written about in her new book and that most of the hot and sexy poems are stretched truths.

“That’s what writers do, you take those exciting bits and you write about them and you exaggerate them, or extrapolate them, enhance them,” says MacFayden.

Although feeling isolated and othered in her youth, MacFayden’s spread her wings on the page, bringing joy to many readers, and showing the power of transformation via the written word.

The end to her poem Different shows one thing is certain:

who she was supposed to be

she was exactly

Kissing Keeps Us Afloat

Laurie MacFayden

$16, 120 pages, Frontenac House 

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Wednesday November 26, 2014

Dear Readers,

The FaceBook ban on peoples not using their birth given, legal names has caught up with me.

Two months ago an acquaintance of mine warned me about FB blocking people from using their service if they didn’t use their ‘real’/legal name.  Being Black Coffee Poet on FB (both as a personal account and an FB page) has me violating FBs new legal name policy.

If I want to continue using my account I have to scan some legal ID with my real name.  To that I say, “Hell NO!”.

As of yesterday I have been blocked.  No access to my personal account or my page.

Legally, in the FB sense of being ‘legal’ (their rules), I am supposed to be allowed to run a page as the one I have: the Black Coffee Poet page.  Pages do not need to be under a ‘real’/legal name.

Being that I’m blocked from both accounts, FB is BREAKING their own rules.

I have no way of contacting FB so I’m no longer on FaceBook having me not be in contact with almost 3000 FB friends.

It’s Twitter time!

I’ve been procrastinating on learning how to use Twitter.  Now is the time.

Add me @BlackCoffeePoet

If you can help with my FaceBook situation, or you can help me learn how to use Twitter, please contact me: click CONTACT.

Thanks for your support!

Peace, Prayers, Poetry,

Jorge Antonio Vallejos

Black Coffee Poet

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Akhaji Zakiya holding bookLoving Queer Women Of Colour: A Talk With Poet Akhaji Zakiya

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

“I love me some women of colour who are queer,” says Akhaji Zakiya.

The Toronto writer recently launched her new book Inside Her in front of a large, queer people of colour crowd at Glad Day Bookshop, the oldest queer bookstore in the world.

Inside Her, Zakiya’s first book, is a small collection of linked short fiction and poetry focusing on four women of colour living in Toronto.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, tell stories of lesbians of colour living in urban settings,” says Zakiya.

Zakiya follows the writing adage “write what you know”:

“They say writers write what they know. As a first project I definitely kept it in the realm of the familiar,” says Zakiya.

For those who might ask why the focus on women of colour Zakiya says, “That’s my world, the world I’ve chosen for myself is women of colour. The social scene that I’m part of and that I sort of came of age into is diverse women of colour. These are the stories I want to write.”

Such stories are not published or celebrated enough. Publishing houses such as Sister Vision and Women’s Press who focused on women of colour are now defunct. And with the closing of Toronto Women’s Bookstore in 2012 women of colour writers are not featured to the same degree as mainstream writers at big chain bookstores.

Fighting for the visibility of queer people of colour has been big a part of Zakiya’s life. “I’ve been in Toronto’s queer scene for twenty-five years, before people of colour were marching in [Queer] PRIDE, when we had to fight so we can march in PRIDE!” says Zakiya.

Recalling her activist days in the early 90s Zakiya talks of the “Proud and Visible” coalition who fought to include people of colour in PRIDE. “Thos are my origins. You’re gonna see a history of queer culture in my writing,” says Zakiya.

Inside Her is set in Toronto and takes the reader on a journey through the lives of four women: Jaka, Nina, Tashi, and Sean. Love, conflict, and lust run through Zakiya’s linked poems and stories. Controversial topics such as coming out as queer, bi-phobia, and being queer enough are also explored. Zakiya’s dialogue is sharp and challenging. In the story Beyond, Jaka, the book’s main character, lashes out at her friend Nina:

What do you know of the lezzie world? Of adults, I might add. Wanton, random college-girl munching to get back at mommy and daddy is not the same thing.

Zakiya’s poetry is just as piercing. Cleverly linking the poems to the stories, Tashi, Jaka’s love interest, is the author of the poems. “The poems are Tashi’s poems in the context of the fiction of the novel. She’s writing a love poem to her partner Jaka [and] writing about her experiences of coming out,” says Zakiya.

Fictional poems written from a non-fiction mind set by a poet who writes fiction and poetry. Brilliant!

In On Coming, Tashi writes about coming out:

on coming


the stillness of self

and spiritual sustenance


abandon acceptance

embrace exposure

risking solace…rejection?

seeking truth…transformation

Poetry opens up doors that other genres do not. Although written in a fictional context Zakiya uses poetry as a tool for healing just as Tashi does.

“When I came out as a lesbian poetry was a wonderful way to connect with people and share ideas and emotions,” says Zakiya.

Four women, four stories, a few poems, and many layers, Inside Her is a prelude to big plans by Zakiya: “I plan to write a series of novels and a web series telling the journey of the characters through their life.”

What can people expect from Inside Her? “I want people to know first and foremost that it’s fun. That it’s sexy. That their sisters are familiar. That Toronto will be featured as a character…I want people to know that this is a distillate of my life; I love loving women of colour,” says Zakiya.

Inside Her

Akhaji Zakiya

$10, Createspace

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For a taste of Akhaji Zakiya see This Lesbian Poem:


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THRIVE: Our Voices Rising! by METRAC

Forum for the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence

For Women and Trans Peoples

Saturday Nov. 29, 2014 in Toronto, Canada

10:00am-3:00pm (registration starts at 9:30am)

Metro Hall, 55 John St. -Room 308/309 (King & John, 2 blocks east of Spadina)


Join THRIVE on Saturday November 29, to LEARN, DISCUSS and ADDRESS the various ways gendered violence impacts our lives and the ways we can resist.

LEARN about the work of different groups who are engaged in resisting colonization, racism, environmental degradation, etc.

ENGAGE in discussion circles, tool building and different well-being activities. And CONNECT with other community members and people working towards positive change.


Stopping the Violence: It Starts With Us by Sheryl Lindsay, No More Silence

Anti-Black Racism


Prison Industrial Complex by Najla Edwards (PASAN)

Environmental Violence is a Reproductive Justice Issue by The Native Youth Sexual Health Network

Gender and Housing

Twitter Hashtag: #ThriveTO14

Facebook Event:…

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